By Cat Wyatt
Barrier isn’t a new series, but it is absolutely worth reading. It was originally shared on PanelSyndicate.com (and can actually still be found there). It’s being put into print for the first time ever this month, and honestly, even if you’ve already read the series before it’s worth picking up and taking a look at. The artwork is absolutely stunning, and I think it shows off beautifully in print format – especially the covers (have I ever mentioned that I’m a total sucker for pretty covers?).
Barrier is such a unique concept, but it also opens up room for dialogue about some pretty important concepts. It talks about gang violence, illegal immigration, biases and prejudices, and everything in between. And it does so by using a very odd science fiction twist.
One other thing worth noting before we actually get started; there are two main perspectives for this series. One speaks English, the other Spanish. It’s okay if you don’t speak both; in fact you’re not expected to look up whichever one you can’t understand. The goal was for the concept to be easily communicated despite the language barrier. It’s a way of showing us how this is actually possible, how stories and perspectives don’t just change because the language they’re being told in change.
This issue starts out, surprisingly, with a death. Everything starts on Liddy’s ranch, which is clearly near one of the many stretches of American borders (Pharr, Texas, to be exact). It’s here that one of her ranchers found a horse head; and nothing else. It’s interesting, in a way, to see how Liddy reacts to what she finds here. She immediately knows which horse it is (which is actually very sad, as that tells me how attached to the horse she was)…she also automatically assumes that illegal immigrants killed her horse. I guess as some sort of message?
I guess I can understand the jump from finding a horse head to assuming that a drug cartel is moving in; it isn’t quite the stereotypical story of mobs and horse heads, but it’s close enough. Also with the proximity to the border I can see why she’d assume that they’d be smuggling things in/out of the country.
Despite this understanding, I’m still not sure how I feel about her assumptions. They seem somewhat dangerous. I mean, even if she is correct, is it really safe for her to be stating it all so bluntly? I imagine not.
Next we jump to Oscar’s perspective. He’s from San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Obviously we can safely assume, based on context that he’s trying to get to America. Presumable he isn’t doing so in a legal manner, as it would make a fantastic counter to Liddy’s assumptions.
I should tell you that I can’t really follow most of Pedro’s conversations here. From the images shown I’d guess that he’s paying somebody to help sneak him across the border (along with half a dozen other people).
Meanwhile Liddy is getting ready for war. Well, sort of. She thinks that the supposed drug cartel isn’t going to stop with just a warning (to be fair, if she was correct about what happened then she’d probably be right) and that they’ll be back. So since she’s gone to the local border patrol to help her out. Only…they’re not actually being that helpful. Even her friend doesn’t do more than encourage her to sell her property (which sounds kind of sketchy if you ask me – she’s suddenly having problems on her property, and then a ‘friend’ steps in and says he knows somebody that’d buy it all from her? I know it isn’t the case, but man could this have gone south).
Meanwhile the border patrol not being distracted by Liddy is stopping Oscar’s truck. Well, it isn’t actually his truck. You know what I mean. He was on the truck, and now he’s running for his life (or at least his freedom). He makes it to the train, but instead of rushing to hop on board he doubles back for a red notebook. I don’t know what’s in it, but I can only assume it’s very important to him (I mean, he literally almost missed his chance here).
Liddy, in an act of pure desperation, has sought out the help of some…er…less than reputable men. They’re willing to protect her property, but they’re not willing to tell her how they would go about doing it. I’m sure they’re planning on killing everybody (hopefully other than her) that enters it at night, and just don’t want to scare her off…but still. How could they possibly know who was an actual threat and who wasn’t? They strike me as the shoot first, ask questions later sort of guys.
After a series of rather unfortunate events (not an intentional reference here, forgive me) Liddy and Oscar finally get to meet each other. Thanks to the language barrier (see the name of the title now?) things don’t go terribly smoothly…but at least Liddy doesn’t shoot Oscar. I guess that’s a win, at least for right now.
And here’s where things get weird; while they were talking an alien spaceship (no joke) comes along and abducts them. Yes, you read that right. I really wasn’t kidding when I told you there was a weird science fiction twist at the end of this one.
My bet is that due to the extremely abnormal circumstances they find each other in, Liddy and Oscar are going to have to learn how to communicate and lean on each other in order to make it out of there.
The note at the end of this issue once again stresses that they don’t want us rushing off to google translate (which is good, because the first time I read this I almost did just that). It feels sort of odd at first to not be able to understand half of what is being said, but after a while you sort of get used to it. You start looking more at the images and body language to get the context of the situation, much like you probably would in real life.
This is such an interesting way of telling this story. I wouldn’t have thought about using alien abductions as a way of talking about illegal immigration and the barriers around communication…but oddly enough, it absolutely works.
The artwork for this issue is absolutely striking. It’s easy to look at the pages between the covers and think that they’re on the dull side, but they actually do a wonderful job of portraying real people, with actual flaws and human emotions. It’s beautifully done. The covers are absolutely striking (I may have taken a peek at the rest of the covers already). I wouldn’t have expected a color palette like this from this series…and yet here they are.