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Speak of the Devil #1

Posted: Monday, July 30, 2007
By: Thom Young



Writer/Artist: Gilbert Hernandez

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics


I have bought everything that Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez have published since I first discovered Love and Rockets volume one #1 back in 1981. Most of their material has been published by Fantagraphics, of course—with very few exceptions. Thus, I was surprised when I saw this title by Gilbert. It’s a six-issue miniseries that is being published by Dark Horse.

Why, I wondered, isn’t Fantagraphics publishing this miniseries? I don’t know the answer—especially since the work could easily fit with the material that Gilbert is publishing in Love and Rockets volume two.

On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much to this initial chapter in the six-issue story. A teenage girl named Val dons black clothes and a devil mask and prowls around her neighborhood looking through people’s windows at night. In particular, she seems to focus on her stepmother’s window.

Initially, it seems that she might be trying to scare her stepmother due to resentment towards her for having “replaced” her real mother in her father’s affections. However, other incidents in Val’s life indicate that there may be other reasons for her interest in peeping at her stepmother—particularly in light of the end of this first issue when Val watches through the window while her father and stepmother are having sex.

The hints at other possible motivations for Val’s behavior are intriguing and indicate that Gilbert has thought his story through. My only real complaint (and why I’m not giving this book five bullets) is that the dialog between Val and her friends is too affected.

Twenty-five years ago, Gilbert and Jaime (particularly Jaime) excelled at capturing the speech patterns and the concerns of teenagers and young adults. With the exception of the Hispanic dialect, their characters sounded the way my friends and I sounded at that time.

Now, however, the teenagers and young adults sound too mannered and too disjointed—as in the following exchange:
Paul: A guy gets twenty-five to thirty years for drug possession. Another guy goes in for rape and manslaughter, but gets out after doing just nine years.

Zed: Paul, are you trying to tell us it’s an ass-backwards world, oh wise old sage?

Val: Look who’s talking, Zed.

Mooch: Haw! The world’s going to hell? No! Since when?

Zed: What do you think, Dr. Mooch? Think we have a closet serial killer in our midst?
This conversation between characters sounds too much like Gilbert trying too hard to get a socio-political point across. Instead, it should sound like a group of high school kids (and two slightly older males) hanging out in a cemetery at night while they guzzle beers.

Still, there’s really only this one scene that has dialog that doesn’t ring true to me, and I was fully engaged in the slowly developing plot once I began to see the subtle hints at Val’s other possible motivations for her Peeping Tom perversions.

This series looks to be yet another first-rate work from one of the most significant comic book creators of our generation.



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