Review by Win Wiacek
In addition to being part of the graphic and literary revolution that is Love and Rockets, Gilbert Hernandez has produced compelling stand-alone tales such as Sloth, Grip and Girl Crazy. They are all marked by his bold, simplified line artwork and a mature, sensitive use of the literary techniques of Magical Realist writers Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel García Márquez: techniques he has added to and made his own.
Palomar was the conceptual and cultural playground “Beto” created for extended serial Heartbreak Soup. It’s a dirt-poor Latin-American village with a vibrant, funny and fantastically quotidian cast. Everything from life death, adultery, magic, serial killing and especially gossip could happen in Palomar’s meta-fictional environs.
Happily, Beto returns to Palomar constantly, usually with tales involving the formidable matriarch Luba, who ran the village’s bath house, acted as Mayor (and sometimes police chief) as well as adding regularly and copiously to the general population. Luba eventually migrated to the USA and reunited with her half-sisters Petra and the star of this volume, Rosalba “Fritz” Martinez. This collection was compiled from assorted material with some new pages and many others redrawn and rewritten.
Fritz is a terrifyingly complex creature. She is a psychiatrist and therapist, former b-movie actress, occasional belly dancer, persistent drunk, ardent gun-fetishist, as well as a sexually aggressive and manipulative serial spouse. Beautiful, enticingly damaged, with a possibly-intentional speech impediment, she sashays from crisis to triumph and back again. This moving, shocking, funny chronicle uses the rambling recollections of one of her past husbands – motivational speaker Mark Herrera – to follow her life from High School punkette outsider through her various career and family ups and downs.
Under the umbrella title of ‘Dumb Solitaire’, what purports to be the memoir of Senor Herrera reveals in scathing depth the troubled life of the woman he cannot stay away from. It’s an uncompromising and sexually explicit “documentary” pulling no punches, making no judgements and yet still managing to come off as a feel-good tale.
Available in physical and digital formats, High Soft Lisp is the most intriguing depiction of feminine power and behaviour since Flaubert’s Madame Bovary – and probably just as controversial. The added advantage of intoxicating drawing adds shades of meaning that mere text just cannot impart.
Very funny, very moving, remarkable and unmissable, no mature fan of the medium should deprive themselves of this treat.