Luba (1998) #6

L6

This issue is primarily a comedy soap opera, expertly executed by creator Beto Hernandez. But first, he does the opening Luba story, only it’s a Khamo story. Juxtaposed against Luba and Ofelia herding the children—and getting ready for Socorro to go away to gifted school—is Khamo and the “cops” he’s helping.

It turns out he’s not helping the cops; he’s helping some mobsters, presumably using his old connections to get rid of someone’s competition. It raises many questions—the most critical being, does Khamo understand the danger he’s put his family in (because his handlers talk about it in English, so he can’t understand them), or is he a dupe, or is there something even worse going on. It’s four pages, and it haunts the rest of the issue. It’s also brilliantly paced, with Beto jumping from scene to scene as Khamo and various drug dealers discuss karma. Khamo and karma? It’s an out-of-nowhere subplot twist, and I’m already antsy worrying about the resolve (especially since Luba’s only whole conversation is about feeling impending doom).

So good.

The rest of the comic is about Hector Rivera, a new character Beto introduced last issue, only without naming him. He gets a name here. Last issue, Hector helped Socorro and Joselito get home after they have an adventure; in this issue, they run into him when they’re out with Aunt Fritz. Fritz likes Hector, much to his surprise and delight, and pretty soon, they’re getting busy.

The story’s mainly about Fritz trying to set Hector up with her sister, Petra, only Petra’s resistant. Fritz has too many boyfriends already to add a third to the mix (especially since we find out she’s added Fortunato, but he’s not a regular). So the story’s basically her having awkward conversations and sweaty sex. Meanwhile, Hector’s utterly enamored with the only temporarily attainable Fritz and trying to avoid the matchmaking too.

Beto does a whole range of scenes, like some fun ones with Petra gossiping about her sister at work, touching ones (one of Fritz’s boyfriends is more serious than she realizes), and just thoughtfully executed ones, like Hector bonding with Venus over comic books. It’s a great feature (at eleven pages, it’s the longest of the three).

Before the next longest feature, at eight pages, Beto does a one-page Doralis bit about “legged sea people.” These are the in-between merpeople and human people, whose magical origin story is similar to what Fortunato told Pipo last issue. And there’s Fortunato on the TV—a recurring visual motif—to emphasize his supernatural origin. It ends with a nice moment for Luba and Socorro; Beto’s been spotlighting their mother and daughter relationship well these last few issues.

The final story is another Hector one, although he’s sharing it with Petra this time. She’s just discovered her ex-husband is remarrying and hasn’t invited her to the wedding, so she decides to try to spoil it, only she’ll need Hector’s help.

For semi-exhibitionism to distract from the nuptials. Because Petra’s being petty, which she doesn’t tell Hector about. Meanwhile, he’s worried about telling her about his brief romance with Fritz; on the one hand, he doesn’t want to lie; on the other hand, he’s concerned about Petra’s reaction.

Though the last story established Petra at least assumes Fritz and Hector made the beast with two backs.

Beto also reveals Petra’s a born-again Christian, which I think has to be the first mention because I’d really think I’d remember. Though I don’t think she ever tells Hector she’s born-again, his bros are all gossiping about her to him. Hector can overcome Petra being a jock and religiosity, only we still don’t know how Petra actually feels.

Hector’s a fine new character, though Beto goes overboard with his thought balloons, seemingly trying to justify his shoehorning in as a protagonist. He’s not a new recurring supporting character like Fortunato; he’s an entirely new lead. One who gets lengthy thought balloons to explain his behavior, something the main cast never gets.

It’s the most traditional thing Beto’s done with Luba, but it also seems the riskiest. Or maybe I just remember his brother Jaime’s lousy luck trying to make Locos a thing.

Oh, and the back cover color comic? It’s a lengthy fart joke set at Socorro’s going away party. It’s awesome.