6. High Soft Lisp by Gilbert Hernandez
Jaime's late-period masterpiece makes its impact additively -- it's the total of the interpersonal relationships, and artistic interests, that sustained his "Locas" storyline through the years. His brother Gilbert's peak achievement, High Soft Lisp, takes a very different tack: it succeeds by dismantling its creator’s fixations and obsessions, revealing the ugliness beneath. Beginning in the fictional, magic-realist Central American village of Palomar before migrating to the States, Gilbert "Beto" Hernandez's ongoing saga has centered on the sad-eyed, hammer-wielding Luba and, eventually, her half-sisters, all of whom are genetically predisposed to almost preposterous curvaceousness. Obviously, a young Gilbert simply enjoyed drawing buxom women. But in the person of Fritz, the lisping therapist-turned-B-movie star whose misadventures drive this volume drawn from Beto's Love and Rockets contributions, that enjoyment is autopsied with no joy and no remorse. For all of Fritz’s intelligence, talent, and magnetism, she's relentlessly sexualized, objectified, and victimized by almost everyone who purports to care about her -- implicitly including Gilbert himself. Few artists have ever reckoned with their own unspoken motives this unsparingly, or with this level of empathy for the kinds of people society has enabled them to harm.