Fatima: The Blood Spinners is Gilbert Hernandez’s super fun ode to excess, and it works in all the best ways. Los Bros Hernandez are slightly well-known in the comics industry, and not without reason. Love and Rockets is one of the great long poems of our time, and the ways they’ve managed to spin wholly unrelated storylines out into noteworthy works on their own are staggering. Gilbert particularly tends to not let himself get bogged down in things like “genre restrictions” and “what kind of book people expect him to write,” and we’re all better off for it.
Fatima functions on its own as the best kind of send-up of the late-60s B-movies. It’s a black-and-white world where a drug called “Spin” has taken over the hearts and minds of an adoring public who know the drug is killing them by turning them into zombies. Fatima is the only rational voice left with the only loaded gun left to put them out of their misery. It’s a lot of gory fun that doesn’t really attempt to make a heavy moral point, because why should it? Why shouldn’t comics just be fun sometimes?
This book feels like Gilbert Hernandez getting a lot out of his system. Between his Love and Rockets stories that have gotten less-and-less out-there in terms of plot, and his smaller novels like Marble Season, he doesn’t have much of a chance to draw some dudes getting their heads blown the hell up. Luckily, Fatima is just that excuse, in spades. Sometimes he goes for full pages of panels that are just guys at different angles getting shot in the face, and it somehow never gets old.
The book itself is one of those scenarios where it’s not the best work you’ve ever seen, but it’s by a creator who you can tell is having a great time. It’s like listening to a bootleg Beatles recording, where you can hear them palling around in the studio between takes. It’s not going to change your life, or make you realize the Beatles are great (you should already know the Beatles are great), but it lets you connect with them as John, Paul, George and Ringo, as people. It’s nice to feel like you know the artists themselves and not the cultural institution of the artist.
We sometimes get bogged down talking about Los Bros Hernandez as cultural institutions, as these elder statesmen of the medium. We picture them as dusty old guys who just keep churning out Love and Rockets, and we don’t talk about how much goddamn fun they are. They’re punk rockers from Los Angeles who did for literary comics what punk rock did for mainstream music; they made us look at why we like what we like, figure out new things we might like, and then made those things. If you put a pen and paper in Joey Ramone’s hands, this feels like the kind of book he might turn in.
In terms of this specific volume, it’s what we’ve all come to expect from Dark Horse’s hardcover collections. It’s elegant, it’s got the comic, and there’s some neat process stuff in the back, but not much. If you look real hard, you might be able to spot the main character from Marble Season in one of Gilbert’s Fatima sketches, which is maybe my favorite cameo in recent memory.
If you collected the single issues of Fatima when it was initially published, this collection’s not going to offer you a whole lot more, unless you tend towards Los Bros Hernandez completionism. If that is you, I applaud you, sir or madam, because you are in the hole for a good three or four hundred dollars to them. If you’re a fan of Los Bros, and Gilbert in particular, this is a good volume, but it is radically different from Marble Season or his Palomar stories, so caveat emptor on that one. If you’re looking for a good place to start with Gilbert Hernandez’s work, I’d recommend starting at the beginning of the Palomar series (Heartbreak Soup) to see if you’re a fan of his voice.
Have fun, gang. Don’t spin too hard.
Writer/Artist/Creator: Gilbert Hernandez Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $19.99 Release Date: 4/2/14 Format: Hardcover