Advance Review: Love from the Shadows by Gilbert Hernandez


Love from the Shadows is an original graphic novel, which is written and illustrated by Gilbert Hernandez (often nicknamed Beto), featuring a painted cover by Steven Martinez . The 120-page black & white book will be released by Fantagraphics Books on April 11th, 2011, and will cost $19.99 US.

Love from the Shadows is the third in Gilbert Hernandez’s line of original hardcovers featuring Love and Rockets’ “Fritz” in her guise as a Z-movie actress (the first two were Chance in Hell and The Troublemakers), and is described by the publisher as being a trippy thriller that stars Fritz in no fewer than three roles.

The plot involves a beautiful waitress (played by Fritz, of course) and her hospital nurse brother (also played by Fritz), who visit their estranged father, a once successful but now retired writer (amazingly enough, also played by Fritz), in order to find out the true reason why their mother committed suicide. When their dad’s health fails, the siblings are then more concerned with the money he might leave them.

The story weaves in and out of reality and hallucination and possibly back in forth in time, and to complicate things further, the sister is sexually obsessed with a mysterious man throughout the tale — or is it her brother (at one point posing as his sister so that he might gain his and her inheritance) that is so hot and bothered by this mystery stud? And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. There’s also a venture into ghost territory, with frauds bilking the gullible and Fritz’s character(s) right in the middle.

To complete the pulp gestalt, the book’s cover illustration is a painting by Pulp Fiction artist Steven Martinez (he painted the portrait of Marsellus Wallace’s wife Mia Wallace [Uma Thurman] that hangs in their house and which Vincent Vega [John Travolta] scrutinizes while he waits for Mia).


Love from the Shadows won’t actually be released for about another month yet, but I was lucky enough to pick up an early release copy of the book at the Fantagraphics booth at Emerald City Comicon. Being a big fan of Gilbert Hernandez’s work, I jumped on the opportunity to get an early look at his new original graphic novel. As soon as I got home and unpacked from the con, I sat down to have a flick through the book, and after I read the first page, I was hooked. I couldn’t put the book down, and consumed it in one sitting. The book’s plot was just so griping and fascinating, that I couldn’t bare to put it down, my appetite was voracious!

What happened though when I hit the last page of the book? Well, to be honest, I kind of sat in stunned silence for a minute, before exclaiming, “Huh!” I don’t mean that in a bad way, but Beto has packed the book with such a dense and muli-layered story that it actually takes you a while to fully process what you just experienced. In fact, I didn’t start writing this review until a few days after reading the book, because I didn’t want to go just with my gut reaction, and wanted to mull the story over on my head. The more I’ve had time to think about it, the more I’ve realized that it’s probably one of the best things that Beto has ever written! In terms of style, there is certainly a pulp feeling to the story, but in terms of similar movies, I’d most strongly compare it to the works of David Lynch, particularly Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire. In fact, I had pretty much the same reaction after seeing Mulholland Drive at the cinema - when the credits rolled, the audience, myself included, sat in stunned silence before looking around, bemused, and wondering what the hell just happened to them.

What I love about Beto’s Fritz books is that with each book, he is taking the opportunity to tell a completely unique story, and explore a different style of cinema, while still maintaining ties with the the style of his Love & Rockets stories. There’s no denying the influence of L&R on this book, and the book has all the quirkiness and bizarreness that we love from a Beto story, along with all of the strong character work and emotional impact, but it’s all refocused through the lens of a movie camera. In fact, Beto does a wonderful job of bringing across the movie feeling of the story, and it times it feel more like one is reading the storyboards from a film, or an illustrated screenplay. He does this through interesting perspectives, making you feel like you are looking out of a camera, as well as with film-like scene shifts, and a plethora of other brilliant techniques.

The storytelling in the book is truly remarkable, and Beto manages to juggle multiple plot threads, and seemingly unrelated subplots, to bring them all together in a spectacular way that is sure to make your head spin. His dialogue is, as always, next to none, and he has an uncanny way of letting you know exactly what a character is thinking, whether it’s in the words they say, or those they left unsaid.. The story is absolutely drenched in metaphor and subtext and is the type of tale that will reveal new secrets to you upon each re-reading. I’ve read it twice already, and I can see myself going back to it again and again.

Beto’s artwork on the book is again, as brilliant as always. His minimalistic linework has a charming cartoon-esque style to it, which is brought to life through his smooth and bold brushwork. He has an amazing knack for bringing across his characters’ emotions with his artwork, through both his characters’ fantastically emotive facial expressions, and their abundant body language. Very few artists have this talent, but Beto makes it seem almost effortless, it’s like emotion just drips off the end of his brush, and brings his characters to life!

In summary, you just have to buy Love from the Shadows, it’s an essential purchase for all comic lovers. Whether you’re a Love & Rockets fan from the early days, or if you’re new to the works of Gilbert Hernandez, there’s something here for everyone. In fact, due to its standalone nature, the book serves as a perfect introduction, if not not to the world of Love & Rockets, then at least to its style. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, it’s a breath-taking masterpiece. It’s like Love & Rockets meets David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive!

Related posts:

  1. Fantagraphics Previews Love from the Shadows by Gilbert Hernandez
  2. Party with Gilbert Hernandez at Fantagraphics Bookstore this Saturday, March 13!
  3. A Look Inside High Soft Lisp (Love and Rockets Book 25)
  4. Gilbert Hernandez Draws The Masters of the Universe?
  5. Gilbert Hernandez Provides Cover for The Guild: Vork

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