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Luba: The Book of Ofelia
posted February 14, 2006
 

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Creator: Gilbert Hernandez
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, 244 pages, $22.95, 2006
Ordering Numbers: 1560976993 (ISBN)

I've long experienced this ritual with Gilbert Hernandez's work. When a new major effort begins serialization, I'm baffled by slight changes in tone and figure that Gilbert has finally let his sprawling over-serial of the mythical town of Palomar and its citizens get away from him. By the time the serialization ends, I'm still slightly confused but the story feels right. When the collection hits, I feel like writing a letter of apology.

Luba: The Book of Ofelia dives deep into the sexual and emotional intimacies of its Hernandez's characters, bumping and scraping them up against one another until wounds open up. Hernandez is such a skilled writer that when at story's end he gives the most aberrative acts to two of the characters who seem the most stable -- or at least the most healthily self-aware -- of the two dozen or so members of the cast, it seems natural, not forced. Ditto an almost comedic almost magical character that becomes a walking embodiment of the Palomarians' inability to choose. Despite making hundreds of pages of comics, Hernandez remains an economical writer in that he gains as much from what he chooses not to show, and finds a considered effect into how much space and time he gives which activites and which characters. The reason I never understand what he's doing until a couple hundred pages into a story is because he's firing on too many cylinders for any reader to grasp the whole image until the final puzzle piece is pressed down.