Approaching Gilbert Hernandez's PALOMAR, the fruits of two decades of labor by one of comics' most profound and visionary creators can be intimidating. The five hundred-some pages that make up its monolithic content are maybe part of it; they certainly let you know that PALOMAR isn't a casual, leisurely sort of book.
And it's not.
A town somewhere far from the middle of nowhere, Palomar, and her ruling matriarchs Chelo the sheriff and Luba the banadora, fight tooth and nail against the encroachment of outside influences -- be they gringos wallowing in third world tourista chic or, more insidiously, telephones -- anything that changes its rustic way of life. But life keeps changing anyway.
Hernandez weaves an intricate tapestry of lives, invents such a fully realized world that it's impossible to engage PALOMAR casually. In its first handful of pages, he introduces a core of characters followed through more than just hundreds of pages or years and years: they grow older, change, and. They fall in love. And everyone that lives has babies. Almost.
Steeped in the traditions of magical realism (earning Hernandez comparisons to Marquez and Allende more than fairly) and social fiction, acclaimed and praised everywhere from the New York Times to Vibe to LA Weekly, PALOMAR is a dizzying accomplishment. Not simply because of its scope and ambition, but with the subtly and effortlessness with which a reader loses themselves within its pages, its people and their lives. PALOMAR is wholly unique to comics, the product of sprawling ambition and breakthrough vision. If the medium has produced a masterpiece, this is it.
Matt Fraction splits his time between motion graphics and design house MK12, writing comics, and reading comics. He is the author of the graphic novels The Annotated Mantooth and Last of the Independents, both available from AiT/Planet Lar. He can be found on the web at mattfraction.com. His wife is hot.