Gilbert Hernandez - Sloth

Vertigo

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Gilbert Hernandez - Sloth

Alternative-comics pioneer captures ache of teenage passion

Talk about wish-fulfillment. At the opening of this tale from comics legend Gilbert Hernandez, Miguel Serra has just willed himself out of a yearlong coma—he’s literally slept through 11th grade.

But he’s no lazier than the rest of his sleepy suburb, a place where teenagers self-destruct simply to break the monotony. Miguel, his best friend Romeo and his girlfriend Lita kill time by obsessing over local folklore, setting out at night to catch a legendary area monster on film—an easier task than dealing with Lita’s inability to choose between Miguel and Romeo.

As in his earlier work—much of which appeared in seminal ’80s comic Love and Rockets, created with brothers Jaime and Mario—Hernandez draws a world of likable characters believably built from quotidian observation and dialogue, then he nudges it gently into surrealism. Twice in Sloth, the characters switch roles in relation to one another; Lita, Miguel and Romeo take turns as sleeper, pursuer, loser. Like quantum particles, their story exists only in the cancelled presence of other possibilities.

It’s a gamble and it works beautifully. Sloth’s odd, elliptical narrative shape becomes an aching metaphor for the way passion refuses to fit life—the way it leaves a remainder, a residue of could’ve-been.

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