**Disclaimer – Firstly can I say that “Beyond Palomar” isn’t a book for kids, and therefore, this review isn’t a review for kids…so look away now if you don’t want to see any nudity or are underage**
So, I have now finished all the “Love and Rockets” soft covers! It’s all very bittersweet really, as I remember days and days of researching and bothering L&R fans on the net’ with questions on how to get into a series that has been reprinted a gazillion times. – I’d like to write my own guide actually, which I shall do after I finish the two hardcovers that are left in the collection!
“Beyond Palomar” was the last in the collection. It was the one in which, I believed, would put together all the missing pieces of the puzzle that is Luba. She and I have had a sordid relationship so far. Lets just say, we don’t see eye-to-eye on a moral basis. I had quite a few of my fellow “L&R” readers tell me that the reasons behind Luba’s weird antics would become clearer in “B.P” and I really was looking forward to delve into this title for that reason.
“Beyond Palomar” is made up of two stories. “Poison River”, which takes up a good chunk of the softcover running in at a massive 191 pages, and the cult classic “Love and Rockets X”, which unfortunately was a quickie, but a goodie.
Really, the book should have been called “Before and After Palomar” because the ‘Beyond’ bit can only be referred to one of the two stories that make up the “B.P” collection.
“Poison River” is mainly a tale of Luba’s former years before she reached Palomar. To say I was disappointed in this story is a bit of a understatment. I guess it’s mainly because I believe Hernandez could have done a lot more with Luba’s past – there was so much he could have explored and dealt with – I wanted to know why Luba was such a bitch, why she treated men like crap and why she needed to have a gazillion kids. Sure, she had a tough life, but it didn’t get deep down and dirty into her psyche like I wanted it to. I wanted blood, I wanted guts – I wanted to see Luba’s innards, and all I was given was a lovely picture of her guzzling alcohol when she was pregnant and dealing with a mobster husband who has an obsession with belly buttons. I guess I was expecting so so much because the past Palomar stories have been so rich, so colourful and ripe with personality both in character and in narrative. “Poison River” lacked both.
Firstly, character wise – it is a god awful mess! It mainly centres around Peter, Luba’s old and mob associated Husband, and his gang of artist misfits. There are quite a few interesting folk swimming around in the big pool of many faces that surface during “Poison River”, but none stand out. This is mainly because, unlike the other Palomar stories, Hernandez doesn’t give these characters time to shine, he does not give them their moment in the spotlight long enough for the reader to bond with the characters. – In the past Palomar softcovers, I have found myself generally caring for the characters, (all besides Luba that is!) as each had such an interesting and heartbreaking story to tell – this is why I’m such a big fan of Carmen and Heraclio, because their story is a pure love story, and yet, they each have a little seedy in their
past (Heraclio being seduced by Luba as a young teen which lead to him fathering her child, and Carmen being dumped at a market in a sack as a baby) which makes it all so real! I believe that Hernandez should have picked a few great and memorable characters, and stuck with building up a back story and a motive for their presence, instead of trying to introduce about ten different characters. All these characters made it hard to know who was who and who wanted what from whom, and even which character was which! Hernandez drew a lot of the characters that looked quite similar, so at one point I had no idea who was Luba’s husband and who was her lover…and I still can’t remember the name of her lover!
Maybe I should get to the good bits before I trash the book anymore. The start is pretty good – setting Luba up as the bastard child of her mother, who was then married to a rich man, and a her father was a gardener, really sets the mood for Luba’s life. Her Mother and Father flee
the rich man, and then Maria (Luba’s mother) obviously fleas them. Watching Luba’s father progressively disintegrating into a shell of a man is so sad to watch – an image that stayed with me long after the book is finished is that of him left to dead on the beach, face down in the sand.
Seeing Luba as a little girl is also pretty great – the reader has always seen her as such a cold faced woman, watching her younger face dancing around, so free and gentle, excited about slugs and lightening and scared of Ofelia brings about a second layer of Luba’s personality. When Ofelia is raped and Luba witnesses the account, it is apparent straight away that Luba’s care free nature changes, as next we see her as a tween, smoking and with an attitude – a mini Luba already.
It is in the fifth chapter that the story gets ugly. That is when Peter, Luba’s first husband, is introduced, along with the many other friends, workmates and band members that surround him. A couple of notable entertaining things exist in that horrible middle section however -
**Peter’s workplace is an interesting establishment, it’s a transsexual cabaret, and seeing Hernandez’s drawings of the performers with half breasts and half penises is quite strange and confronting all in one. I liked his choice of subject matter, and I loved his very weird fascination with belly buttons that keeps him from having a ‘normal’ sex life. (His fascination stems from the fact that Maria, Luba’s Mother, used to crack nuts using her belly button)
**The little story of the street kids sniffing glue so they could forget about the aching hunger in their stomachs was only seen in a few panels, but still left a lasting impression on me. I know, I know, I’m a sucker for a sob story, but seeing
this little drug addicts at such a young age, and depicted by Hernandez as walking zombies could make anyone feel sadness over a simple drawing.
**Isobel was a real surprise, not untill I saw her drawings on the front of Chapter Ten did I realise that she was a transsexual, which gave a complete different spin on who Peter is, that he has quite a few skeletons and quite a few demons lurking around in his closet.
One demon which kind of freaked me out, was his past relationship with Luba’s mother, Maria. It was way weird to me that he fell in love with her and vowed to find her daughter, and when he found her daughter fifteen or so years later, he falls in love with her. I know it isn’t incest, but to me, it kinda felt
that way a bit.
The ending was a lot better than the middle, as the characters credits become less thick and more honed in, which is more Hernandez’s strong suite. I like how he brings in Toco, Jesus and Satch on the last page, which really shows the future of Palomar to come.
So, you may ask, HOW exactly do I feel about Luba after reading the book that was supposed to open my eyes to her strange and selfish ways? To tell you the truth, I don’t feel that much sorry for her at all, actually, I probably like her less after seeing her walking around, pregnant, bottle in hand, a knife at her stomach (if you don’t believe me, check out the picture to the left!), and a needle in her foot – again, she is extremely selfish and only thinking about herself.
I find the books last pages quite interesting, as Luba is seen crying due to the loss of her past life with Peter, and the loss of her first baby. She says to baby Maricela, “You’ll leave one day…Just like all the others” she predicts her own relationship with her daughter, which makes me wonder if she subconsciously willed it all to happen in the first place?
Either way, Luba does not come across as a good mother, or a good person in this story, and my thoughts for her are still the same…but for some reason I believe they may change after reading some more of “Luba in America” which I am getting into right now.
That brings us to the end of Part One! In Part Two I will be reviewing “Love and Rockets X” the final of the two stories that make up the “Beyond Palomar” softcover, and how different the two stories are! – Stay tuned kids!
Oh, and so I don’t get sued or anything – All images and quotes are from – - -
“Beyond Palomar”, Hernandez, Gilbert, Fantagraphics Books, Seattle, WA, 2007.