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Summary

While it may fumble its handling of social problems, Red Border #2 is still a chilling and well-paced second chapter in this unique thriller.
Writing/Plot
Pencils/Inks
Colors
Lettering

Review: Hospitality Turns to Horror in RED BORDER #2

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Writer Jason Starr and artist Will Conrad return with the chilling second issue of their social thriller comic “Red Border,” with colors from Ivan Nunes and lettering by Sal Cipriano. This issue digs its heels a bit harder into its socio-politically divisive setting, and while its handling of such issues is a bit clumsy, its saved by taut pacing and stellar visual direction.

“A young Mexican couple narrowly escapes the Juarez Cartel by fleeing across the border into Texas, only to be run down in the desert by the Cartel’s most brutal thugs. Rescued by a mysterious local who takes them to the safety of his family’s ranch, the couple soon realize they are trapped in a house of horrors beyond their wildest imagination, and the army of assassins on their trail might be the least of their problems.”

Writing & Plot

Writer Jason Starr takes the unique put potentially controversial premise set in the first issue and drives hard at the socio-political issues this comic brings up. Immigration and border politics are still a hot-button issue, and any discussion about such an issue, even in the service of entertainment, requires complex levels of nuance to handle it appropriately. As such, it’s a bit odd that Starr has chosen to offer bits of commentary that end up validating the beliefs of his own uneducated psychopaths. While the protagonists obviously represent just the average Mexican citizen, the use of stereotypical drug cartel types ends up echoing the twisted perspective of the comic’s Texan uber-patriotic murderers. Outside of this bit of fumbling though, there’s still a show of writing chops in the form of tight pacing and naturalistic dialogue. The increasing unease as the protagonists learn of their Texan savior’s true intentions creates palpable tension. Each character has their own distinct voice within the story, and the relationships between the two protagonists is a solid source of characterization to make the pair more relatable as people. While the mishandling of the political aspects is a concern, there’s still a solid thriller to be had here.

Art Direction

The near-cinematic artwork of artist Will Conrad and colorist Ivan Nunes makes “Red Border” #2 an easy comic to interface with in terms of its pacing and characterization. Conrad’s lines are crisp and offer intricate detail in every aspect of the book, from character animations to environments and even the creases in an individual’s clothing. The inks and colors give dimension to an arid south-Texas landscape and its characters with a visual approach that borders on digital near-realism. It’s a look that truly only suits certain comics, so it’s fortunate that the style works so brilliantly here.

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“Red Border” #2 is a tense second chapter to this thriller mini-series. Jason Starr’s script offers somewhat dodgy handling of a complex social problem but makes up for it with tension-rich pacing and a gruesome last page discovery. Will Conrad and Ivan Nunes’ visual work is gorgeous and crisp in a way that offers a cinematic styling to the exact kind of comic that benefits from such a look. If this sort of unique and complex thriller is your cup of tea, head over to webtoons.com to read this and other great projects from AWA Studios for free right now!

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Justin Munday
Reader and hoarder of comics. Quietly sipping coffee, reading, and watching sci-fi in Knoxville, TN.