Heartbreak Soup: A Love & Rockets Book / Gilbert Hernandez

HEARTBREAK SOUP: A LOVE AND ROCKETS BOOK / GILBERT HERNANDEZ

Ever since brothers Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez decided to self publish their own comic book back in 1982, Love And Rockets has gained the legendary status of being the quintessential underground/alternative comic. Reflecting the experience of Latin Americans and catering for a mainly Chicano audience, Love And Rockets became a groundbreaking publication with an immense following.

Hugely influential in both its unmistakable artwork and the subject matter of its stories, Love And Rockets brought a brand new sense of realism to the youth orientated comic book medium. The two main story strands that ran through Love And Rockets were Heartbreak Soup created by Gilbert Hernandez, which follows the strange and complex lives of Palomar village, and Hoppers 13 created Jaime Hernandez, set within the fast living community of the California Punk scene.

The world of Love And Rockets is vast and epic, spanning decades up until the present day, so it’s hard to know where to begin with such an iconic series. Thankfully Fantagraphics made it a bit easier in 2007 when they decided to anthologise all of the Los Bros Hernandez seminal work in a series of hefty paperbacks. After a bit of research I decided that Heartbreak Soup: A Love And Rockets Book by Gilbert Hernandez was probably a good place to start.

Heartbreak Soup artfully brings to life the residents of Palomar, a dust ruined village somewhere in the heart of Latin America, completely fictional but totally authentic. A small town with big emotions, a place where all the women are curvaceous and tenacious and all the men are desperately on the verge of insanity. A stirring set of tales that begins with midwife and future mayor Chelo bringing a whole generation into the world and ends with the psychological meltdown of an opportunistic bi-sexual gigalo.

From the poignant, and often humorous, observations of small town life, to the idiosyncrasies of its multi dimensional characters, Palomar is amazingly brought to life. Having been written as individual stories over a number of years, the characters have been given room to breath, grow and age realistically with conviction, making it one of the most believable graphic novels I’ve ever read.

Within Heartbreak Soup the emphasis is always on story, it’s the main ingredient that keeps it fresh. And despite their occasionally questionable behaviour and attitudes, writer/artist Gilbert Hernandez never judges the inhabitants of his creation, making him one of the most compassionate chroniclers of demented lives since Hubert Selby JR.I really didn’t know what to expect from Love And Rockets and read Heartbreak Soup with very little prior knowledge. But once I’d been pulled into the world of Palomar, much like its residents I found it very hard to leave.