Review: Barrier #1

I haven’t done a very good job of keeping up with the Panel Syndicate’s releases. I still haven’t finished The Private Eye, the last collaboration between Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente. This week The Private Eye makes its hardcover Image debut as well. Not that I would pay for something that I could decide my own price for digitally, but hey to each their own. I vaguely remember hearing about Barrier or at least hearing that they were working on their next project. I just don’t remember anything else. I’m not one to research and read loglines for series, but rather the opposite of most as I like to go in blind on a series. Half of the books I agree to review I approach this way.

Barrier tells you what it’s about within the first few pages. It’s just that you don’t realize that it’s being serious until the end of the book. I guess that’s a spoiler because if you have that info it will completely change the story for you, but I think that’s for the best.

Otherwise the story is so drench with social commentary that it reminded me why I didn’t read Ex Machina and didn’t shit my pants for it like everyone else that swears by it. Frankly, I like BKV (side note, I’m not using that anymore since he’s using it himself now which spoils the fun) when he’s subtle with his writing and not hitting you over the head with it. He seems to be doing that more and more lately.

BarrierThe issue presents itself as a story about illegal immigration. A farm hand finds the head of a horse, skinned and severed surgically in a field. We meet the farmer, we learn that she’s widowed and refuses to sell or give up her land because it’s all she has left of her late husband. On the other side, the actual other side of the border, we meet Oscar. He’s immigrating to the states… illegally. His part is all in Spanish. I didn’t understand any of it outside of the bits I gleamed from the artwork, but it seemed to me that he helped someone else get smuggled, he held someone at gun point to get to the point that he could jump on a train. You know, the trains that made the news recently because there’s a ton of deaths on them each month.

I didn’t mind that a large part of the story was in Spanish. If anything it does a fine job of showing what it’s like for both sides. Someone that only speaks Spanish could read this and have basically the same experience as me, but get the other part of the story. Obviously bi-lingual readers will get a complete story and perhaps more satisfaction. I could have typed everything into Google Translate, but that seemed like a story killer.

The writing is good. Vaughan is obviously at the top of his game right now, but I really wasn’t sucked into the story. Like I said, there was just too much social commentary. Immigration is only the beginning, it gets thicker and thicker as the story goes on. The dialogue is believable and the characters each have a unique voice. It just didn’t wow me or captivate me.

The art team of Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente is great. They’re just incredible together and really you should get this issue (pay what you want) just for the art. The main characters have a lot of emotion and that oozes out from the page. There’s also a lot of thought put into the digital production. The character introductions where great and just added to the production. There’s also a great sequence of dialogue free pages in which the art team tells the story and does a wonderful job.

I didn’t go crazy for this issue. The Private Eye’s first issue was captivating and that helped bring me back for the next several (before falling off). This issue, it’s all about the ending. That’s the only reason I would come back. It guarantees that the next issue will have something completely different to offer which is good in my opinion. I don’t want to read any more of a story with this thick of social commentary/ “This is how the real world is”, it’s frankly depressing and I get enough of that from the news and the internet in general.

Basically, it’s an okay story with great art and a cliffhanger that will bring you back for more. And you can pay what you want for it so it’s hard to argue with that.

Score: 3/5

Barrier #1 Writer: Brian K. Vaughan Artists: Marcos Martin, Muntsa Vicente Publisher: Panel Syndicate Price: Pay What You Want Format: Mini-Series; Digital