Fantagraphics; 1992; $2.75; 36 pgs; available collected.
Nobody gets a happy ending in Jaime’s opener, part five of Wigwam Bam. It really seems like it’s been longer. How long has it been since Maggie was around or Hopey wasn’t a red herring? Two issues? Three? Jaime’s cast–Danita, Ray, Doyle, Doyle’s girlfriend, whoever else–the kids–it feels very much like a comic strip. The way the characters constantly interact with one another without any actual on-page development. Or if there is on-page development in a relationship, it’s the point of the scene, it’s the big event.
This story has two big events. One for Ray, one for Doyle. Well, one involving Ray, one involving Doyle. Doyle’s event has more to do with Nami, who’s stalking Doyle since he rejected her. Will he reject her a third time? As for Ray, he’s still having relationship problems with Danita, even if he doesn’t know it. Even if she doesn’t know it. So he’s got a big event, only he doesn’t really get to experience it. But neither does Danita.
Nami’s the closest thing to a protagonist the story’s got.
Then there’s some Hopey at the end and a lot with the little kids roaming Hoppers, bewildered by the adults.
There’s some really nice art throughout and the narrative moves just fine. It’s just Jaime’s putting things off more. He always puts things off.
Whereas Beto, with Poison River, Part Nine–it’s hard to believe it’s been nine but anyway–Beto isn’t putting anything off here. He’s revealing all involving Maria–Luba’s mom who walked out in the first installment–and the truth about Peter, his dad, all the gangsters, Peter’s band, Isobel, and maybe a couple other things. Peter’s stomach fetish. But the story plays out naturally, detailing Peter’s obsession with Maria.
Yes, it means he stalked and manipulated Luba even more than he already seems to have stalked and manipulated Luba. So creepy. But humanized in a way the rest of Poison River hasn’t done for Peter. It really has some surprises regarding his dad, past and present, as well. And the Isobel stuff isn’t exploitative like Beto flirted with earlier.
I imagine reading the Peter flashback in chronological order with the rest of the story would change it quite a bit.
And then at the end it’s the first time teenage Luba has felt like real Luba. In a moment of tragedy, of course, but Beto does a whole lot with this installment. He’s totally changing the… ahem… course of Poison River, but also the course the reader’s assumed it was on.
Bold, successful stuff.
Then comes a six-page Love and Rockets installment, checking in on the various characters in nine panels on the first page, only for the reveal to be Steve–following his car accident–went back to Palomar to discover himself.
So now we’re back in Palomar, for the first time in at least nine issues, and Beto’s doing a lot of catch-up. Khamo’s alive and with Luba, though he’s disfigured from the self-immolation. They’ve got new kids, who are adorable trouble-makers. Toddlers these new ones. But then Steve runs into Pipo and her teenage son Sergio, who wasn’t a teenager last time he was in the comic. And then there’s Chelo and Mayor Luba and what’s going on with Heraclio and Carmen and Guadalupe and there’s a a baby for Carmen and on and on. Lots of catchup. Steve’s background to a lot of it, often literally silent.
Guadalupe is headed to the States to visit Maricela and Riri, which they mentioned before, but she actually befriends Steve in Palomar to practice English for the trip. It’s fast, it’s intricate, it’s great. It’s weird for Palomar to get such a hurried treatment, but Beto does a great job with it.