cover image Angelitos


Ilan Stavans and Santiago Cohen. Ohio State Univ, $17.95 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-0-8142-5459-2

Set in the mid-’80s, this slim graphic novel follows a college student’s encounters in a poverty-stricken Mexico City neighborhood before and after a devastating earthquake. After the student, nicknamed “El Güerito,” is mugged by homeless youth, a mixture of curiosity and bravery leads him into the slums searching for his stolen notebook. What he finds instead is a shelter run by Padre Chincha. Based on a real historical figure, the priest takes battered boys to the hospital, feeds them, and clothes them. He has also been accused of pedophilia. When a boy who snitched on a fellow gang member is found dead, the police seize their chance to arrest Chincha, given the rumors that surround him. Two of the boys who first attacked El Güerito seek him out, asking for help in freeing their benefactor. When the earthquake hits, the focus on this plot is widened to take in broader tragedies as El Güerito navigates the chaos across the city. The rough, scrawling linework and diagonal panel stacks suit the broken landscape of shantytowns, but they also make following the narrative a challenge, and the simple renderings of facial features becomes repetitive. While the book offers a thoughtful critique of religious hypocrisy and socioeconomic inequality, the poorly executed sequential art doesn’t match its literary ambitions. Art not seen in color by PW[em]. (Jan.) [/em]