Human Diastrophism is the second volume (of three) of Gilbert Hernandez stories originally published in Love and Rockets – the comic he co-produced with brother Jaime. It picks up directly where Heartbreak Soup left off.
The main story arc, which takes up about half of the book, tells the tale of a serial killer, and the direct and indirect impact he has on the citizens of Palomar. The second half of the book goes back to the regular format of character building vignettes, though we shoot forwards in time: Luba’s middle-aged, her children are growing up and starting to leave Palomar, and Luba becomes the mayor. In typical Hernandez style, the exploration of the future needs grounding in the past, so we zip back in time to see what happened to Luba’s parents and some other surprise friends and relatives.
Hernandez’s storytelling improves with this book – most of the characters are entrenched in our minds from the first volume, leaving Hernandez free to do more work on the situation and relationships between them. The first half is perhaps weaker, with the plot necessarily focussing on the serial killer rather than our much-loved characters, but the second half is sublime, and the contrast makes for a welcome shift in pace.
The artwork sees Hernandez maintain his high standards. His handling of his characters’ changing appearances as the years pass by is simply stunning, while his female characters are truly beautiful, leaving no questions over why his male characters are so utterly obsessed with them.
This is sophisticated, character-based storytelling with a cast of epic proportions – another example of how, when done well, comics can add something to literature that would surely be impossible in any other medium.