Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Troublemakers

I'm afraid your Friendly Neighborhood Articulate Nerd is going to have some trouble living up to the "articulate" half of that moniker when discussing the work of Gilbert Hernandez. Gilbert's work, and that of his brother, Jaime, is so appealing to me that it is difficult for me to analyze just what makes it "work" so well. I almost always enjoy reading comics by Gilbert Hernandez, and the new, original graphic novel, The Troublemakers, was no exception.

This is the second in the "Fritz B-Movie Collection" of graphic novels, a series of books which are supposed to be adaptations of films in which Hernandez's Love and Rockets character Fritz has starred in over the course of her career as an actress. The first in the series was the excellent Chance in Hell. You don't really need to understand all of that to enjoy the individual books, though. They are completely unconnected to the continuity of the Love and Rockets stories, and from each other.

The Troublemakers is a crime story about three con-artists who at various times in the narrative are working with or against one another, in an ever shifting series of alliances and betrayals. Fritz "plays" Nala, one of the con-artists, alongside Vincene (who reminded me somewhat of Jaime's character, Hopey Glass), and a young man named Wes. The specifics of the plot are difficult to track, as you are never quite sure who is telling the truth or what the real motivations of the characters are. But that's kind of the point of the book, I think. It's a lot of fun trying to keep up with all of the twists and revelations Gilbert provides over the course of this short graphic novel. It's not meant to be anything more than good, pulpy fun and that is exactly how it comes across. I enjoyed it a great deal.

Now that there are two of them published, I can say I really like this publishing project of Gilbert's. It feels to me like Hernandez is playing the role of a late-night movie host (of the type we don't see much of these days, sadly), uncovering obscure films starring this cult actress. It's a lot of fun and provides a perfect vehicle for Hernandez to explore his pop culture influences. I hope there are lots more. It's also great to read an entire book of new comics from Gilbert that haven't been previously serialized. A terrific new vehicle of expression for a master cartoonist who continues to evolve.


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