Beyond Palomar

Writer(s): Gilbert Hernandez
Artist(s): Gilbert Hernandez
ISBN: 978-1560978824
Price: $16.95
Page count: 256
Year Released: 2007
Status: in print
Original Source: Love & Rockets (vol. 1)
Other Collected Edition(s): n/a
Genres: coming of age; humor; magic realism; romance/relationships; short stories; slice of life
Recommended for Fans Of: Martin Scorsese movies and Boyz 'n the Hood
Possibly Objectionable Material: nudity; rape; sexual situations; disturbing imagery; drug use; graphic violence
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Also in This Series: preceded by Human Diasporism; followed by Luba

Plot Summary
Beyond Palomar contains two extended stories. First, in "Poison River," we get the complete (or nearly complete) backstory on Luba, one of the most pivotal characters in Beto's "Heartbreak Soup" stories. Born to a glamorous but unfaithful mother, Luba grows up in an impoverished village with her aunt and her cousin Ofelia. As a teenager, Luba is married off to Peter Rio, a musician with ties to the mob. As Luba becomes accustomed to her new, corrupt environment, she is slowly drawn to the seedier side of life. Meanwhile, her husband's involvement in various power struggles within the mob puts both himself and his wife in grave danger.

Set in LA in the early '90s, "Love and Rockets X" doesn't have a plot so much as a huge cast of characters whose lives overlap in both expected and unexpected ways. First we are reunited with Steve Stranski, a.k.a. Surfer Joe, the surfing white kid with glasses who first appeared in "Human Diastrophism." He and Gerry are friends with the guys in a punk band known as the "real" Love and Rockets (Beto's dig at the real-life band Love and Rockets, which stole its name from the comic book without any compensation to the Hernandez brothers). Their plan is to play their first gig at a local rich girl's party. Meanwhile, we are also reunited with Maricela, Luba's estranged daughter, who ran off with her girlfriend, Riri, who is working as the maid for Rex's parents (Rex is the bassist in Love and Rockets). Steve meets Riri at Rex's house and falls in love with her, which causes tension between Riri and Maricela. There are also three skinheads (Carl, Charlie, and Ben) whose attack on an elderly black woman spark racial tensions in the powder keg that is early '90s east LA.

My Own 2 Cents
I am a big fan of Beto's "Heartbreak Soup" stories, but in my opinion the stories in this book are a significant departure from the ones based in Palomar. Though there was no small amount of violence and abuse in his earlier stories, Beto takes things to a whole new level of brutality in this volume. Personally I do not like mob movies (and that includes even The Godfather films), so "Poison River" left me cold. "Love and Rockets X" was a little more fun (and I did appreciate Steve and Riri's touching roles in the story), but its focus on characters like the skinheads inevitably diminishes my enjoyment. I have no doubt that the stories in this book appeal to many of Beto's fans; I'm just not one of them. But serious fans of Love and Rockets should read it at least once, if only to learn more about Beto's star character, Luba.