Dead in Desemboque
Eddy Robert Arellano
Soft Skull Press
Spanish class, why do you fail me now? Three years of español and a quarter of français and little result to prove my work- I still can’t read a historieta (a Mexican style of comic book). Eddy Robert Arellano’s Dead in Desemboque is surreal and beautiful- and partially in Spanish.
Despite my language barriers, the story is interesting, strange, and at times comical- Eddy travels across the desert with his horse and his two dogs, amidst womanly trickery, a bounty on his head, and a warning that he will die soon. The story is brief, but gripping, as only a Western can be. Will he make it to see his lady, or end up as his dreams tell him, dead in the town of Desemboque?
Though I couldn’t really read all of the Spanish (I had to look some up), I doubt that the story would be the same without it. The mixture of the two languages adds flavor, context, and a certain lyrical quality to the dialogue and narration. It blends beautifully with the different styles of artwork within the book, as drawn by William Schaff, Alec Thibodeau, and Richard Schuler. Schaff’s style is my favorite- it’s very surreal, and it seems he pulls inspiration from traditional Mexican art. The women he draws are gorgeous and treacherous, as only a woman can be. Schuler’s style is very comic book traditional- it’s very reminiscent of R. Crumb. Thibodeau’s style is bare, relying on facial expression and gestures to set the tone of the story.
Arellano’s storytelling brings the three artists together, but in such a way that keeps the reader at a distance. You don’t learn much of Eddy, his personality, or his past, but the story flows in such a way that you don’t need it. A bit of background would make for a slightly less confusing read, but either way the book is still good. If there happens to be more tales of Eddy and his dogs, I’d be sure to snatch them up, as this story leaves one wanting more.