Speak of the Devil (finale)


Monday, July 21, 2008

Gilbert Hernandez has just released the last issue of one of the most exciting and enjoyable comics mini-series in years. Why hasn’t this been seriously reviewed? Maybe the critics are all waiting for the trade paperback to come out. Isn’t that always the way? I can’t tell you how many people revealed to me that they haven’t been reading this series, that they are “waiting for the trade”.

Well, their loss. Cuz, for me, this was a series that got me back into the comic store, looking for it every month. When I guessed right and checked the stands on the day the last issue was released, it was a thrill. A thrill to spy it on the shelf, and a thrill to race home and read it under lamplight, and a thrill to have the shit scared out of me during the finale. Isn’t this part of the experience of being a fan of a series, of a periodical? How could “waiting for the trade” beat the ratcheting up of suspense from month to month, as I wait for the next issue? It couldn’t. But unfortunately that’s the world comics are released in these days. It’s as though the issues are just an advertisement for the trade paperback collection.

I can’t bring myself to really review the last issue of Speak of the Devil. My Beto fix and the high I got from this series are too out there to really explain. I’m in love with his layouts. They are incredibly sophisticated and have an architecture all their own. Gilbert knows what he’s doing, trust me. You might not dig the style he’s employing but you can’t NOT see how Beto uses rhythm and tone like a musician. His comics are a complex code of directions and signs, symbols, minor and major keys.

The drum I keep beating with this comic is that, for me, it’s really like some obscure late night TV noir directed by Fritz Lang that at first glance is campy, has awkward dialogue, is in black and white: most viewers flip past it, miss it, miss the purposeful staging, “blocking” of each scene, maybe watch a bizarre fight scene or a wooden kiss, but usually discard the lot as pulp, genre, formula. Yet that Fritz Lang movie and this Beto comic are equal in INTENT. They are genuinely artful, terrifying and strange, playful almost, and these poems go unnoticed by most because they’re not really LOOKING. It’s incredible. I feel like the attentive geeky fan going LOOK! Look at what he’s doing! Triple backflip and he nailed the landing! It’s the Beto Olympics!

And I then I ask around and no one’s read it yet, and I think, You’ve gotta be kidding! You didn’t see that as it happened? And that’s the bummer of this post comics pamphlet era for alt and art comics. But that’s another story …


6 Responses to “Speak of the Devil (finale)”
  1. Alan David Doane says:

    Posted some thoughts in response to this here, Frank. I hope you elaborate on your thoughts on waiting for the trade soon.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hey Frank,

    I agree with you on how great this series was, and I was one of those who bought every issue as it came out.

    I did a review of the first four issues back in March, along with some of Beto’s other comics around that time (the newly-reissued BEYOND PALOMAR and NEW TALES OF OLD PALOMAR #3). The Speak of the Devil content starts in the 8th paragraph:


    –Rob Clough

  3. Frank Santoro says:

    hey Rob
    maybe its my computer but the page can’t be found.
    i looked on the seq art site but…

  4. Anonymous says:

    I, too, read this series in individual issues, and loved it that way. But I think that one of the things that made the series for me were the shocking twists, issue to issue, that made me unsure where the book was going, and kept me from wanting to comment on it before it was finished. I didn’t know where it was going, but boy did I enjoy being along for it.

    I think, too, that it’s more powerful taken as a whole, given the distance we’ve traveled since the sort of self-conscious political soap opera of the first issue. But you seem to disagree.


  5. Alex Holden says:

    “You didn’t see that as it happened?”

    Yeah, part of the greatness of this was watching it unravel, and having to wait to see the next part.

    I really appreciated looking forward to the new issue of something for a minute. Rolling up in my back pocket on the way back to the train….

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