Luba (1998) #7

L7

This issue came out over a year after the previous one, and creator Beto Hernandez does some deck cleaning, mostly for Luba and Khamo’s so-far series-long arc about him being in trouble with the police.

But first, there’s a Steve Stransky story; Steve’s been in Luba before (and maybe New Love) as Guadalupe’s friend, but he’d been in Love and Rockets too. Only I kind of forgot. Or I had the thought he was a returning character but didn’t think it was relevant enough to look up. So this story has a bunch of Steve Stransky antics and some other returning characters from Rockets.

It also reveals Fritz was married (and divorced) at least twice, the first time to a gangster of some kind, the second time to a deadbeat musician who Steve knows. Beto’s characterization of Fritz is very different this issue than usual. It’s a little strange how Beto’s brother Jaime did a secret husband reveal in his Rockets spin-off, and now Beto’s doing it here. Or is he? If I forgot Steve Stransky, did I forget Fritz’s husband? Beto doesn’t cover character histories in the roll call.

So a meteor is going to hit the planet and presumably wipe out human life. Everyone’s acting a little weird and calling in old debts; for Steve Stransky, it means getting Fritz to meet up with her ex, who wants some money from her. The ex also knows Igor, and Igor suddenly knows Fritz, and I really don’t remember these storylines intersecting before. It’s okay, though, even if Fritz’s character’s different (there’s some continuity, however, with her model boyfriend, Enrique, showing up in a wordless part).

Even if Fritz is sympathetic to her ex, her sister Petra is very much not. Steve has a crush on both Fritz and Petra. And also Guadalupe, who’s around but without any story for herself. Because it’s a Steve story. The meteor crisis kind of lets Beto do whatever he wants. With this first story, anyway. The second is a different beast.

The second story is about Luba and Khamo’s bewildering experience regarding his criminal connections. In the last issue, Beto did a big twist: Khamo’s helping one gang against another, not the cops, and his handlers have plans for Luba. It raised many questions and made Khamo seem suspicious in ways dangerous to Luba.

If this story’s resolution holds, Beto’s not going to be doing anything with those threads. The story’s strange and discomforting, but it’s effectively done. Beto introduces one weird thing after another before wrapping up; it feels like a defeat, but the arc seemed written into a corner anyway.

The last story is about Hector. His ex-girlfriend, looking different than his first appearance where he hallucinated her, is getting a restraining order against him. Petra doesn’t like him being forgiving, while Fritz is all of a sudden upset Hector isn’t still into her, even though she gave him to Petra.

There’s a brief Venus appearance and gag at the start of the story, but it’s all Hector, including a courtroom scene where he thought balloons his way through the proceedings. The art and narrative are so disconnected it feels like Beto was doing an experiment with the Marvel Method, drawing from a plot, then adding the dialogue to the finished art. It’s also got the meteor’s impending arrival in the background.

The issue ends up being strongest for Petra, who gets a surprisingly (but maybe not unexpected) arc.

Also making the issue seem weird is the lack of Pipo, who appears but doesn’t have any lines because she doesn’t speak English and—besides Luba—no one speaks Spanish in the issue. I guess it feels more Love and Rockets than Luba.

It’s good, of course. But it’s not as good as the rest of the series has been.

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