Thursday, February 28, 2013

Love From the Shadows by Gilbert Hernandez

This is another one of Hernandez's oddball side projects -- Love from the Shadows is not actually set in the world of Palomar and his other Love & Rockets stories, but it's the retelling of a fictional movie from that world, starring Hernandez's character Luba in a prominent role. (Clear?) It follows the similar graphic novels Chance in Hell and The Troublemakers as well as Speak of the Devil, which has an even more complicated relationship to Hernandez's usual fictional continuity. (If any alt-comicker ever goes full Crisis in his stories, it will be Gilbert Hernandez; he's always had a fascination for metafiction and a willingness to be as complicated as he can.)

So this particular story is meant to evoke a dark, elliptical indy movie -- made by the Hernandez-world equivalent of David Lynch, perhaps -- in which style is as important as substance, and the most important things are never actually said or shown. (Although there's more on-panel sex and nudity than probably any director could get away with.) There's a dysfunctional family -- aged, sour novelist widower father; promiscuous hitting-middle-age daughter; tormented gay nurse son -- a mysterious and vastly symbolic cave, religious scam artists, an odd near-future religious sect of Monitors, and the usual torment, betrayal, and death you'd expect from a small, serious movie.

The plot isn't the point, but the point is opaque -- after all, this is meant to be the print version of a non-existent movie, so the particular artistic point the movie could have made is not quite what the book can convey. Hernandez puts together compelling pages, and creates characters with intriguing   quirks, but the whole thing feels more like an exercise than a creative work.

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