October Frights Start Early With Fantasmagoría #1

by Rachel Bellwoar

Following the smash debut of his Vertigo series, Border Town, with Ramon Villalobos (a second printing of the first issue comes out October 10th if you missed it), Eric M. Esquivel teams up with James A. Fino (one of Starburn Industries’ founding partners) for a new series coming out from SBI Press. Like Border TownFantasmagoría #1 celebrates Latinx culture with “spooky stories based on real myths from Mexico & the American Southwest” (to quote the cover).

Sticking with that cover for a second, Trevor Richardson is the artist responsible and he also does the framing story for this issue. The bruja, or witch, featured is trying to sell her goods to an unnamed character, whose point of view the panels are oriented from. It’s a cover that tells you everything you need to know about this issue (the three stories spotlighted on the side are the three stories she tells to try and convince the browser to make a purchase). Often it feels like the bruja is speaking right to you, and it can be pleasurable to be knocked out of that misconception with a reminder that there’s another person steering and manipulating your gaze. The detail work on the bruja’s hands gives something new to notice every time you see them, and her body language is always enticing and playful.
Everything is co-written by Fino and Esquivel (except for “El Corazón Negro” which Esquivel scripts solo) and Henry Barajas does all the lettering. “El Corazón Negro” is about an abuelo and his grandson who decide to challenge La Santa Muerte to a fight for Abuelo’s life. The title comes from Abuelo’s lucha libre name, “Black Heart”, and what’s abundantly clear is I’ve gone through life completely unprepared for the day I might need to be wearing a luche libre outfit underneath my clothes (or in the case of Abuelo, his mask and tighty whities). Fernando Pinto does the art and besides the jubilant tearaway clothes scenes, the action sequences are loose and free, with a focus on character, and La Santa Muerte is a great change from the usual, black-cloaked grim reaper (Kote Carvajal does the colors).
The Flying Coffin” is a Faustian tale about a self-serving farmer named Gil who agrees to give the devil his immortal soul for cash. Since the Devil doesn’t go into specifics or a date, Gil has no real reason to fear death more than he did before but the way everything’s resolved feels a bit like a cheat. Being known cheaters, that’s not unfitting, but a logic trick or loophole would’ve been more rewarding than something you can’t see coming. Artist, Victor Moura‘s design for the devil is really cool and his angular head shapes stand out.
Finally, there’s “Put A Little Chile On It” which is full of fun wordplay that puns off the heat of spicy food and the heat of romance. Penciled by Julieta Colas, with inks by Beli De La Torre, Colas’ background in animation shines through while Carvajal resists going for the hot colors you’d expect from a chili story (while for the opposite reason Barajas flame letters are hot, hot, hotter).
With the spookiest month of the year mere days away, steel yourself with Fantasmagoría #1, on sale September 26th from SBI Press.

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