- Archaia Entertainment, 2011; 184 pages, collects Feeding Ground #s 1-6, originally published November 2010 to January 2011
- Written by: Swifty Lang
- Layouts, pencils, inks, and colours by: Michael Lapinski
- Layouts and lettering by: Chris Mangun
- Cover Price: $24.95
- Full Disclosure: This is a review of a press proof digital copy of the book provided by the publisher
Lang, Lapinski, and Mangun’s Feeding Ground is ostensibly a horror tale first and foremost, a werewolf story to be specific, but the horror trappings are also used as a metaphor for the struggles of illegal immigrants crossing the border from Mexico into southern Arizona: the illegal border crossing experience through the desert literally dehumanizes those who dare risk the journey, leaving them more beast than man. It could almost be a dark comedy if the circumstances it’s based on weren’t so tragic in reality. The use of genre as a filter for examining social matters always runs the risk of cloaking said matters in banality, but in Feeding Ground‘s case, I’m pleased to say that the authors did an overall good job of striking a balance between using the horror narrative as entertainment and as an abstraction of real-world issues.
The mini-series’ story revolves around the Busqueda family. Patriarch Diego, a coyote (human trafficker), is on one last trip to smuggle migrants across the border, leaving his wife Bea to deal with all sorts of problems at home, including the unwelcome amorous advances of a villain straight out of a telenovela, Don Oso. Further complicating matters is the sudden appearance of strange wolf-human hybrids all across the border. Who are they and where do they come from?
I did feel like the pacing of the book was somewhat uneven across the six chapters, though. The early installments are full of quiet moments that are fine taken on their own, but taken together, they conspire to keep the story from picking up a full head of steam. Diego himself is a bit of a cipher, and I didn’t really find him to be much of a sympathetic lead. Fortunately, the headstrong Bea and the rest of the Busqueda family more than make up for Diego’s lack of characterization, and Bea’s interactions with her children are some of the best parts of the book. Lapinski’s washed line art and Mangun’s layouts and lettering are solid if occasionally unspectacular, and they throw in enough surreal flourishes here and there to keep the art from falling into monotony. Characters are easily distinguishable from each other and the panel-to-panel transitions are clear and easy to follow, although I did notice some typos and instances where word balloon placement could have been better considered.
These complaints are really just minor nits that don’t get in the way of the overall reading experience, though. Feeding Ground successfully employs fantasy horror and illustrated gore to make the real-world horrors of a desperate life as an illegal immigrant more palatable to the reader, as incongruous as that sounds. I’m very interested to see what this creative team does in the future, and I wouldn’t be averse at all to a more grounded comic book format examination of the topics and issues they broached with this work.