REVIEW: 'Home' #1 by Julio Anta, Anna Wieszczyk, and Bryan Valenza

 When a young boy is torn away from his mother while seeking asylum at the U.S. border, something begins to change in him, and it isn't just the trauma, anxiety, and guilt you'd expect. He doesn't know it yet, but it's the onset of superhuman abilities that will change his life forever.

JULIO ANTA and ANNA WIESZCZYK debut with a deeply grounded and heartfelt five-issue series that explores the real-world implications of a migrant with extraordinary powers.


Writer: Julio Anta

Artist: Anna Wieszczyk, Bryan Valenza

Letters: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

Publisher: Image Comics

Release Date: April 14, 2021

Cover Price: $3.99


★★★★1/2 (4.5/5)

My family's immigration story begins over a hundred years ago. My paternal grandparents came to the U.S. from Mexico seeking new opportunities and established a life here raising thirteen children. My father was the youngest. My mother also came from Mexico to the U.S. during the '60s as a twenty-something. She found work here and never returned. Together they built a life together trying to achieve the American dream. That spirit of reaching the promised land for a better future is something that America prides itself on until it doesn't. Today, however, immigration is something that becomes a political football between parties ultimately resulting in immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers being dehumanized, villainized, and scapegoated. 

This ugly reality isn't new but has been especially inhumane during the last presidential administration where a zero-tolerance policy was instituted for "illegal entries" on the southwest border. The result found people placed in cages living in deplorable dangerous conditions, children separated from their parents only to be lost in the system, and amid a pandemic kept in close quarters. It has become a worst-case scenario compounded by heartless enforcement and careless supervision. What should be a humanitarian issue is drenched in politics using statistics as substitutes for human beings and general characterizations of thugs, criminals, rapists, and killers. It's not until you put a name and a face to those willing to risk everything to make that trek to this nation's border does it become clear to unsympathetic eyes that these are desperate people, not monsters.

Julio Anta and Anna Wieszcyk put a name and a face to the struggle of asylum seekers in 'Home' #1. Mercedes Gomez and her young son Juan leave Guatemala in the opening of the issue as they embark on their perilous journey to the U.S./Mexico border. Traveling by foot, bus, train, and truck, with little food they're determined to get to the border and then meet up with a relative in Houston. Throughout the depiction of their passage, the only text in the captions is those of a statement from Trump's attorney general. 

"It's been said that many of these so-called "parents" use children as human pawns. A way to get preferential treatment when they arrive at the border. To them, we say this: If you bring a child, that child will be separated from you. And if you don't like that, go back to where you came from."

As if the trip itself wasn't bad enough things begin to spiral as soon as the two enter customs and declare for asylum. Despite the reassurances of one official the two are detained in the "Icebox" detention center named for its cold temperatures. They are soon separated and Juan is sent to a camp. These aren't spoilers. These events have been reported for years. This is an accurate account painstakingly recreated in the context of a superhero comic. A mother's rage, a son's pain, and a system that's needlessly callous and cruel. This is not prevention this is punishment for a totally legal act. 

The issue devotes the majority of the story to the mother and son's tribulations before ever hinting at Juan's superpowers. The context is important. This story is only one of many real-life examples. It's a moving and heartbreaking depiction that brings home the pain, the fear, the overwhelming anxiety of lives turned upside down by the state. Anta makes sure you now know someone, even through fiction, that has been treated cruelly through draconian immigration policies. It makes it personal and all the more real. 

Wieszczyk and Bryan Valenza create a beautifully illustrated story that juxtaposes the charming character designs with the barbaric treatment they're given while in custody. Valenza's bold and warm colors have an inviting and pleasing effect despite the brutish actions of the officials. It's just a striking contrast when the optimistic demeanor of Mercedes changes into devasting betrayal and pain, her tears have even more of an impact through the art. 

'Home' #1 is an unflinching depiction of what happens to asylum seekers who are separated from their children. It's a superhero story in essence but the reality of these acts of cruelty by our own government still enrage and hurt. Anta and Wieszczyk put a name and a face to this travesty in the hopes that empathy and understanding replace blind xenophobia. 'Home' is one of the most important and timely comics there is. It's a must-buy without a doubt.  



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