This graphic novel initially reads like a travelogue or memoir of writer/artist Jessica Abel’s time in Mexico. In fact her art style feels like a sketchbook she’s making while she travels. But the main character is named Carla, not Jessica. Maybe it’s to allow her the freedom to fictionalize when necessary or to maintain some people’s anonymity. And then, over halfway through, it slowly and then abruptly reveals itself. I don’t want to say too much because the surprise made the final third a gripping page-turner and one of the most exciting discoveries I’ve read in awhile. Definitely read La Perdida by Jessica Abel.
La Perdida tells the story of the very absorbed Carla, who traveled to Mexico City in the hopes to “find herself”. Her estranged father is from Mexico and she’s attempting to discover her roots. But she ends up falling in with a sketchy cast of characters who are bitter about tourists and American commercialism yet don’t mind taking advantage of them by selling t-shirts to try to make ends meet. As Abel describes it on her site, “A story about the youthful desire to live an authentic life and the consequences of trusting easy answers, La Perdida—at once grounded in the particulars of life in Mexico and resonantly universal—is a story about finding yourself by getting lost”.
The graphic novel, published by Pantheon Books, was heavily informed by the time Abel spent living in Mexico from 1998-2000, which is when the story takes place. After you read it, check out her website. It has a great special features section that gives extensive background and supplemental information about her stay in Mexico and creation of La Perdida. It includes letters to home, photographs, a playlist, a cocktail recipe, sketches and more.
One of my favorite regular columns is the monthly Comics College by Chris Mautner at Robot 6, hosted by Comic Book Resources. Each entry is a great introductory overview of what’s best to read from the great comic book masters and why they are so good, making this a fantastic source for newcomers or people who’ve always wanted to expand their reading. It also covers their lesser known work and stuff that maybe should be avoided.
The great part of the column is that it is looking at masters from all over the art form of comics. It’s not just superhero creators, or just alternative comics creators. It’s both those, as well as manga, newspaper strips, underground comics, euro-comics, comics journalism and more.
This month’s subject is the Norwegian cartoonist simply known as Jason. This prolific creator tells funny genre mash-ups with a deadpan economy of dialogue and understated emotion with characters struggling over love and guilt. Next month, George Herriman will be featured. His classic comic strip Krazy Kat is among the most highly regarded in the history of comics.
The Comics College column debuted in August 2009 and has covered the following comics masters past and present (click on the link to be taken to the column):