In the Latinx comics community, there is much to celebrate today, with more Latinx comic book artists than ever before. The resplendent visual-verbal storyworlds of these artists reach into and radically transform so many visual and storytelling genres. Tales from la Vida celebrates this space by bringing together more than eighty contributions by extraordinary Latinx creators. Their short visual-verbal narratives spring from autobiographical experience as situated within the language, culture, and history that inform Latinx identity and life. Tales from la Vida showcases the huge variety of styles and worldviews of today’s Latinx comic book and visual creators.
Whether it’s detailing the complexities of growing up—mono- or multilingual, bicultural, straight, queer, or feminist Latinx—or focusing on aspects of pop culture, these graphic vignettes demonstrate the expansive complexity of Latinx identities. Taken individually and together, these creators—including such legendary artists as Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, Roberta Gregory, and Kat Fajardo, to name a few—and their works show the world that when it comes to Latinx comics, there are no limits to matters of content and form. As we travel from one story to the next and experience the unique ways that each creator chooses to craft his or her story, our hearts and minds wake to the complex ways that Latinxs live within and actively transform the world.
The 70 stories in this heartfelt but uneven comics anthology explore the myriad ways of identifying with Latin-American heritage. The pieces often take the repetitive form of two-page personal reflections, almost like a collection of college admission essay outlines. The resulting staccato reading experience and lack of a sustained narrative offer the reader too many moments to bow out. Novices' relatively unpolished work appears alongside that of masters of the form such as Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez (who contribute previously published work). The standout stories liberally interpret the theme with more developed narratives. "California Girl" by Roberta Gregory gives a rich picture of a diverse neighborhood in mid-century Southern California. "A Nomad's Heart" by Zeke Pe a is a powerful one-page encapsulation of growing up Latin while feeling the weighty history of heritage. But the admirable effort doesn't make up for the editorial problems, and readers keen to learn more about the experiences of Latin Americans will be disappointed with the lack of depth. (Final book will be published in color; finished black-and-white art reviewed by PW.) \n