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By J. Stephen Bolhafner
Published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Sunday, January 2, 1994 Page 5D

A graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
92 pages, Fantagraphics, $11.95 (paper)

This particular compilation is the handiwork of Gilbert Hernandez, one of the two brothers responsible for the "Love and Rockets" comic book. Gilbert has been known for gentle, affecting stories about a fictional Latin American village called Palomar, while his brother Jaime has written about contemporary Latinos in America, including the rock 'n' roll scene.

This time Gilbert is on Jaime's turf, although his approach is entirely different. There are Latino characters in "Love and Rockets" and even a couple of scenes set in Palomar, but the cast is multicultural. One of the main characters is a half-Jewish, half-Iraqi poor little rich girl with a big house and a pool and a nice car and a nasty habit of vomiting after she eats.

The advantage of visual storytelling is present in an early scene revealing this character's bulemia: She looks in the mirror and sees a bloated version of herself and thinks "Well, gettin' there, anyway." The contrast between the two images, the real, skinny Bambi (that's her name) and the reflection that she sees, is more poignant than any possible description. It's one of the times the worn-out adage of a picture being worth a thousand words is actually true.

The story is set in 1989, before Rodney King and the L.A. riots, but the racial tensions that led to that particular explosion are explored here, and flare up in ways that are smaller, but no less devastating for the individuals involved. Gilbert Hernandez has already proved himself to be a close observer of human behavior. This is one of his better works.

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