Luba (1998) #8

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I'm getting worried I was supposed to be reading Luba's Comics and Stories simultaneously to Luba. The last two issues have had ads for the other comic, which makes me wonder what creator Beto Hernandez's version of the Superman shield with the reading number would be… probably something amazingly obscene.

Hopefully.

This issue's almost entirely about Doralis's show going off the air, only it's not about Doralis. She figures in a couple times, both times with huge revelations, but she's never the protagonist of the stories, rather a dramatic punchline. The first time it's in Boots's recollection of the final straws on the show, as Doralis and Pipo lash out at one another. Boots protects Doralis and her secret, which Beto then shares with the reader. It's a surprise, though also not entirely unexpected. So keeping Doralis at a distance makes sense.

That story's the second in the issue. Before it, there's Luba going to a leather and latex club with Pipo and Fritz. This issue establishes—across most of the stories—Pipo and Fritz secretly dating and repercussions on the cast, which is one of the reasons I'm worried I should've been reading Comics and Stories. The last time Beto covered Pipo's romantic pursuit (and forward advances) of Fritz in Luba, Fritz wasn't interested.

Now they're basically together. Of course, Fritz's still got her boyfriends, including Sergio. All those boyfriends take a back seat, though–Fortunato's around and seduces a bunch of the ladies this issue. He'll figure into almost all of the strips, including a cameo in Sergio's later.

This issue might be where Doralis loses her show, but it's the Fortunato issue.

So, the first story is Luba at the club, Sergio trying to convince her to tell his mom, Pipo, to stop being immature and slutty, especially around his girlfriend, Fritz. Only then Fortunato shows up, and all the ladies flock to him.

Second story is Boots's recounting of the last days of Doralis's show. Guadalupe and Sergio's drama figures in late in the story, with Sergio again declaring his love and Gato showing up to throw a wrench in their moment. Or at least their possibility of a moment. It's most interesting because the story—running for pages—starts with Guadalupe being an observer, then protagonist enough to fill the pages with thought balloons, only to turn out to be Boots's story entirely. It's deft work from Beto.

The epilogue is Gato hanging out with the rest of the people who helped ruin the show—a gossip publisher and the girl who worked on the show but conspired against it. It's an excellent one-pager for Gato; we've been hearing about this plot since New Love and Beto spent most of Luba resolving it in the background, but he's never shown this side of the story. It's brief and perfect.

Then it's back to Fortunato. We get another chapter in his origin—he'd already told Pipo he was fished from the sea, but in flashback, and then Doralis's story about Atlantians with legs hinted at his fantastical lineage. This time Boots is telling the story (as Pipo's told her). It's got a couple great punchlines. Boots is Beto's finest device in Luba; she's a close but distant narrator, always ready with a great joke or a surprise.

Fortunato, Pipo, and Fritz also figure into the following story. It's a Sergio story; at six pages, it's the longest in the issue (though the first three or four stories do sort of run together). He's mad at mom Pipo for mooning over Fortunato and making a fool of herself with Fritz, so he rushes off to the airport and his next match. Unfortunately, he runs afoul of football hooligans and rich men's wandering wives while having a minor breakdown about his home situation. Everyone thinks it will ruin his football, but he's determined not to let it.

It's a good story for Sergio. It's been a while since he's had one, and he's usually only sympathetic when someone's very maliciously wronging him, which I suppose also happens here, but still. Beto employs different pacing; most of this issue has been conversations (and Fortunato), so the mood change here is nice.

The next strip is a one-pager with Guadalupe thinking about her life. Doralis and the show figure in, but it's otherwise a dozen-plus panels of Guadalupe thinking. It's good… but if there's a reason for Guadalupe to think people think so poorly of her… I don't remember it. It'd be from Love and Rockets, but no, don't remember her being terrible, which makes her very sympathetic though it's kind of not her story even though she thinks her way through it.

The last story is another Luba story; four pages. It's the finale of the Doralis cancellation fallout, but the middle's more about Fritz. Then the finish is Luba and Ofelia getting into a nasty fight for the first time in ages. As the last story, it's both a non sequitur and not.

Overall, Beto's more ambitious in the second half of the issue than in the first. The first's very complicated and intricate, so it's forgivable. But then the best thing—in this comic where everyone's been talking about Fritz, but it's been ages (issues) since she's gotten to be a protagonist—is the back cover color strip. It's just different images of Fritz in the different areas of her life, with the different people. It's fantastic, and probably the most successful Beto's ever been tying the seemingly unrelated back cover strips to the main content.

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