Monday, December 13, 2004


Let’s take a look at some spiffy new books, shall we?

Written and Drawn by Gilbert Hernandez

Hernandez’ LUBA tales begin drawing to a close here, and comics are that much poorer for it. These two excellent books demonstrate his wonderful mastery of the art form, his gift for exacting soap opera storytelling, and his wicked sense of humor. I wish more creators would take a look at these works and get a better sense of how to make great comics.

COMICS AND STORIES #5 is one of the funniest things I’ve read this year. The story is an amusing piss-take on the movie “DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR?” that finds Luba’s sister Petra sending her severely stoned (and horny) boyfriend Hector to give Luba a ride home. Of course, Hector is out of his mind on the weed, he loses his way, gets very paranoid, and when he finally finds Luba (on accident) he can’t remember where he parked. Along the way he bumps into a number of the rest of the cast and continues to dig a bigger hole for himself as he finds newer and bigger ways to screw up in his haze. Tossing in some wonderful moments of poignancy involving Luba and her disfigured husband Khamo (in their youth) adds some welcome depth to the tale and offers a reminder to Hollywood about how to properly execute this kind of farcical entertainment.

However, it’s LUBA #9 that delivers the serious goods in huge doses. Bringing together all of the dangling plots about Luba and her extended family, this book races towards an absolutely stunning cliffhanger conclusion. After an issue of nothing but hijinx, Hernandez reasserts himself as a dramatist of the highest order. As the theme of loves both lost and rekindled works its way through the issue and highlights who each of the characters really is and who they wish to be, we are caught off guard by a spare and powerful emotional dagger in the final two panels of the book that left me cursing Fantagraphics P.R. and Marketing master Eric Reynolds for not having packed the next and final issue in the box. That, friends, is good comics.

Written and Drawn by Marc Bell

This, on the other hand, is just flat out weird. Canadian cartoonist Bell is a fantastic cartoonist whose work looks like Jim Woodring mated with Geof Darrow, making this a visually arresting book, but the stories contained within are utterly nonsensical. The primary tale, which features an incident the threatens to tear apart a small town politically and socially, seems to be metaphorically drawn from what I would guess to be a real life situation, but I just not sure which one. However, the joy is in the telling and the artistry involved in putting the book together. Bell’s level of detail extends deep into the margins, and he does a wonderful job with his inks in setting the mood, even in a lark like this one. The main story is a bit heavy handed, but in the end, I sat back and just enjoyed Bell’s talent for what it is.