I’ve been reading “Love and Rockets” by the Hernandez Brothers since about 1987. That was about five years after it started. I had read a little of their stuff before then but it wasn’t until my junior year of college that I put it on my pull list and started reading it regularly. I’ve read it ever since in all it’s volumes. Since it was on my pull list I’ve also always read it as a periodical. Whenever a new issues came out I read it. I didn’t buy any of the collected editions until they came out with “Locas: The Maggie and Hopey Stories” by Jaime Hernandez in 2004.

As a result of my “Love and Rockets” reading habits I’ve never read Gilbert “Beto” Hernandez’s stuff in collected edition until now. His book “Luba” came out back in 2009 (ten years ago!) and I put it on my Amazon Wish List but somehow never bought it. I don’t know why but it was never a priority. Plus no one in my family ever picked it off the list when buying me a birthday or Christmas present. So I’ve missed out on it all these years until recently when I got a library card. It was among the first things I looked to see if the library had and sure enough it was in the system. They ordered it from a nearby library and they held it for me.

“Luba” runs nearly 600 pages and collects Beto’s stuff that first ran in “Love and Rockets” from about 1995 to 2006. It could just as easily been called “Luba, Fritzi, and Petra” because it’s about three sisters. I think Luba was the first sister that Beto wrote and drew stories about so she continued to get title billing. The three sisters are Mexican or Mexican American and live these days in Southern California. They have lots of children, cousins, extended family, and friends and that’s who the stories are about. About half the story is in supposed to be in Spanish as indicated by <> to emphasize the bilingual nature of their existence.

“Luba” is a bit hard to describe as it’s a collection of short stories. Some as short as one page but most from around four pages to eight pages. There are also a bunch of twenty page stories especially near the end. According to the index there are about a hundred stories in the book. The stories are all center around the three sisters but can include any of the people in their world. There is also a lot of nudity and sex in the book. I would call it a soap opera but that wouldn’t get across what I mean. I consider soap opera to be a structure. It’s drama that’s all about teasing watchers and getting them to tune in tomorrow to see what happens. There is plenty of drama in “Luba” but no teasing. Each story had an end. It’s not trying to sell us on the next episode.

The defining physical characteristic of the three sister is their large breasts. There are plenty of large breasted women in entertainment in general but they’re usually there as eye candy. They give us something nice to look at but aren’t important to the plot or characters. That’s different in “Luba.” Their large breasts are an important part of the three sister’s personalities. They’re well aware they have them and two of the sisters use them as much as they can to their advantage to gain things in love and life. The third sister eventually gets a breast reduction for health reasons and because she prefers to downplay her large breasts.

Since this is the story of a family there are also a lot of children in the stories. I think Luba has seven children and Petra has two. Plus some of Luba’s kids had children. There are also other cousins around. Sometimes the stories are about the kids. Those stories are usually humorous.

Then there are the men. The three sisters have different fathers plus they each have had a couple of husbands. Then there are some boyfriends and hangers on. There are a lot of men in these stories and often they come and go. Only a couple stick around from beginning to end.

Life, love, career, and sexuality are what all these stories in “Luba” are about. Oddly for such a long book there is no overarching plot to it. Each story is its own individual thing that takes place in the life of all these characters. That’s how this book works until about the last hundred pages. That’s when an ending develops. It’s not a huge dramatic ending but it wraps up the story in an emotional way. It felt like an ending.

It’s tough for me to criticize the art in this book. Beto is a master cartoonist who has been drawing for a very long time. He doesn’t make wrong decisions and his art is as clear and concise as possible. The only possible criticism I have of his art is that there is never anything unexpected in it. He always sticks to a grid. Though his grids are as varied as possible he doesn’t break them. I don’t even know if that’s wrong or it’s just that I occasionally get tired of him always being right.

There are also panels that are breathtakingly beautiful. He seems to always choose to draw the right line and his women are quite striking. His men too when he chooses to draw them that way but there are only a couple of men in the book who are supposed to be beautiful. It’s an easy book to flip through and just look at the pictures after you’re done reading it.

One weird note about this book has to do with the editor’s notes. They’re a bit of a tradition in comics where if the editor or writer wants to explain something they leave an asterisks next to a sentence and then a quick explanation at the bottom of the page. Beto often explains what songs, movies, or TV shows are playing in a given scene. He also explains (since the story is about three sisters) that “Tia” means “Aunt” in Spanish. Except the explanation comes on page 550 or so. The word was used throughout the book so it was funny to read the explanation (which I knew already) so late in the book. It was there because it was in the original story which was probably printed in the first issue of one of the “Love and Rockets” volumes and therefore he thought it needed some explanation but in this context it amused me.

So this is a great book. It was really amazing after all these years to read so many of the Luba, Fritzi, and Petra stories in one volume. It has also been so many years (15-25 years!) since I first read these stories in periodical form that it was like they were all new to me. I really enjoyed them. No I’m going to have to go back and read the older Luba stories.