Review - Americatown #1 (@Archaia)

"Americans. Such amateurs."

The topic of immigration reform is one that never seems to go away. Considering America is essentially a country created by immigrants, it only makes sense that the topic is always at the forefront of many policy discussions. It's a topic that has fierce defenders on both sides, but Americatown #1 from Archaia is looking at it from a broader perspective. The issue is written by Bradford Winters and Larry Cohen, illustrated by Daniel Irizarri, colored by Matt Battaglia and lettered by Shawn Aldridge.

After an economic collapse, Americans are illegally emigrating to other countries to find work, creating "Americatowns" wherever they go. Owen has a difficult time trying to sneak back into Buenos Aires in Argentina to rejoin his family; his struggle is just a small part of the hardships and conflicting agendas in an immigrant community trying to build itself in the shadow of a once great nation.

Winters and Cohen are clearly delving into some very heady material in Americatown #1, inverting the predefined notion of people emigrating to America. Immigration is certainly a hot topic, which makes the content of the story that much more relevant to just about all readers. Winters and Cohen are tackling that issue head on by mixing into it intricacies that further muddy the situation, such as the relations between immigrants and smugglers. Much of the issue revolves around a constant tension on the part of the immigrants as they fear getting caught; a tension that's pervasive throughout the issue and reinforces the notion that immigrants face a persistent unknown. It's not clear what (if any) side the two writers will take, but at the very least they're forcing a conversation about the topic.

The art style in Americatown #1 is very stylized. Irizarri infuses the panels with a frenetic style that effectively captures the on-the-run mentality of immigrants in hiding. Characters are illustrated with a few defining lines for physiques and little else, yet Irizarri still manages to infuse them with plenty of emotion (mostly fear and uncertainty). The gridlike panel layout provides a sense of order to the book, presenting the tale in a very clean way. Battaglia uses a wide range of colors, some of which are more vivid than others and make certain scenes stand out a bit more for effect.

Regardless of what side of the immigration debate you fall on, there is something that requires a debate. Owen is a fascinating lead character whose perspective carries the book, taking the reader long with him for a fast-paced ride. The story by Winters and Cohen is very heady and isn't really something that can be read lightly. Irizarri's illustrations advertise a lot of kinetic movement that's befitting of immigrants always on the move. Americatown #1 deals with a very explosive topic and is definitely worth checking out, if for nothing else to get in on the debate and see it twisted in some interesting ways.

Americatown #1 is in stores now.