Top Shelf Productions. Feb. 2023. 184p. tr. from Spanish by Eva Ibarzabal. ISBN 9781603095174. pap. $19.99. F
Ortiz’s (Viajes) English-language debut is a cinematic road-trip graphic novel with a pervasive, eerie calm. Unlikely compatriots Polly, a perpetual barista; Moho, a mediocre music critic; and Piter, a sullen caregiver, reunite uneasily after an extended estrangement, to follow a fourth, absent friend’s map to an unusual locale. As the three ramble along in a junky rental car, Ortiz reveals the passengers’ pasts, their intertwined disappointments, and the personal struggles which make their bonds both uneasy and binding. At the same time, their quest places them in increasingly challenging, dangerous, and absurd situations, the most perilous of these involving banjo-strumming hitmen brothers in the employ of a cranky country-music star. At its heart, though surface drama abounds, the story circles around, meditates on, and ultimately admires the trio’s mundanity and mortality in a subtle, lyrical fashion. Ortiz’s illustrations are friendly and funny, calling to mind Guy Delisle’s rich studies of complex characters in light line-drawings.

CORRECTION: This review originally misspelled the name of character Piter.

VERDICT An adventure paced like a madcap movie plot, with underlying minor chords of identity and relationship echoing throughout, this is a satisfying introduction to Ortiz’s narrative and artistic talents for an English-language audience.
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