Fantagraphics; 1987; $2.25; 44 pgs; available collected.
Right off, Beto makes up for last issue’s Palomar installment with this one’s. It’s the third part (and not the conclusion) of Human Diastrophism, which–among other subplots–has a serial killer loose in Palomar. Last time Beto sputtered around, trying to figure out how to pace the various plot threads–the serial killer seems to be working at the dig where Luba’s lover (and unknowing father of two of her children) is working, with Beto also doing stories about Luba’s kids, plus Tonantzin’s circle of friends being very worried about her. The same players move through both plots, but they’re not connected. Not even by the serial killer; yet.
Beto’s art style is a little different. He’s more distant in his composition, figures are smaller, backgrounds are sometimes emptier. It’s like he’s figured out the narrative distance, going a lot more for comic strip visual gags and blocking. He’s working at a much faster pace, whther it’s the action of Luba’s kids jump-roping or transitioning from Archie (Luba’s current until her ex showed up boyfriend) going to work at the dig to him working alongside Luba’s new old lover. There’s also lots of silhouette, as the town starts killing off the monkeys.
Beto’s also doing a lot more character work, particularly on Luba, but also with Pipo (which means establishing a lot about her since she’s never been as active–not since the first Palomar story); plus Heraclio gets to come off like a complete ass. This issue’s installment feels full, packed with content to unravel while reading. Beto’s art informs on how to read it, how to process the information. The words all become very important, along with the composition, the expressions. The pacing of dialogue as it relates to the composition and expressions. Even if the previous issue’s installment hadn’t been strangely undercooked, this issue’s Palomar would still be spectacular. Out of nowhere–not just nowhere, but after a misstep–Beto’s reaching new heights of ambition and success. It’s awesome.
Jaime then has the impossible task of following Beto. Not just following Beto, but presumably concluding The Death of Speedy Ortiz. The story takes a much wider lens on Hoppers 13 than Jaime employs; it’s not a Maggie story, it’s not a Ray story. Licha–Maggie’s gangster (but now altrusitic, community minded gangster) cousin–has a big part. Her biggest part in the series to date. Esther’s around causing trouble, with the Dairytown gangster mad she’s dating Speedy, then Speedy’s local squeeze out to get whoever else he’s seeing (thinking it might be Maggie), but then Speedy’s Hoppers 13 gang friends mad about him beating up a friend last issue.
That beatdown was literally done as a sight gag, so it’s kind of a surprise.
Meanwhile Izzy is having her first episode in ages, ’Litos (and Ray) are trying to keep the Hoppers 13 guys cool about Speedy–not to mention Ray’s mom sick of him sleeping on the couch.
Finally there’s some resolution to the Speedy and Maggie relationship, which has so much dramatic impact it replaces the actual danger Speedy’s in.
Then there’s a haunting finale before a flashback to when Maggie was a freshman in high school, at a wedding between one of the Hoppers kids and a Dairytown girl. Everyone’s there, young Speedy, but also Letty, Maggie’s pre-Hopey friend who tragically died. In a short flashback strip ten issues ago.
Jaime does a bunch. There’s some great, great art, there’s some way too goofy comic strip visual action–bing, bang, boom stuff; oddly, Beto does all that comic strip sight action to perfect result in Palomar, Jaime just doesn’t make it work in Locas. It’s weird. It’s also perfectly successful in the first few pages of the comic and then Jaime loses his grip on it.
And Maggie’s still barefoot for some reason.
It’s a good comic. But in widening the scope of Speedy Ortiz, Jaime kind of changes what it takes for the story to be a success. It also can’t compare to Beto’s Palomar entry, which is breathtaking.