I very deliberately emotionally steeled myself for Luba #10. Creator Beto Hernandez ended the last issue on such a one-two punch of cliffhangers (no pun), I knew I needed to be ready. Lots of stories were about to come to a head, lots of emotions.
And they do. Lots of stories do come to a head—Beto’s finishing business he started back in Love and Rockets, including Luba and Ofelia’s origin story arc, Poison River—and there are lots of emotions. But Beto’s got some surprises up his sleeve, and he saves the big one for halfway through the issue, at which point there’s so much emotional relief he’s got time to prime up for another one-two punch on the finale. And this time, there’s no “Continued…,” but a “The End.”
Much of the comic is about Luba, though often through her daughters’ perspective. She starts the issue visiting Pipo in the hospital—someone mugging Pipo and brutally beating her is one of the previous issue’s cliffhanger punches—and witnessing the peculiarities of Pipo’s storyline in the comic. For example, Luba’s sister Fritz arrives to console Pipo, who she’s dating, while Pipo’s son, Sergio, who used to date Fritz before Pipo seduced her away, stands in the back sullenly. Outside, Gato—Pipo’s ex-husband, now married to Luba’s daughter—waits for Sergio so they can go get shitfaced together. Pipo’s assault has given them a shared purpose, which we’ll discover later; it’ll be the largest non-Luba-related subplot.
The most significant unrelated subplot—early in the issue before Beto gives away the “twist”—is Venus and Hector going for a walk through a scary forest where there’s a stone marked Frankenstein. It’s a gentle aside with a bit of a bite thanks to Hector having an “ah-ha” moment (eureka, not Take on Me), lots of mood, and lots of personality. Luba’s trying to calm down a still hysterical Venus during the opening hospital visit—Venus’s crying started at the end of last issue when everyone found out about the cliffhangers—and it’s a good bit of character work while laying groundwork for later. Though it’s groundwork on groundwork, it turns out. Beto does a whole bunch in the last two pages of the issue.
Meanwhile, Luba’s feeling abandoned. Daughter Doralis is going to do televised charity work around the world, sister Fritz is going off to Hawaii with her (beard?) husband-to-be, not to mention Ofelia’s no longer going to be around to help. That particular absence convinces Luba’s estranged daughter Maricela to visit—not to make reconnect (Luba’s still super shitty about her gay kids being gay)—but to offer to take care of her youngest siblings. Something Luba’s husband, Khamo, doesn’t think is a bad idea. Without Ofelia around to even slightly referee, Luba’s arguments with Khamo get even more heated.
It’s a hell of an issue for Luba. Especially how much it takes place in her background reactions. She’s rarely the focus of talking heads panels; it’s her kids, her sisters, her friends, but so much plays out for her and from her.
And, obviously, Beto’s handling of the Ofelia stuff is extraordinary.
Luba started a tightly connected anthology, then became a loosely connected multi-chapter narrative, and Beto brings it all together for a complete piece in the end. He forecast the approach last issue when the separately titled strips all wove together, but this issue’s one of his greats.
There’s so much tragedy in the resolution but also so much hope. It’s a magnificent conclusion.
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