cover image Ashes


Álvaro Ortiz, trans. from the Spanish by Eva Ibarzabal. Top Shelf, $19.99 trade paper (184 p) ISBN 978-1-60309-517-4

In Ortiz’s winning English-language debut, he puts a personal spin on a classic road-trip narrative with a blend of deadpan comedy, philosophizing, and crime-film-style action. Former friends Polly, Moho, and Piter are reunited on a cross-country mission to scatter their friend Hector’s ashes at a mysterious location named in his will. The journey takes them to such eclectic locales as a ship graveyard, a drug dealer’s mansion, and a roadside luchador bar. “The only thing missing was a dwarf and it would be a David Lynch movie,” Piter observes. Along the way, the ensemble reflect on the wrong turns they’ve made in life—even Moho’s pet monkey gets his own flashbacks. Those mistakes threaten to catch up to them in the form of twin goons sent by “the Cowboy” to exact revenge for music critic Moho slandering him. Ortiz’s squiggly, brightly colored art keeps the narrative light even when it veers into dark territory. The pages, densely packed without feeling cramped, set an easygoing visual rhythm appropriate to the characters’ affably rambling adventure. This laid-back, sneakily smart charmer should garner Ortiz a new audience. (Feb.)