Page 45 Review by Stephen
Mysterious, beautiful and haunting, these four interconnected stories, separated by time, drift in and around the rural town of Palomar, gradually revealing their secrets.
This isnt LOVE AND ROCKETS material although the characters will be familiar: Luba, Pipo, Chelo, Fritz et al but reprints the NEW TALES OF OLD PALOMAR stories originally published in Fantagraphics luxurious Ignatz format. The paper stock remains a softening cream while each chapter break is coloured in olive green and the richest of rusts.
Between the ancient, monolithic, Woodring-like statues that surround the township of Palomar, two feral, food-thieving children who run like the wind are tracked by the equally fleet-of-foot Pipo down to the beach. There they huddle, cowering in a cave. Pipo finds a letter inside. Meanwhile, some of the men prepare to blow up a boulder that's restricting a flow of pure water, in the hope that it can be bottled and sold or at least serve the community. Earth, wind, fire and water: Gilbert's really in his elements there.
Flash back to when the adults were children and a seemingly endless, yawning chasm separates Palomar from a wilderness without. There some of the boys plays dare with Pipos future husband stuck up a tree. Lightning strikes. The tree trunk bridging the gap is incinerated. Some of the boys are abducted by a couple in bio-hazard suits. Each learns how they will die.
Tonantzin and Diana, the two feral orphans, have grown up now. Tonantzin spies an eyeless, dark-skinned apparition, a baby crying out for its Mama whom no one else can see, only hear like the breeze through a tree. What is so special about Tonantzin? And will she embrace her role as Chelo has, or fight it?
Moving on further still, town Sheriff Chelo is determined to learn what the beings in bio-suits really want.
I could write a dissertation on almost every Hernandez book and the brothers craftsmanship but try to discipline myself to eulogising about just a couple of the elements, for this in the internet and column inches kill.
Here its the graceful way the communitys connections are made clear; and it is an interdependent community on which the ravages of Thatcherism were never visited. Everyone has their role, providing for each other in their own way, even if initially it looks as if that role is simply to stand there fizzing with confrontational, ever-inquisitive energy (Carmen) or clasp each other romantically in an almost off-camera hug like Guero and Arturo. (Funny how Gilbert can make the foreground seem almost off-camera!)
Also on evidence, this time as always, is Gilberts evocation of age. JULIOS DAY was a masterful graphic novel that swept through generations. Here its like the most immaculate, succinct short-hand: Luba a little demented, the lines on Chelos face, the beaming boys with their big mouths taunting a tree-stuck Gato.
Time was we would wait a whole year for new Los Bros Hernandez material, but including LOVE & ROCKETS: NEW STORIES # 5 this makes four books so far from Gilbert alone with a fifth, MARIA M, yet to come.