Saturday, April 08, 2006
Luba: The Book of Ofelia
It's been a long time since I've read a Love & Rockets collection by Gilbert Hernandez. It's easy to forget the appeal of the books when not reading them, and it's rather hard to articulate the experience and make it sound appealing, but they really are fantastic books. Luba: The Book of Ofelia is the latest book set in the Love & Rockets universe, collecting stories from the series Luba, Luba's Comics and Stories and Measles. It follows a cast of characters from a small Latin American village called Palomar, as they live out there soap opera lives in America. Gilbert Hernandez is one of the best storytellers in comics. He weaves these tales of Luba's extended family and their affairs and tribulations and brings them to a sort of epic proportion, although the stories themselves are very small and intimate. He just writes them so grand and expertly. And, of course, his artwork is fabulaous. I prefer Gilbert to his brother Jaime's art (who has his own cast of charcters under the Love & Rockets banner), although Jaime, I believe, is more praised in that regard. In The Book of Ofelia, Luba's aunt plans on writing a book about Luba's exploits, thus the title, while Luba's sisters and daughters and granddaughters fight amongst themselves over lovers and ratings on Pipo's TV show. My favorite character of the book is Fritz, a psychologist with a lisp (but not when speaking French), with the sexy soccer superstar Sergio coming in a close second. But really, all of the characters are great. And fully-realized. I love Luba. She's a very kind woman who is lovingly devoted to a man who is burned from head-to-toe and can not speak, who was once very handsome and in love with her. Yet she shuns one of her children for her homosexual lifestyle. She's complex. She's abusive and loving. Ferocious and sultry. She's just very real. She seems to transcend her status as a mere character in Gilbert's work. And she's not the only one. Doralis, Petra, Hector...all characters whom I feel I know... over the course of the stories collected here, we see the sprawling cast grow in their own ways and go to places dark and light, with some stunning conclusions and revelations to their stories that are sometimes only hinted at. It's wonderful. It's complex. If you haven't checked Love & Rockets out, you are really missing out on the creme a la creme.