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Gilbert Hernandez: Human Diastrophism


By Leroy Douresseaux
November 8, 2007 - 12:37

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In early 2007, Fantagraphics Books re-launched their Love & Rockets book collections as a series of compact, mass-market volumes with a low cover price ($14.95).  Love and Rockets is the long-running comic book series created by brothers Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez with another brother, Mario, sometimes participating.  Some readers and reviewers have compared this new Love and Rockets book line to “tankoubon,” which in Japan is a graphic novel or collection of manga (by a single creator, team, or studio) in book form.  Fantagraphics released the first Gilbert Hernandez tankoubon, Heartbreak Soup, earlier this year.

The follow up collection, Human Diastrophism (subtitle The Second Volume of “Palomar” Stores from Love and Rockets), was released a few months ago.  More than half of the material reprinted in Human Diastrophism comes from issues of Love and Rockets comics published from 1992-96.  The title story, Human Diastrophism, the longest graphic novel (105 pages in length) that Gilbert has completed to date was serialized in 1987-88.

Human Diastrophism [“Diastrophism” is a word used to describe the action of the forces that deform the earth’s crust.] takes place in the small Central American town of Palomar.  Normally a placid village that doesn’t even have phones and television (but it does have a movie theatre), the quiet hamlet finds itself the playground of a serial killer.  Palomar is also in a state of flux as newcomers, including tourists and a large number of men excavating a local site, arrive.  The killings serve to hurry the modern world’s invasion of this idyllic south of the border town, as the murders also attract outside investigators.

In a series of stories, both long and short, in the book’s second half, Gilbert reveals the history of Maria Inclan, the mother of his signature character, Luba.

THE LOWDOWN:  If there is one thing that book collections do for Gilbert Hernandez, it’s that they allow readers to truly understand the epic scope of his storytelling.  More a cartoonist than a comic book artist, Gilbert correctly draws comparisons to literary authors and Latin TV soap operas more than other comic book creators.  His approach to storytelling has the epic scope, in terms of character and time, of novels and both the torrid melodrama and also the intricate and tangled character drama of soap operas.

POSSIBLE AUDIENCE:  Readers familiar with Gilbert’s work from having read short installments and episodes in the regular Love and Rockets series will be knocked out by how wonderful these stories read as a whole when connected by a collection.  New readers will find the saga of Maria, Hector Martinez, and Gorgo Cienfuego as addictive as the best soap operas and episodic television series.

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