LOVE AND ROCKTOBER | Comics Time: The Troublemakers

The Troublemakers
Gilbert Hernandez, writer/artist
Fantagraphics, 2009
128 pages, hardcover
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Well, no children are brutally murdered in this one, so thank heaven for small favors! Of the Fritz B-movie books so far — and the back flap, in explaining the existence of Speak of the Devil, refers to that work as a “half-sister” of the other two — this one is the most straightforwardly a product of genre. Grifters and gunplay, seductions and quadruple-crosses, all that stuff. You can’t help but hear Anjelica Huston snarl “Get off the grift, Roy” as you read it. What separates it from, say, an arc of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s Criminal is the volume at which it’s pitched. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not hysterical or manic, it’s just that everything is keyed slightly sharp. The sex is clinically graphic, at least in terms of how the characters talk about it if not how Gilbert draws it (“Oh, shit! He fucking came in me, Wes!”). The violence is a scramble of surprised-looking people getting punched in the face and shot in the head; the most beautifully and explosively choreographed fight ends with one of the combatants quietly giving up and docilely getting into the trunk of a car on demand. The alliances and betrayals aren’t just ludicrously baroque, they’re envisioned as even more so by the participants — in fact, the worst trouble is made by characters thinking so far ahead of one another that they’re hardly within shouting distance of the reality of the situation anymore. And there’s magic, too, but like everything else it’s just used to fuck other people over. Put it this way: It’s a world where every single stray bullet kills someone. Chaos is the order.

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