By Leroy Douresseaux
May 27, 2006 - 13:54
LUBA: THE BOOK OF OFELIA
For those who follow the work of Gilbert Hernandez, one half of alt-comix’s Los Bros. (the other is the Old Master-skilled comic book artist, Jaime Hernandez), will find that his new collection, Luba: The Book of Ofelia (Love & Rockets, Book 21), is the second volume of a trilogy chronicling the travails of his most famous character, Luba, since her arrival in the U.S. The first book in the trilogy is Luba in America (Love & Rockets, Book 19). Luba: The Book of Ofelia collects stories published from 1998-2005 in the following titles, Luba (#3-10), Luba’s Comics and Stories (#2-5), and Gilbert’s all-ages anthology, Measles (#3). (Luba’s life before entering America is chronicled in the graphic novel, Palomar.)
When Luba’s cousin, Ofelia, the woman who raised her, decides to write a tell-all book about her life with Luba, most every one of Luba’s family and friends are suddenly interested. Unable to figure out exactly how to start, Ofelia takes inspiration from Luba’s four young children (Luba also has three older daughters), noticing that even the smallest have their own trials and tribulations.
However, the project, simply called “Luba,” is the doorway into the complex lives of Luba and the satellites that circle her – friends, family, and friends of her family. It’s a complex world of raw emotional wounds, secretive histories, labyrinthine infidelities, violent sexual dramas, double dealing, hypocrisy, etc. Much of the book flows from the dramas of Luba and her daughter, Rosalba, better known as “Fritz.” Luba deals with the fact that her history in Palomar and the baggage she brought back from her hometown (a fictional Central American town) bears heavily on the new life she is trying to lead in America. Fritz, a fertility goddess blessed (cursed) with a firmer version of her sister Luba’s enormous breasts, is a nexus point of various crazy sexual games.
Gilbert’s work has been for a long time a tall, deep, and wide jigsaw puzzle. He creates most of his comix in the form of short stories, and even the larger pieces (such as this volume’s “Hector”) are broken into several mini-chapters. However, the pieces come together the more you read. Story after story, that which seemed disconnected falls into its place, piece by piece, and it’s such an organic process. Nothing is static. No one story only connects to another single story; it connects with all the other stories.
Gilbert’s characters are fully realized, so complex that it would be simplistic to say that any one character can be a villain or hero. Rather, their actions have to do with motivation, circumstances, and for some morality. His are the most human fictional characters in current comics. If you’re not reading this, treat yourself, and you can jump in anywhere. Gilbert’s stories are so interconnected that you will find your way in just a few pages.
All of Gilbert's comix are available for purchase at his publisher's website, fantagraphics.com.
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