Fantagraphics; 1988; $2.25; 44 pgs; available collected.
Beto finishes up Human Diastrophism this issue; there’s a lot to talk about with it. A whole lot.
But first Jaime, who does a very different Locas than he’s being doing lately. It’s about Maggie going on tour with her Aunt Vicki, who’s won back her wrestling belt and needs to defend it. Maggie’s along as her assistant (of sorts).
The story opens with some developments for Maggie and Ray (they’re together in some capacity), though Ray is pretty sure Maggie would pick Hopey. Hopey’s entirely off page. She tries calling Maggie, which is one heck of an off-panel development. Daffy and Tom Tom (who’s been gone for how long) show up for some exposition and fun at the beginning of the story, then it’s Maggie on the road and Vicki’s wrestling insanity.
Vicki’s been in the book more lately, but nothing like here. Jaime humanizes her in a direct way, as opposed to the usually comedic ways he’s done in the past. Comedic and frightening. But here we finally get some insight into Vicki’s role as Maggie’s pseudo-mom, a role previously reserved (to some degree) for Vicki’s nemesis, Rena. Who gets a mention but no appearance.
Art-wise, Jaime’s really going for some comic strip style pacing here. Holy crap, I just realized there’s a cameo from Vincente and Saturino (Palomar). Anyway, the comic strip style pacing. It’s an awesome mix of action and detail. Jaime’s moving quickly, but never rushing through detail. Quite the opposite, in fact. This story’s probably more detailed than Jaime’s been lately. When he’s doing six panel pages (three rows of two), he’s able to do a lot more with the visual pacing, to force the reader’s attention. It’s an almost entirely “for fun” outing, but with some phenomenal visual storytelling.
And now Human Diastrophism.
This final installment would seem like a postscript or epilogue, if it weren’t where so much of the impact occurs. It certainly seemed like Luba’s mad rush of self-destruction and terrible choices peaked earlier, but not exactly. Here’s where her behaviors finally fully explode; it just looked like she was exploding before. Beto brings back something from earlier for the deus ex machina on it, from the second chapter. Beto’s page numbering for the story is straight through all installments (it ends, here, at page 100). The story certainly deserves a full-read through on its own.
But it’s not just what the final installment doesn’t resolve, it’s what it introduces. It’s what subplots turn out to be more important and how they echo with earlier things in Beto’s Palomar stories. There’s a callback to the first one, no less. And then references to some other characters.
It’s a twenty-page story. With maybe three main plot lines and then a bunch of supporting ones. There’s character development going on between panels, not in focus, like Carmen and Heraclio coming to terms with Guadalupe being his daughter. Beto does a lot of visual echos between Luba’s men, Archie and Heraclio in particular, but also echoing Tonantzin off Diana. In some ways, it’s the culmination of all the Palomar stories since the first one (set ten years before or whatever). But it also refers to that story.
So while it’s independent–the character development of Luba’s daughter, Marciela, almost entirely happens in this story, the serial killer story line is contained to it, lover boy Khamo is entirely contained to it–Human Diastrophism is all about Palomar. About the only thing it doesn’t have to do with is the boys who grew up and moved away.
Of course, all that discussion and it doesn’t even touch on the end of Human Diastrophism, which is entirely unexpected but also perfectly in line with the story (and Beto’s Palomar work). It’s devastating, but removed, then Beto zooms back in, only just the reader. The reader is in on a terrible truth.
It’s the best work in the comic so far. Complicated but simple. It’s never hostile. Beto never makes it difficult to follow. He never tries to trick the reader. He just demands patience and attention. Human Diastrophism is exceptional. It’s full of so much sadness, but never once does Beto get melancholic or saccharine. It doesn’t seem possible he’ll ever top it. We shall see.