By: Inverna Lockpez (writer), Dean Haspiel (art), Jose Villarrubia (colors) & Pat Brosseau (letters)
This is a very moving story that is written in semi-autobiographical fashion by Inverna Lockpez at the behest of longtime artist Dean Haspiel. It tells the story of a young woman named Sonya who comes of age during the Marxist revolution in Cuba and her personal emotional voyage from being an eager supporter of Castro to fleeing the country a short time later.
Fans of history (like me) will enjoy that it hits on many of the key events from the early years of Castro’s reign: deposed President Batista fleeing on New Year’s Eve 1958, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, etc. These are all events that have appeared in various fictional works before, but seeing them from the ants-eye-view is very different than anything I had been exposed to before in either history texts or various movies that brush on the subjects. It is also unique in that it shines a very bright light on Cuba and the evils of the Castro regime, which is a little unusual in the artistic community that has more in common politically with Sean Penn than with Jesse Helms. There were a lot of nasty things that went on in Cuba and there can be debate about whether they were better/worse than the Batista regime or how far the saying “you cannot make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” can be pushed, but these acts shouldn’t be ignored.
What connected for me most was seeing Sonya’s personal journey from pure, unfettered excitement at Castro’s arrival to being a staunch defender of his policies even when the handwriting is clearly on the wall to finally being ready to leave. I guarantee that you will see similarities between Sonya and a personal friend or two who insist on defending elected officials merely because they voted for them a few years past and seeing the lengths that she would go to in order to excuse evil decisions by Castro’s regime as “necessary” was almost heartbreaking. You really find yourself wanting to smack her on the side of the head and say, “Hey……snap out of it!”
The art by Haspiel and Villarrubia is just glorious. I think we too often forget what compromises our artists have to make to get single issue comic books out on time, but we’re all too happy to criticize funny looking panels. From the brief introduction at the beginning of this book, it is clear that this book is very personal to Haspiel and his passion shows. Eventually you just get to the point where you’re flipping pages and you have to pause and realize what gripping art he is giving us. Villarrubia does a nice job using nothing but red-tones in an otherwise gray-toned book. His reds/pinks add vibrancy just where it is needed without every “showing off” and drawing attention away from the story.
My only complaint is that in the beginning portions of the book you could see that Lockpez is new to this storytelling medium as the panels are a little wordy and there is narration/discussion of everything. It is a classic example of someone newer to the comics medium not understanding that sometimes the artist can show us something without it being told. However, she worked this out very quickly and by ~15 pages in the style has become much more professional as she started to trust Haspiel more to be a co-storyteller. In a way, it is actually interesting to see Lockpez make this evolutionary growth just as her alter-ego Sonya is making her own changes.
Conclusion: A young woman comes of age during the Cuban revolution. It’s a brilliant OGN! This deserves a spot on everyone’s bookshelf for telling an intensely personal story that shines a bright light on Castro’s Cuba.
– Dean Stell