Monday, September 24, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #267: Three Sisters by Gilbert Hernandez

This may turn into another post where I'm overwhelmed by how prolific Gilbert Hernandez is: Three Sisters is the seventh book collecting his stories from Love and Rockets and related publications, with stories that originally appeared between 1999 and 2007.

And that follows Ofelia, with stories from 1999-2004 and Luba and Her Family, with stories from 1995-2001. (And, in the middle, Comics Dementia, with non-continuity stories over a wider span, but including a bunch from that same decade.)

I underline that to show that there's a lot of overlap here: the long stories in each of these books came out in this order, but there's a lot of shorter pieces, and those are much more scattered. Perhaps Hernandez picked stories for each book based on his own knowledge of the internal chronology, perhaps by some general theme, perhaps some other reason -- the book itself doesn't say.

But Three Sisters continues the soap-opera drama of Ofelia, though in a somewhat quieter mode: the big ending events of Ofelia are echoing here -- including one implied but not actually noted there -- in the lives of the three sisters of the title (Luba, Petra, and Fritzi/Rosalba) and their family and friends.

Fritzi is most central to this book: one plot thread is about her shift from being a therapist to a career as a B-movie actress, and the other main thread is the slow drift downward of Mark Herrera, her ex-husband, motivational speaker, and narrator of the "Dumb Solitaire" cluster of stories.

Luba and her family moves into the background -- we see Maricela a little, learn about Doralis's fate, and the "littles" show up around the edges a bit. Guadalupe, though, is more prominent here than before, maybe because her husband Gato isn't in this book, and maybe because her kids also get their own little series of stories as "the Kid Stuff Kids." She's also a belly dancer, with Fritz, which may be more relevant: this is a book that revolves around Fritz, so everyone who has a connection to her get a turn in the secondary spotlight.

Fritz is one of Hernandez's least realistic characters: multi-lingual and lisping in only some of them, ridiculously buxom even for her family, effortlessly successful in several varied careers, bisexual and very busy, with a gun fetish and a manipulative streak notable even among a cast of world-class manipulators. So the stories about her can turn into something like cartoons, or the fan-fiction version of Hollywood. She's fascinating and her exploits entertaining, but she's harder to take seriously than a more grounded character like Guadalupe or Luba.

And the men in Three Sisters are shell-shocked by the Hernandez women, generally thrilled just to be allowed to be part of the world, circling in wider orbits around the center of the action. Without Gato or one of Hernandez's gangster plots, there's no equal center of gravity on the male side of the cast to stand up to Fritz and the other forces of nature that are Hernandez's women. So if Ofelia was a soap opera, complete with shocking ending, Three Sisters is a gentler telenovela centered on a group of indomitable women who will always win out in the end.

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