Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cuba My Revolution

written by Inverna Lockpez
penciled by Dean Haspiel

I really appreciate the fact that more writers and artists are turning to the graphic novel genre to tell their story. It's just another great medium to express one' self. While novels can paint pictures in the reader's mind, a graphic novel allows the reader another window into a writer's world. I have read graphic novels of certain classics and enjoy watching an artists rendition of the characters and scenes.

I expected “Cuba, My Revolution” to be a pro Fidel graphic novel. I am used to pro Fidel tracts especially when it comes to the comic book/arts community. I was wrong. I love when that happens. Getting thrown for a loop makes the ride much more interesting. It also teaches me a lesson: not everyone is in love with Fidel Castro.

Inverna Lockpez' story is compelling. The protagonist is 17 years old and like many Cubans in 1959, she is behind Fidel Castro. Once Castro drives thru Havana, Lockpez signs up for the militia as a nurse. Like most of her peers, she is caught up in the revolution despite seeing questionable acts being committed by the close followers of Castro.

During the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Lockpez is sent to the front lines and encounters a long lost love who is part of the invasion. Her final exchange with this gentleman is witnessed by comrades. Lockpez is accused of colluding with the enemy and is sent to prison where she is tortured. Although she is tortured severely and only freed through bribes, Lockpez maintains her allegiance to the new regime.
As many of her friends begin to leave the island for Florida, Lockpez continues to dedicate her life to the revolution. She keeps her torture and imprisonment a secret and deludes herself into thinking that everything will eventually work out.

Dean Haspiel's pencils and inks along with Jose Villarrubia's colors seem to match the period of the early 1960's Cuba. Villarrubia splashes red on certain figures and articles throughout the story giving it a more “red” revolutionary feel. The panels are nicely done as they fade into one another depending on the mood of each scene. It works well especially with a non super hero graphic novel.

This is a great graphic novel to use in middle schools. Its definitely a historical piece when discussing cold war and the Bay of Pigs fiasco. The discussion of Santeria is also an interesting point of how religion can be used to legitimize certain forms of oppression. While the torture and the battle scenes might be too graphic, it is something that should be discussed especially with two wars going on.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Why I dig Vertigo's DMZ

As any of my children will tell you, I am not a big fan of DC comics. With that being said, I am a huge fan of their Vertigo imprint. Vertigo has bought us such phenomenal stories such as Y: The Last Man, Preacher, and Scalped. One of my favorite comic books out now is Brian Wood's DMZ.

The story centers around freelance journalist Matty Roth who sneaks into a besieged Manhattan during the second Civil War. Manhattan has become a demilitarized zone of sorts. The Army of the Free States are camped out in New Jersey while the federal government is setting up shop in Staten Island and Brooklyn. Roth encounters the diverse community of New York City.

What I love the most about Wood is that he uses many urban myths about NYC and makes stories out of them. There are stories of graf artists, local politicians, clubs, and restaurants that Wood fleshes out into stories of war, redemption, and oppression. Wood also uses stories from headlines but instead of depending on sensationalism, he focuses on the stories of the people most affected by the war.

DMZ is much different than your average dystopian story. NYC is not completely wiped off the map. It's not like Escape from New York. Wood's NYC is still a vibrant community despite the siege. People still have hip hop shows, art galleries, restaurants, and frequent landmarks. Like people in any war zone whether it's Baghdad or Mogadishu, continue to strive. There are no gun toting, ex mercs turned heroes who can kill you with a toothpick within these pages. It's real people. Sometimes Roth wins the day and sometimes he loses. When he loses, he loses big.

I enjoy DMZ because it demonstrates how quickly one group on one side of society “other's” another group. While on one hand, the media portrays citizens of NYC in DMZ as monsters who don't care (sounds real familiar when we discuss Iraq and Afghanistan) Roth goes out of his way to introduce the reader to the average head. Wood's NYC is rich but not in a “noble savage” kind of way.

Take Parco Delgado, a former gang warlord turned politician. He runs on a populist platform and refuses to bow down to the feds, corporations, or the Free States of America (FSA) – and yes that sounds familiar. Roth takes a liking to him and signs on to his campaign knowing that doing so would violate his journalistic integrity. Roth encounters people who see Delgado as the future. They see him as a hero. Roth has no choice but to get caught up in this. The reader does as well. You can't help but feel for the people of NYC and yes, you sign on as well. Yet Delgado convinces Roth to help procure a nuclear bomb. Strategically it makes sense. Conventionally, Delgado can't win against the FSA, the feds, or the corporations so the nuke gives him leverage. Roth, not the most politically savvy of them all, realizes that he has made a huge mistake. The reader feels duped.

That's what I love about DMZ. You can't help but get caught up in the madness with Roth. I know eventually the series will end. It makes sense to do that. I am sure Wood has more up his sleeve before he ends it. Can it become a cable series? I think so. It is devoid of action in the comic book but the political intrigue is killer. HBO can do so much with it. Who knows, they might pick it up.