Gilbert Hernandez: Sloth

Gilbert Hernandez: Sloth

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Sloth

Author: Gilbert Hernandez
Publisher: Vertigo

With its ability to subtly bend reality and cut across time and space in an instant, film is uniquely suited to capturing the experience of dreams. But comics runs a close second in this ability, and Love & Rockets co-creator Gilbert Hernandez explores it thoroughly in Sloth. A graphic novel in which the rules shift the moment they become clear, Sloth opens with a teenage protagonist named Miguel slipping into, then out of a coma. A year has passed, but no one apart from his doting grandparents appears overly concerned about his well-being. He picks up where he left off with his band Sloth, and with his girlfriend Lita, who appreciates what an attentive lover he's become. Trouble is, he can't help being attentive. Everything's started to go a bit slower for him, which may have something to do with a local urban legend about a body-swapping goat-man who walks the lemon groves. Then, just as Miguel's predicament begins to become clear, the scene shifts. This time, it's Lita who's been in a coma for a year. The players remain the same, but the story has mutated.

The move could have been inspired by Mulholland Dr., but Hernandez brings his own sensibility into the mix. His characters keep their senses of humor no matter how strange their lives become, and when a peculiar love triangle develops in both of the book's universes, it's guided by recognizable human desires. Hernandez uses his cartoony art style to great effect as well. When his characters get excited, their eyes widen and their mouths expand into expressions of delight straight out of Archie, and the approach makes it all the more affecting when their hearts break or the shadows usually lurking somewhere in the frames start to overwhelm the page. In their world, nothing much happens, but everything has serious consequences.

It's no accident, then, that the characters are all high-schoolers, even though Hernandez doesn't put too fine a point on the fact. Falling in and out of love—with music, each other, and life itself—they can't always discern restlessness from boredom or genuine passion from momentary impulses. Hernandez floats them toward a wrap-up that's both logical and irresolute. Like a dream, those years don't really draw to a conclusion. They just end.

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