Ticket to “Palomar” by Gilbert Hernandez

Palomar (Fantagraphics Books, 2003) collects the stories found in the original Heartbreak Soup comics. They have been identified as the comics equivalent to the magical realism genre initially spearheaded by Gabriel Marquez in literature, eventually also finding its way into film. Palomar’s strengths lie especially in the strong women and three-dimensional characterization present in the stories overall. A complex narrative web ties characters together from one comic to the next. The town lives and breathes history. We see time unfold before our eyes as we watch the characters mature.

It’s hard to imagine that the artist is not taking great pleasure in drawing Luba’s oversized breasts and skimpy outfits for the benefit of himself and his readers, and the inclusion of gay male characters was probably considered risqué for the time that these works were initially published. Including male nudity was probably equally subversive, even for an “alternative” comic. Frequent sex scenes make this a volume for mature readers only.

Palomar has made an important contribution to the evolution of comics storytelling. The Hernandez brothers have demonstrated on more than one occasion the potential of comics as a “legitimate” storytelling medium. The inhabitants of Palomar are portrayed with a careful attention to nuance, depicted with alluring heavy-handed inks.

This one is a brick, coming in at 522 (!) pages.

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