La Perdida #4

Posted: Tuesday, November 9, 2004
By: Amos Simien

Cover of La Perdida #4

Creator: Jessica Abel
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Address: 7563 Lake City Way NE, Seattle WA 98115
Price: $4.95; $7.45 CAN

Jessica Abel's La Perdida is expanded from the original four issues to five, but four is still hot. The story thus far: Carla Olivares moved to Mexico in search of her Mexican roots or, at least, some sense of it, which she apparently feels she missed growing up Anglo (white). She has relationship issues with Harry, an old boyfriend living in Mexico City, but the most interesting thing about Carla's life is her involvement with the rough youth culture of Mexico City, which is how she meets Mexican boyfriend Oscar.

Over time, Carla suspects that Oscar and his homeboy Memo are up to no good, and the fact that the duo often disappears (including a long stint in this issue) feeds her suspicions. The aforementioned Harry is kidnapped in Mexico City, something that apparently happens a lot to rich people in Mexico City. Carla also spends so much time examining her life that she really doesn't have a clue about what's going on around her.

It would be easy to have mixed feelings about La Perdida. Sometimes, it reads like the comic book equivalent of something on The WB, and the story's criminal subplot seems like yesterday's wash of tired genre trappings. However, this is where the advantage of being a cartoonist comes into play. In the hands of someone who is only a scriptwriter, La Perdida would be a mildly interesting semi-autobiographical graphic novel. In the hands of a cartoonist who has worked her way to understanding comix storytelling, La Perdida is an exceptional work.

Ms. Abel's art is a lush line work that looks both simple and complex and both heavy and delicate. Everything seems so carefully orchestrated, but there is a fluidity or kind of hyperactivity that suggests some one anxiously and indiscriminately marking a page. This juxtaposition of this war of the calm and the excited creates something that I might want to study for a bit. At the same time, the comic is a feverish pot boiler and page turner. Ms. Abel's storytelling is so evocative and so real, it's as if each little panel of art were a window through which we could watch her cherished characters and their situations.

Whatever the weaknesses of the script or subplots may be, La Perdida is ultimately about the total package - the comix. It's not about the individual elements, but rather about the final package. I enjoyed La Perdida because in the end, I liked the comic book I held in my hand regardless of how I felt about the individual elements that made it.

In a word: Arte

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