Monday 25 January 2010

Presuming on his Senses! The Troublemakers

I know what you're thinking: if David Lynch and Russ Meyer had a child together who had a talent for telling stories with pictures, what would those stories be like? I'm right aren't I? Well I can put you at ease by pointing you in the direction of Gilbert Hernandez from Love & Rockets fame. Yes I know everyone loves Jaime Hernandez's clean lines and eye for character leading the story, but as there seems to be an expectation to choose I've always found myself in Gilbert's camp. By amping up the passion, violence and dipping into the absurd in his soap operas it's as if we're getting life in extra vivid colour. In the last couple of years, Gilbert has been producing work outside of the Luba and Palomar universe which ran alongside Jaime's Hopey and Maggie stories. Books such as Sloth, Speak of the Devil and the recent Citizen Rex have been story lead and genre based although they still contain an air of spontaneous plotting and an anything goes approach which has lead to mixed results.

Which brings me to The Troublemakers (Fantagraphics). Nearly. Because I need to contextualise a little. In the Luba universe there is a character named Fritz (generally recognised for her enormous bosom) who, when she was younger, starred in a few B-movies. The films were never talked about in detail but now Gilbert is releasing those movies as graphic novels. The first offering was A Chance In Hell, in which Fritz apparently only had a small role and the second is The Troublemakers which features her more prominently. So does all that background really matter? Well only in the same way that the Tarantino and Rodriguez's Planet Terror double-bill made a little more sense when you understand what they were tapping into. Also Fritz in the Luba universe speaks with a deliberate lisp (it’s a psychological game-thing) and in one panel in The Troublemakers, she slips into that lisp.

So it’s a graphic novel pretending to be a B-movie right? We get guns, wrestling women, sex, a magic necklace, losers chasing a pot of gold, double-and-triple-crossings and a sprinkling of couch psychology to give it an earnest melodrama. It’s a good companion piece to A Chance In Hell (both books have covers to put one in mind of cheap pulp novels) although it’s an easier read given the formers disturbing first third. It’s also a reasonably quick read with a plot that barely hangs together but I found myself wanting to return to it almost instantly. That’s because it doesn’t fall into pastiche. There seems to be a genuine love for the genre - as if the filmmakers behind The Troublemakers set out to make a serious movie. But then that’s part of Gilbert’s enigma: is he good a making simple things appear to have more depth or does he make stories with depth that appear simple?

It may not convert many people to his vaguely polarizing style but this B-movie conceit is a really good forum for his outrageous story instincts (not to mention his wonderful cinemascope panels) and it distances him a little from the Love & Rockets umbrella that lead to those unnecessary comparisons between him and his brother.

Go look at the 10 page preview here.

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