Months ago, a team of incredibly talented comics-makers put out the first issue of Barrier, a science-fiction comics miniseries tackling the subject of illegal immigration. Barrier #2 is out now and surprisingly serves as a great reminder of how people coming together from different backgrounds has helped make America great.
Written by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Marco Martin and Muntsa Vicente, Barrier started off by channeling how America feels right now. The comic is put out by the creator-owned publisher Panel Syndicate on a pay-what-you-wish model, meaning you can try it out at minimal risk. In the first issue, cattle rancher Liddy discovers a mutilated horse head on her property just north of the Mexican border and assumes that drug runners who trespass are trying to intimidate her.
When Oscar, a Honduran man trying to make his way to the United States, winds up on Liddy’s land, she thinks he’s with a narcotics cartel and threatens him. The prevailing tone of Barrier #1 is desperation and suspicion. Liddy’s trying to hold onto the land she worked with her dead husband, exploring some creepy options to figure out how best to protect it.
Oscar’s reasons for heading north are mostly unknown, but the fact that he’s willing to risk his life in the hands of sleazy coyotes who take money for border crossings—and stand up to them so that they bring along a transwoman—points to deeply personal reasons.
The first chapter ends with both Liddy and Oscar getting abducted by aliens and Barrier #2 finds the two of them separated and trying to figure out what’s happening.
The sequences in the sprawling alien ship mimic the experience of finding yourself in a new place and not knowing the language or any of the customs, and Oscar and Liddy’s exchanges highlight how alien humans can feel to each other sometimes.
Despite the language barrier and her suspicion of the Latino abductee, Liddy and Oscar help each other, him by giving her clothing and her by freeing him from tentacles meant to take him to another part of the ship. She comes face to viscera with some of the most alien-looking extraterrestrials I’ve seen in a long time.
Plot-wise, the smart money seems to point at the two humans learning enough about each other to help one or both of them get back home. (It does have Brian K. Vaughan writing, so there are likely surprises on the way.) But the unexpected pleasure of reading Barrier comes from how it takes me away from the prejudices and superficial judgments that fly back and forth in this dysfunctional election year. No matter how alien they may seem, the people demonized by factions on either side of life’s barriers are just as human as their counterparts.