by Angela Cainen
The first thing to say about Home #1 is that it is a good book, but a tough read.
Even though I was familiar with the US immigration policy of separating immigrant children and babies from their parents (I’ve seen pictures and read news articles) seeing it actually rendered in comic panels made it upsetting and real in a very visceral way. I am not ashamed to say it brought tears to my eyes because we know that these events, or something virtually identical, actually happened. We often see terrible things in comic books, which often involve man’s inhumanity to man, but having something based on actual true events gives it a real extra gut punch.
That alone makes Home #1 a worthwhile read. It gives a real human infusion to the whole situation. The first pages with the simple yet descriptive art of our main characters Juan and his mother Mercedes (we don’t even know their names at this point) starting on their journey to the US set against the words of the announcement of the harsh immigration policy are amazingly impactful. These immigrants, these refugees, desperate to escape to a new life are shown with all the difficulties of their journey contrasted with the knowledge of a policy they don’t yet know will affect them.
You can tell that this story is very close to writer Julio Anta’s heart because this whole issue is pretty much the story of a mother and her son, their journey to the US and the harshness and terrible policy that awaits them. At its heart this comic lays out that this is about immigrants and though the ending makes it clear that more of this issue will be explored through the addition of superpowers it’s really important that for much of this comic it’s purely about human beings. Just ordinary human beings and their lives and struggles.
That makes Home‘s story all the more important. It keeps things grounded to begin with, to draw the reader’s attention to the plight of people who did not have a voice, or a choice, and ended up on the wrong side of government that seemed to hate them for who they are, and categorised them as stereotypes that didn’t exist. The immigrant to the US is an ultimate outsider which makes this realistic backdrop a great way to explore things through the filter of the metaphor of superpowers and difference.
Anna Wieszcyk’s art is incredibly effective. It’s stark at times which really helps reflect the harshness faced by these immigrants. She never shies away from showing the real human expressions, or the real human cost of a policy that drags children away from their parents. The anguish and desperation is well realised and contrasted with those responsible for implementing this policy. The art is aided by the colouring by Bryan Valenza, the almost blocky colouring allowing the situation to be told simply but effectively.
There is no need here for fancy art or extra detail. This is a book that makes you feel and accomplishes that in the best way possible without the need for bells and whistles in the art. The starkness of the US immigration offices and holding pens really conveys the harsh reception these immigrants face.
The lettering by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou is also really effective. The contrast between the red Spanish and the black English a very easy but clever way of showing language, along with the emphasis on certain words that gives the dialogue a real spoken feeling.
Overall Home is a triumph of a first issue. At once haunting, upsetting and interesting the final few panels really set this up to be something really good. I need to know what happens to Juan and his mother Mercedes. I know that real life does not have neat solutions and happy endings and this comic may not either, but it’s giving us a modern story that deserves to be told and I am excited and hopeful to see the rest of this story.
5 out of 5. Read this book.