Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez

Oranges haven’t been used as metaphors this abundantly since The Godfather.

Sloth Cover FINALPRINT.qxOver the past few months I have developed a fervor that I did not know I possessed for graphic novels, especially ones that aren’t reimagining well known superheroes. And that is why I found myself reading Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez on a lazy afternoon in a bookstore.

Miguel Torres has just woken up from a year long coma, the cause for which the doctors cannot diagnose. The popular theory is he willed himself into it, and he willed himself out a year later. Hernandez paints a picture of a suburban town with his simple black and white artwork; one with its own urban legends and stories; one where nothing ever changes, nothing ever changes; one with orange orchards as a defining characteristic and favorite topic of said urban legends. Waking up after a year Miguel finds that he has slowed down physically. His girlfriend Lita and best friend Romeo by his side he delves into the urban legends of his town, the ranks of which he has joined due to his yearlong willpower coma. The legends surrounding the orange orchards hold special interest for Miguel. Brought up by his grandparents, he suspects his mother was killed and buried in the orchards by his father who is in prison for drug trafficking.

I won’t divulge any more of the plot as Hernandez takes an interesting turn midway through. The turn I feel will be the talking point between those who like this graphic novel and those who don’t. If you do not mind surrendering control to the writer and not knowing the end to stories you will enjoy this graphic novel. I would venture those readers who prefer clear narratives and the hero’s journey (monomyth) will find this graphic novel a muddled story with divergent perspectives. And I wouldn’t blame them.

The sparse dichromatic artwork is elegant and its simplicity makes it realistic. It frequently hops into a dream state, where again minimalism and clever artwork do far more than psychedelic colors and distorted figures could. Teenage angst, young romance, existential ennui and the general suburban culture are explored. Not everyone will connect with everything as different cultures have different problems, but everybody will find something to relate to. I recommend Sloth to all graphic novel readers, especially those who like indie novels with off-beat concepts.