cover image Love & Rockets Vol 12 Poison River

Love & Rockets Vol 12 Poison River

Gilbert Hernandez, George Herriman. Fantagraphics Books, $19.95 (120pp) ISBN 978-1-56097-151-1

Along with his brother Jaime, Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets X) has produced some of the best comics work of the last 10 years. Poison River is the story of one his most engaging characters, Luba-self-possessed, intelligent and iconoclastically sexy-in the years before she arrived in Palomar, Hernandez's mythological Central American village. We meet Maria, Luba's mother, beautiful, pampered and recklessly promiscuous. Maria's husband discovers that Luba is the result of a tool-shed tryst with Eduardo, a poor Indian worker and kicks mother, child and lover out into poverty. Glamorous Maria abandons the other two in turn, and much later a teenage Luba meets her future husband Peter Rios, conga player and small-time (soon to be big-time) gangster who takes her away to a life of privilege. But their meeting is not by chance and Rios's peculiar sexual obsessions (women's navels and well-hung chorus ``girls'') are driven by carnal memories of the exquisite Maria. Indeed Luba's new life (and the men in it) is much like her mother's-lavishly sheltered by violent anticommunist gangsters, who murder and terrorize the local ``leftists'' in the name of ``business'' and right-wing patriotism. Hernandez has written an epic Latin American melodrama of lost identity, political violence and polymorphous sexuality. And while his complex plotting is occasionally confusing, his characterizations, dialogue and relationships are vividly, emotionally engaging. A brilliant draftsman, Hernandez presents a wide range of facial and physical types, all rendered with an expressive facility and a deft comic flourish. (Sept.)