Saturday, April 26, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #115: Girl Crazy by Gilbert Hernandez

Girl Crazy is Gilbert Hernandez's first solo record: the first major comic he did after the "band" broke up and the first volume of Love & Rockets ended in the mid-90s. That's not a perfect metaphor -- Love & Rockets was an omnibus of unrelated stories to begin with, and so not a "band" in any reasonable way, and Hernandez continued the storylines from L&R Vol. 1 the month after Girl Crazy ended, in his next comic New Love. So: it wasn't a band, and it didn't break up.

Which is a pity, because I'd love to try to make up some reasons why the mysterious Una of Girl Crazy is the L&R equivalent of Yoko Ono. (Every band metaphor eventually turns into Yoko.) Girl Crazy is one of Hernandez's metaphorical, allusive works -- he bounces between the closely-examined everyday life of the Palomar stories and their US-based continuations, on the one hand, and his stranger, more energetic works often based on dream logic and pure imagery, on the other.

Girl Crazy is definitely in the latter category: its three heroines (jungle girl Maribel, IRS agent and Ro-Man impersonator Kitten, busty hotshot lawyer Gaby) are unbelievable if taken seriously, since they're all vastly accomplished and also just about to turn sixteen. (All on the same day, which is a Big Clue about some of the metaphors.) They live in different worlds, or eras, but they -- and maybe everyone else -- can travel freely among them. It's a big, sprawling, comic-booky universe, the kind of place where anything can happen and definitely will.

The three girls get back together -- hmm, another band metaphor! -- to break a fourth friend, Una, out of prison. There are more typically Hernandezian baroque touches along the way, but that's the spine of the story: three girls, best friends, on the run from the forces of repression and evil to save their missing piece. And it happens, though not the way you'd expect.

Hernandez's art is typically beautiful and supple: as expected, he devotes a lot of loving attention to the girls' bodies and clothing (almost equally so; and the clothing gets pretty odd). The story is somewhat simpler and more based in old adventure-comics tropes than the Hernandez of a decade or so later, but it's still chewy, interesting stuff. For a book that looks at first glance like an excuse to draw a lot of attractive young women in skimpy outfits, Girl Crazy has a lot of subtlety and nuance going for it.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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