Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories

Writer(s): Gilbert Hernandez
Artist(s): Gilbert Hernandez
Publisher: Fantagraphics
ISBN: 978-1560975397
Price: $39.95
Page count: 522
Year Released: 2003
Status: out of print
Original Source: Love and Rockets (vol. 1) 1-50
Other Collected Edition(s): Heartbreak Soup and Human Diastrophism
Genres: coming of age; humor; magic realism; romance/relationships; short stories; slice of life
Recommended for Fans Of:
Possibly Objectionable Material: coarse language; nudity; explicit sexual situations; violence
If You Like This Book, Try:
Also in This Series: Beyond Palomar; Luba

Plot Summary
This book collects the "Heartbreak Soup" stories (a.k.a. the Palomar stories) from Beto's half of the comic Love and Rockets. Palomar, a fictional Latin American town with only 386 residents, provides the backdrop against which most of the stories in this book take place. There are literally dozens of main characters, but many of the stories focus on some standouts. First there's Chelo, the town's midwife and bañadora (or bathgiver) who eventually becomes sheriff. Then there's Luba, who arrives in town shortly after the book begins and becomes a rival bañadora to Chelo. She's a single woman with four daughters by four different men (quite the scandal in small-town Palomar), and quickly sets the hearts of the town's teenage boys racing. One of these boys is Heraclio (the "new kid" in town) who eventually marries the town spitfire, Carmen. The list goes on . . . and on.

The centerpiece of this book is "Human Diastrophism," a 100-page story about a serial killer loose in Palomar. This, coupled with a sudden plague of wild monkeys invading the town, causes some of the residents of Palomar to go a bit nuts. Against this backdrop Luba's relationship with her oldest daughter, Maricela, is finally, irrevocably broken; Tonantzín goes from being the town party girl to a woman with a political mission (with tragic results); and Heraclio expands the horizons of the young painter Humberto, whose single-minded quest for artistic perfection causes trouble for the authorities who are trying to track down the man responsible for all of the killings in town.

My Own 2 Cents
This book is Beto's masterpiece, and one of the greatest comic books ever written. The Palomar stories are unequaled when it comes to exploring every facet of small-town life and the dramas, both major and minor, that inevitably occur in such a setting. Luba is, in many ways, the focal point of this book, but each of the supporting characters is just as nuanced and interesting as the infamous hammer-wielding matriarch.

Every serious comic book reader should give this book a try, because there's a lot to like. The two paperbacks that also collect the stories in this hardcover edition (Heartbreak Soup and Human Diastrophism) are more readily available than this out-of-print edition, so you might want to start there instead.

(An extraneous side note: Often, those who read Love and Rockets will admit to a preference for one brother over the other. I tend to prefer Jaime's "Locas" stories to Beto's "Palomar" stories, even though I could also argue that Beto is a slightly more talented writer than his brother. But really, claiming a favorite Hernandez brother is like claiming a favorite Brontë sister. You may prefer Charlotte to Emily, but Wuthering Heights is still one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century.)