Home #1 is published by Image Comics, written by Julio Anta, art by Anna Wiezczyk, colors by Bryan Valenza, and letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. Mercedes and Juan Gómez left their home in Guatemala to live in the United States with Mercedes’ sister. But as mother and son make the long journey through Central America, there is a regime change in America. And the new president has instituted a zero-tolerance policy on illegal immigration. But that shouldn’t bother them. After all, seeking asylum is perfectly legal. Right?
The situation along the Mexico-United States border has never been what one would call good, but during the last presidential term, they worsened measurably. While the issue of illegal immigration has always been a hotly contested debate, even those seeking immigration through legal means such as seeking asylum came under fire like never before. The scenes of children being kept in cages and families being torn apart have been heartbreaking. With these images still seared into many peoples’ minds, Home #1 looks into this situation while using it as an origin story for a budding super-powered individual.
When the Gomez family reaches the border, they are surprised to see conditions have changed since they departed their homeland searching for a better life. They are initially kept in a communal cage, with poor heating, before being separated from each other. Why they are being treated like criminals makes no sense to Mercedes as her pleas to have her child returned to her fails to bring any results.
Meanwhile, poor Juan finds himself being yelled at by angry border patrol officers in a language he doesn’t understand and whose only interests seem to be causing discomfort to him and the rest of the facility’s children. When one officer goes one step too far, something Juan never could’ve expected happens. And perhaps some new hope is given to him.
Home #1 pulls no punches in its look at the horrible misrepresentation of the individuals who seek asylum in the U.S. As the book opens, it shows many of the hard journeys, sleepless nights, and arduous struggles Mercedes and Juan endure to flee from the threat of violence that plagued them at home. While we bear witness to these moments, a speech from the U.S. Secretary of State reads along with the panels. It claims that those seeking out the southern border are all murderers, rapists, and drug dealers. It makes those seeking the safety of a new home sound like an invasion force comprised of the scum of the earth. And sadly, there are far too many people who are all too willing to accept such gross misinformation and outright lies.
The art does a great job of taking the reader through the journey of its two main protagonists. While the art, both in lines and colors, keeps the story firmly in a lighter style, it nevertheless delivers the weight of its story. Some may argue that a grittier, more realistic art style would better augment this narrative; I think the chosen approach has a lot of merit to it. A more realistic representation of the events might give them more weight, but it might also become too much to get through for others. And, in my personal opinion, if the fact that the art style keeps some of the potentially visceral moments a bit sanitary keeps you from being able to feel for the Gomez family, you might want to take some time to consider why that may be.
The only thing about Home #1 that does give me a little pause is its final panels. As young Juan’s traumatic ongoing situation brings out his superhuman potential, I find myself a little uneasy with the use of an ongoing humanitarian crisis in this style of fiction. While characters in fiction, particularly in super-human tales, have had their origins connected to some of the most horrible events in human history, perhaps most notably the X-Men character Magneto, these sorts of fictional uses usually come years, if not decades after the fact. While nothing in how this book presents its content gives me a reason to believe there is anything exploitive about its intentions, I have little doubt some will find the use of current-day events in the tale to be a bit inappropriate.
Rounding out our look at Home #1 is its letter work. The lettering here does something that is both interesting and intuitive. When people are speaking English in the book, the lettering is done in black. When Spanish is being spoken, while the words are still written in English, the text is orange. Nothing ever announces this, but the first scene of interaction between Mercedes and the border patrol instantly clarifies this. I thought this was a clever way of avoiding using asterisks or having one language or the other’s dialogue cluttered with brackets at the beginning and end of each bubble to denote a different language.
When all is said and done, Home #1 delivers a heartfelt look at the struggles and hardship of those who have come to the U.S. border looking for nothing more than safety and the freedom from the want and fear they have been forced to endure. Where it goes from here, with its last page reveal, remains to be seen.
Home #1 is available on April 14th, wherever comics are sold.
Home #1 delivers a heartfelt look at the struggles and hardship of those who have come to the U.S. border looking for nothing more than safety and the freedom from the want and fear they have been forced to endure.