Creator Beto Hernandez again opens the issue with a roll call, separating out Luba’s kids, her extended family, and, finally, Pipo and her assorted boys. The roll call’s important primarily for Socorro, who last issue’s cast list didn’t identify by name. Socorro’s going to have a reasonably big story this issue.
But, first, there’s the Luba feature. She’s still trying to get husband Khamo into the U.S., but she just happens across a beautiful dude on the beach, and he’s more than happy to temporarily bump uglies. Beto combines a moody piece about Luba’s desires with the pragmatic; she meets up with Doralis and Pipo (who are the ones who got Khamo in, it turns out), goes home to her kids, waits for Khamo to arrive. It’s an excellent, dreamy mix.
Beto keeps Doralis’s coming-out subplot going, with she and Pipo briefly discussing it, and there’s a perfect single panel of Ofelia and Luba back together. The issue’s got a lot of deep cuts to old Love and Rockets throughout, but in this story, it’s very much about the tone. Again, Beto does a great job with it, especially how the family reuniting works out; his narrative distance to Luba is sublime.
The second story is a flashback to Khamo’s life before Luba and his disfigurement. It’s equal parts comedic, horrifying, and dramatic. His problems started as a kid, with a profoundly abusive mother, and then his teens are this often amusing montage of a fake revolutionary. The story is titled Poseur, after all.
The most startling scene is when Beto brings back Tonantzin in one of the flashbacks. Tonantzin’s death is one of Palomar’s breakpoints; there’s before, there’s after. So seeing her just having a chill conversation is jarring, especially knowing what’s coming immediately after. But in a good way.
Beto also does a good job playing with never showing Khamo talking; it’s one of the character hallmarks, and Beto figures out something nice to do with it. A little emotionally rending, sure, but nicely done.
There’s a lot of great art on the story, which covers decades and various locations. Just phenomenal pacing.
The following story is a one-page Ofelia strip where she talks to some admirer about media criticism. It’s a great, mostly monologue piece, with a lot of Ofelia personality. Beto’s also got some excellent observations about how and why criticism works (and doesn’t). It’s lovely mood relief from the Khamo story’s intensity, plus there’s a nice Luba-involved punchline.
Outside Guadalupe, the next story is Luba-family-free. It’s about Gato, Pipo, Guadalupe, Igor, and Sergio. Gato used to be married to Pipo and was Sergio’s step-father. Sergio’s convinced he and Guadalupe were tween first loves, but she doesn’t remember it that way. She’s now married to Gato. Before she married him, she dated Igor, who’s now with Pipo. That tangled mess is backdrop to Pipo needing a new accountant because Gato’s quitting to become a writer. So Pipo flies in Boots from Palomar; I can’t remember if Boots was around in Love and Rockets but she’s a perfect, strange, lovable Beto character.
I’m low-key shipping her and Gato now, actually.
It’s a soap opera story (Guadalupe even calls it one) and an excellent one.
The last story in the issue’s a three-pager with Socorro. To some degree, it’s a Luba’s kids’ strip, opening with Casimira leaving the house (where Luba’s mad at Khamo about something already) and finding her younger siblings playing with fire. However, it quickly becomes a conversation about Socorro’s outstanding memory, which she thinks is because her real father is a serial killer.
The other kids try to convince her otherwise with no success, but then mom Luba inadvertently fixes the situation by just being a good mom. It’s a very sweet finish to the issue, which has been a rollercoaster of unresolved past issues.
The color strip on the back cover is Petra and Fritz at the beach meeting studs while the kids play. It’s the sisters’ only appearance in this issue. It’s a nice little strip, with Beto getting in some gentle humor and delightful color art.