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The Troublemakers
posted December 1, 2009


Creator: Gilbert Hernandez
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, hardcover, 120 pages, December 2009, $19.95
Ordering Numbers: 1560979224 (ISBN10), 9781560979227 (ISBN13)

imageI've read this latest work by Gilbert Hernandez a few times now, and while I have a rough idea of how to look at it, I'm still finding details. The Troublemakers joins 2007's Chance In Hell as one of the Fritzi Ritz in-continuity B-movie adaptations, this time out a grifter-oriented tale about four slightly past their prime people with some level of interest in working outside of the law temporarily circling around $200K one of them brings into the picture. Our leads are identified as Wes, Nala and Vincene. The main narrative begins with Wes and Nala out to hustle Dewey. Vincene's arrival into the story makes possible every single pairing as a potential team out to screw the other two. I think it says something significant about the nature of the plot that one of the few little-considered pairings, Wes and Dewey, is one of the few we actually see in action.

Hernandez is one of the four or five greatest cartoonists in the world, and it's satisfying to see him work through any plot with any restriction he'd like to place on it. The Troublemakers feels like a movie for more than its story: it's either all exterior information or nearly so, it has opening credits, it has a three-act structure, it uses a wide-panel "shot" throughout. A second reading reveals the Hernandez was able to move the reader through a lot of interesting theme work. There are some devastating references to characters' age, most hilariously Wes' rejection at the hands of a young teen band another adults declares the greatest rock and roll band in the world. I think one could also read a definite critique of certain kind of human relationship that one enters into out of need and one when one is incomplete themselves; several characters are punished for what seems like doom visited upon them for an absolutely tangential relationship to the Troublemakers. Attaching a world of significance to forms recognizable to most of us as pulp isn't a new thing, but I don't think any of the filmmakers famous for it have done it any better than Hernandez.