Monday, November 25, 2013

The Troublemakers

The Troublemakers is one of Gilbert Hernandez's adaptations of a movie that starred Fritz, his psychologist character from Love and Rockets (she's on the right side of the cover). It is a paean to his love for B- or exploitation movies and a meta-fictional component of his Palomar universe. Casual readers do not really need to know any of that though, because the book holds up as a satisfying read on its own merits.

I am not going to tell you so much about the plot other than it focuses on a trio of grifters.
Vincene seems to be the craftiest, and she is always on the run.
Nala is a former magician's assistant with a bunch of tricks up her sleeve but is worried about getting too old to pull off more scams.
Wes, a frustrated singer, is trying to fleece his associate Dewey out of $200,000 so he can buy his own club.

These characters' allegiances are constantly shifting, and they double-cross each other in pretty much every way possible. Not so good for them, but great for a reader seeking lots of plot twists. The characters are surprising for who they reveal themselves to be, and the story at the end takes on a pretty surreal yet violent turn when 7 stray bullets find their marks. Hernandez speaks more about his work on this book in this interview.

All of the reviews I have read about this book have been very positive. Ron Richards wrote that Gilbert's storytelling ability here is "at the top of his game." The Comics Journal's Rob Clough summed The Troublemakers up as "a minor work in Gilbert Hernadez’s imposing catalog, yet it still shows the artist at the height of his powers, capable of crafting characters with surprising depth even in the basest of genre stories." The reviewer from The Beguiling remarked on the entire series of faux movie adaptations, "These books are delicious." I concur with these reviewers, and I found the book to be engrossing, compelling, and a lot of fun for both noir and comics fans.

A preview and much more can be found here from the book's publisher Fantagraphics. You can find an extension of the preview here.

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