Gilbert Hernandez created what is perhaps the ultimate literate comic in his stories of Palomar, which featured alongside brother Jaime’s work in their ground-breaking comic Love and Rockets. This volume, standing alongside Jaime’s Maggie the Mechanic, is the first in a series of books collecting all of Gilbert’s Palomar stories, unabridged and in the order they were originally printed. At nearly 300 pages it’s a true epic, not to mention something of a bargain.
The story is deeply reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude, something Hernandez himself alludes to in his work, having one of his characters explain that Marquez’s masterpiece is “about us… It’s about our lives.” The basic similarities are obvious – it’s a story about a group of people, who live in a small, isolated town, and it charts their lives through good times and bad. This intertwined cast is examined and developed throughout the book, like a sophisticated and deeply imaginative soap opera. There’s a little magic in the form of local witchcraft, a smattering of mystery, but on the whole it’s a story of love, desire, loss, growing up and growing older. And to put it frankly, it simply hasn’t been bettered in comics before or since.
Gilbert’s black and white artwork can sometimes feel a little rough round the edges, but it’s imbued with as much emotion as his stories, and he captures the changes in his characters’ appearances perfectly as he flicks through the pages of their lives, cherry-picking stories and delving deeper into their world.
It’s a beautiful setting for some incredible storytelling and Hernandez treats it with a deftly sympathetic and capable hand. Anyone with an eye for literature, and a desire to tuck into a comic book that is as influential as it is brilliant, can’t fail to be charmed by Hernandez and the inhabitants of Palomar. We defy you not to fall in love with it.