Luba (1998) #5

L5

This issue’s got three stories, but thanks to creator Beto Hernandez’s structure of the second one, it feels like four stories.

The first story is the Luba story, though something in story two (and a half) calls back to one of her solo stories even though she’s not actually in it.

Beto just opens with a cast list again, including little relevant details to catch up with the characters’ current storylines.

All right, the Luba story. Luba takes daughter Socorro to visit a gifted school. There’s great mother and daughter stuff for Luba, but while they’re gone, the other kids get it in their heads Ofelia’s writing a book about Luba. So the story starts with this great mom and daughter stuff, then becomes this great Luba and Ofelia thing, with the undercurrent about Luba’s other daughter, Doralis, coming out as queer (and how seemingly all Luba’s kids but one are gay).

Beto ends the story on this beautiful, perfect note; it’s a divine five pages.

The second story is all about the drama behind Doralis’s TV show; Doralis doesn’t figure in, rather Luba’s other daughter, Guadalupe, but more her husband, Gato. Everyone’s just found out Gato sold Pipo (who produces the show) out to the media, and now he’s writing a book about her. The story’s from Boots’s perspective. Boots is the new accountant and an inspired new character from Beto. She’s an inherently funny character, which carries over even to her narration (she’s writing about the drama, not participating until the last page).

But this story is where Beto sneaks in the half story, with Boots doing a flashback to the first time Pipo and her son, Sergio, came to the United States. At the time, Pipo was still married to Gato, so he came with them, but they were separated, so when she ends up with a stud, it’s all right.

It just turns out we’ve already met the stud before, as some years in the future—or recent issues’ present—he’s going to hook up with Luba. And this issue reveals some of the background to that liaison, full of mystical realism but urban.

It’s outstanding stuff. And it’s never a distraction from it being Pipo’s story, right up until it becomes Guadalupe’s story.

Like the first story, Beto finds a sublime finish for it.

Then comes Socorro’s story, which might be the best in the issue. The three stories do very different things and work in unison; they’re not competing. But this story’s particularly fantastic.

Socorro and little brother Joselito follow Luba out one night after their father has stormed out (post-Luba fight, though we never know what they’re arguing about). They steal a neighbor’s car, leading to a hilarious but dangerous sequence with little kids driving a car.

Only Socorro’s a genius, so she’s got very good, very reasoned observations.

Beto then changes the perspective over to a different character, some punker who’s just broken up with his girlfriend, and she kicked him out of his own place. Too high to go home (he’s crashing at his parents), he wanders around. Simultaneously, Socorro is trying to get Joselito home safely.

It’s a fanciful, verbose story—with Beto using much thinner lines than usual, giving the art some tension—with another great conclusion. It’s a slice of life colliding with comic strip hijinks.

The color one-pager on the back cover is a lovely formal thing with Fritz doing ballet. Beto plays around with colors and movement.

Once again, it’s an excellent issue; as usual, Beto takes entirely unexpected routes to that greatness. During the first story, it doesn’t seem like anything will be better than the second story engenders a similar reaction, but then the third—not even about the regular cast—blows the first two away.

It’s exceptional comics.

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