Nice Chicago girl goes to Mexico City and ends up with far more than she can handle.
Abel has been one of the leaders of the indie comics scene for several years, from her occasional “Artbabe” comics to her graphics journalism. She’s best known—and rightly so—for her five-part “La Perdida” series from Fantagraphics, reproduced here in a single volume. The book itself is an assured piece of work, somewhat autobiographical though never cloyingly so, that owes a large debt to the work of Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets, not reviewed). Abel’s heroine Carla is a half-Mexican young woman from Chicago who moves to Mexico City to hang with her occasional boyfriend Harry—an arrogant trustafarian with a Burroughs and Kerouac fetish—and figure out what to do with her life. She doesn’t have much direction, and grates at the closed-off manner of Harry’s Caucasian expat friends, whom she derides as hardly knowing any natives of the country they live in (though most of them speak better Spanish than she). The naive Carla falls in with a pair of obnoxious locals she angrily defends to her steadily shrinking circle of acquaintances. Both these guys—her boyfriend Oscar, a clueless pot dealer who dreams of being a deejay, and Memo, an acerbic pseudo-Marxist who spouts anti-American rhetoric when not trying to seduce blonde tourists—are trouble, and the reader knows what’s coming well before Carla does. The author gets by without worrying too much about plot, content with tracking Carla’s increasing self-righteousness and steady deterioration as all the insecurities she wanted to leave behind come bubbling back up in this country that remains stubbornly foreign. When the story takes a stunning turn near the end, it seems less an effort to find a dramatic conclusion than the inevitable result of Carla’s northern naïveté.
An emotional, beautifully crafted odyssey that not only utilizes but transcends both navel-gazing self-discovery and backpackers-in-peril clichés.