Chris Heaney's Reviews > Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories

Palomar by Gilbert Hernández
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Sep 13, 07

Read in September, 2007

This is a wonderful and huge collection of a series of comic book stories set in a fictional Mexican small town named Palomar, written/drawn from the early eighties through the late nineties by a Mexican-American artist named Gilbert Hernandez. To answer the inevitable eye-raise -- this is a comic for adults -- and to address the obvious comparison -- Garcia Marquez's Macondo has nothing on Hernandez's Palomar. The latter is beautiful, I remember, but so baroque and unreal. Macondo, however, bleeds, drinks, screws, cheats, loves, fights without anyone growing a pig-tail or anything. It's funny, and grotesque. In this town, no one is carried way by butterflies -- instead eyes are plucked out by crows.

That's not to say this is a gory comic or that there's no surrealism; rather, it has sudden flashes of violence that are truly scary, mostly because they happen to characters you've watched grow before your eyes; its sudden flights into the unreal, in dreams and hallucinations, are the more effective for that. I can't remember being afraid that any of Garcia Marquez's characters might die, but I did here. By the time I was through, and had seen characters move away, return, marry, die, mess up, get a little redemption, I felt like I had a whole new set of friends in my head. Is it too much to note that I only ever normally say that about Tolstoy?

(One last thing: the majority of the characters are women, which is one of the greatest recommendations I can make for any of the Los Bros. Hernandez's work. Their women are the engines of their art, and not in a distant, idealizing, muse-like way. They age, their bodies change with time as they have children, have accidents, begin to worry. Some cry, others never do. They breathe!)
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Valerie i need to borrow this

Valerie what's the deal with the two brothers (los bros hernandez.) you write: "written/drawn from the early eighties through the late nineties by a Mexican-American artist named Gilbert Hernandez." is he beto? Do you notice the difference between drawing styles, because I definitely do and found it quite jarring. Seems like one of the bros took over after "human diastrophism" (a more cartooney, polished, and frankly less appealing style). Did you notice this?

Chris Heaney No, it's the same brother (Beto = nickname for Gilberto, like Tobalito is the nickname for Cristoba). But his style did become more cartoony, you're right. I don't mind it. I find it more animated, faster, better use of black spaces. I find it more appealing, darker and lighter -- v. fitting for his style of comic tragedy, blah, blah blah. Jaime gets crisper, more matter of fact about life -- I suspect you might like him more, actually! While Gilberto goes more absurd, more fantastic, sexual, fabulistic, Jaime stripped down, got more L.A.

Valerie I might since i detested "sloth," which was beto. however, i prefer his less polished style (amazing how swift the transition seems!). For, me the characters became less real and more iconic, less human. clearly this is the point in ware's work, for example, and it works because his characters are such a bank canvass that you can impose your own emotion/identity onto them, but beto's later luba, et al, seem plastic-y and less sympathetic. i know its cleaner, etc but i actually have a bit of a private battle going with the comic industry in its preference for sparkling clean art. there are a lot of arguments for it, but as you know i do other art (painting, etc.) and i feel that the muddiness, mistakes etc. actually add a lot. the fucking Mome editors loved a story i submitted to them, but bitched about it not being "clean enough," (in truth it was my first soiree with an ink brush.) ok, that's enough!

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