Hello! It is I, and I have some words! The words this week are about an original graphic novel penned by Gilbert Hernandez - Comics' very own George Clooney-a-like and Living Master of the Form. So, it's probably a safe bet I liked it. Saved you some time there. For those with time to kill this idiocy continues after the <more!>.
LOVE FROM THE SHADOWS By Gilbert Hernandez Fantagraphics Books, $19.99 (2011)
Gilbert Hernandez certainly has his knockers both on and off the page. Quite a lot of the time those off the page are motivated by the incessant presence of those on the page to commence their knocking. After thirty years this knocking has reached a pretty high volume, because yes, this year marks Gilbert Hernandez’ thirtieth birthday. Looking at the author photo on the back-flap he’s had a hard life. Oh, maybe it’s his love that is thirty years old, or maybe his rockets. Either way it’s an anniversary of some kind so I’m joining in by looking at this book. A book which contains knockers and probably has many of same since it also bat-shit.
LFTS is the third in a series of books intended to act as an adaptation of a cinematic opus starring Gilbert Hernandez’ character Fritz from the Luba cycle of stories. CHANCE IN HELL and TROUBLEMAKERS are the two other “adaptations” issued in stand alone form although I believe the stories Hypnotwist and Scarlett By Starlight in NEW LOVE AND ROCKETS are also intended to perform the same function. Then there’s SPEAK OF THE DEVIL which is apparently the real life events which form the basis of the Fritz vehicle The Midnight People which hasn't been adapted yet. It’s all very clever and all very meta but you really don’t need to worry about it unless you want to worry about it. In which case, well, there it is. Really though, all the conceptual fluffery just seems to be a long winded way of Gilbert Hernandez apologetically informing his audience that compared to the high art dishes of his past (Human Diastrophism, X, Poison River etc. etc. etc.(yes, "etc.", he’s pretty good.)) he’ll be serving up a somewhat cruder stew. Cruder both in terms of territory and technique.
Other than strange looks from people with your best interests at heart there’s little to be gained from an outline of the plot. Or “plot” (?!) as it were. Weird business is afoot almost from the off and by p.20 the main character has changed into someone else (maybe?) after entering a spooky cave under her house while being a pursued by some childishly inquisitive men clad in boiler suits and shades. After that it gets really bizarre. It may be reductive to describe what follows as an imaginatively volatile cocktail of Tyrone Power flicks, Scientology, Russ Meyer and Barry Gifford but as reductive as that may be at least it’s a start. A start which merely intimates the insanity Gilbert Hernandez depicts so dryly over the 120 pages of lucid cartooning herein. So lucid in fact is his art that given the outrageously ridiculous subject matter it becomes in itself a tone, that of deadpan. This poker faced delivery never falters and lends it all a farcical air which somehow both mercifully undercuts and unmercifully inflates the sense of creeping dread. It’s the work of a comics master tearing into the stained brown paper parcel of his unconscious, and finding a piping hot slurry composed of decades of pop culture detritus. Using his decades-honed skills of cartooning elegance and narrative clarity Gilbert Hernandez proceeds to mould his own serious concerns into the hectic pop hodge podge masquerading as a plot.
Yes, Gilbert Hernandez has flensed the trash of his past but he has not done this for nostalgically onanistic purposes. All these trashily startling and confoundingly crazed pages point not to a talent titting about but rather to a talent continuing to develop; to develop in areas and ways in which he himself seems more driven than coherent in purpose. LFTS is no spinning of the wheels, it is no plucking of the foreskin. No, it is yet another step out beyond expectations and another skip up and over stagnation. LFTS is nonsensical, filthy, horrific, messy, unsettling, funny, dumb, lurid and as smart as all get out. LFTS is an example of a comics creator who has reached a place where he can do what he wants, however he wants and has found that there is still stuff he wants to do. It's part of Gilbert Hernandez' Big Ern Moment. Thirty years in and Gilbert Hernandez has definitivley won and all these weird, impolite books (of which LITS is but one) are the bits where he staggers around with his comb-over wisping freely and declaring to all and sundry (but mostly to himself), “They can’t touch me now! I'm above the Law!”
And after thirty years who can deny him that? Not I. No, not I. So, LOVE FROM THE SHADOWS is VERY GOOD! Besides he still does the straight stuff, Pops. Who isn't looking forward to JULIO'S DAY and MARBLE SEASON? People who hate COMICS!!!
A Brief Note From The Backroom Boys:
The more visually inclined amongst you will have noted the lack of images accompanying the preceding “thing”. This was not the intention. Alas, life spits on intentions like a sailor on shore leave. Yes, at present John is without a scanner. Last week The Haunted Scanner gave up the ghost and stopped being haunted and became a haunter. Not that there’s actually an after-life for scanners (although given the stuff Gilbert Hernandez comes up with it wouldn't be the most unlikely prospect I've entertained recently). Anyway, we’ve disposed of it in the time honoured and totally safe tradition of disposing of electrical goods (hefting it over a disused building’s fence in the dead of night) and now only the mourning remains. And the waiting. The waiting for a new scanner to appear out of thin air. Until that happens I’m afraid it’s going to be reduced rations content-wise. So, just letting y’all know there.
Ta-Ta For Now!