I actually picked up these three from Gustaffo Vargas at last year’s Thought Bubble but they were screaming out to me for a look at something different……and what’s not to like when it’s Peruvian cyberpunk?
L1ma – “A comic about piranhas, vultures, robots and mafias”
On the surface the city of Lima is a familiar apocalyptic blend of street scams and the struggle to survive but just within that is a world of big-time hacking and gangland turf wars where cybernetic beasts & quick thinking street kids play just as big a part in shaping the world around them.
The city life portrayed is brutal in parts but multi-layered too, as that core group of kids get all caught up with the wrong people and when one of their own needs saving it’s a case of fighting fire with fire. The mafia boss seems larger than life but when those tech solutions kick-in there’s really no telling who will come out on top.
The mix of unexpected methods and some pretty damn slick panel layouts give this a real forward momentum with enough mystery to keep the surprises coming thick and fast. There are a couple of elements that seem to have less details than others which kind of leaves you hanging, but that doesn’t distract too much from just how good this is and how disappointing it is that it has to end. Cracking one-shot.
Trujill0 – “A comic about gangsters, shamans, drugs and dogs”
This second one-shot has a similar vibe to Lima but this time it’s drug smuggling that’s on the cards and when our core gang plan out their own heist against one of the bigger gangsters in town, the fallout seems to spell out trouble for the protagonists. The group itself are a diverse bunch and as the gangland methods take a turn for the bizarre it all makes some kind of skewed sense.
Cybernetic dogs help pad out the crew and while that comes with another dose of relentless violence it’s all in context within the story so it’s not too over the top. Much more reading in this one with the mix of dialogue & narrative but that really makes this feel like more than a single issue…..which can only be a good thing. As our new favourite gang veer close to what seems like certain disaster Gustaffo throws more twists & turns in our direction to make sure the end comes as both a surprise and a disappointment because this is another one I didn’t want to end.
Manu: Altiplano Vol. 1 – “A comic about monkeys, jaguars, cyborgs and a mystery”
The first of an ongoing series sees Gustaffo introduce a more intimate relationship for us to get lost in as Sonia & Canela manage a long-distance relationship with brief visits one way or the other. The tension between them is tangible, as much in the cutting arguments that spark between them as the quiet moments that ooze a mutual frustration but the quest for love brings them closer to making decisions to suit them both.
An attack in the jungle sees Canela’s cybernetic pets/companions defend them from a gangland attack and they desperately need to get to new surroundings. Cue a change of scenery and with a move to the big city comes the hope of avoiding their troubles at Sonia’s place but it’s safe to say that’s not how things play out. Some flashbacks brings with it a realization that their lives overlap much more than they could have imagined and as that “to be continued” popped up I’m hyped to see what else is going to happen.
Gustaffo has a great set of books here and with the typical cyberpunk/apocalyptic theme moved away from a high-rise city and into Peruvian towns, cities & jungles, it becomes something instantly fresher. The sci-fi vibe poured into the three offerings has the feeling of something like Akira mixed with We3 and with a growing world that’s full of potential there’s a ton of scope to broaden that out and add more strength to the whole series. There’s a subtle connection between each of them too as characters appear across the three issue that you seem to know already or have at least heard about.
The mix of cultures, the diverse set of characters and the whole look has me convinced this has more than earned its place in the indie comic scene and with the art on show it does look like Gustaffo is destined for bigger & better things with both his own work and his inevitable step into some more mainstream projects. Books worth reading and a creator to watch out for……a glorious mix of writing & art demands that of us.