New Tales of Old Palomar #1

By Gilbert Hernandez
32 pages, black and white
Published by Fantagraphics Books

A “fill-in” in the comics world usually refers to a series where guest creators step in to work on an issue to keep the production schedule moving forward. In other industries, though, “fill-in” has a very different meaning. For example, a “fill-in” in a transit system has to do with adding in a station to the middle of an existing line, such as a train or subway system. It’s with that in mind that I think of Gilbert Hernandez’s New Tales of Old Palomar as being a fill-in; not because it’s a different creator working on the book, but because Hernandez is stepping back to an earlier point in his long-running series of stories and inserting these new adventures into the middle.

Two mysterious children are speeding through the town of Palomar, stealing people’s food right out of their hands and disappearing in a blur. Sheriff Chelo and young Carmen are trying to figure out who the culprits are, but can even Pipo keep up with the fast pace of the thieves? And how does this all tie into the crew about to dynamite a boulder outside of town to widen a freshwater stream?

Set soon after Hernandez’s first Palomar stories, New Tales of Old Palomar goes back to the more innocent times where the characters were in their early, younger ages. Long-time Love & Rockets readers will no doubt be thrilled to see this flashback, seeing (like Hernandez) the potential for more stories with the cast at such a young age. It’s a fun, more innocent time for the characters and it’s more than a little enjoyable to see Hernandez able to set aside the intricate web of relationships that developed over the years for a quick romp across the landscape of the Central American town. Readers expecting something as ambitious as Hernandez’s Blood of Palomar might be a little let down, but New Tales of Old Palomar seems to attempt to do nothing but enjoy itself as a brief flight of fancy, as well as let new readers get an easy first step into his characters at an early enough point in their development that it’s not too daunting. Considering that New Tales of Old Palomar brings over a dozen existing characters briefly onto the page (some more than others), it’s easy to see why having a new introduction available isn’t such a bad idea.

The art for New Tales of Old Palomar shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s seen Hernandez’s art before. Hernandez pays just as much attention in drawing Palomar as he does its inhabitants. From Chelo’s calm gaze to Carmen’s frustrated pout, each character comes across in an instantly recognizable (but not overly exaggerated) manner to the reader at just a glance. At the same time, Hernandez takes his time in drawing the streets and buildings of Palomar, initiating the new readers into understanding that the town is in some ways as alive as its inhabitants. Rustic without being run down, Palomar just looks real. Then again, that’s true of almost all of Hernandez’s characters, animate or otherwise.

While I don’t think most Hernandez fans would want him to create Palomar “fill-ins” on a permanent basis, New Tales of Old Palomar #1 (with two more to come) is a good flashback to simpler times, the proverbial breath of fresh air. If nothing else, it’s a strong reminder that Hernandez knows how to just make comics that are just fun, pure and simple. And, if it gets readers to check out Hernandez’s other Palomar comics, well, that’s just an added bonus.

Purchase Links:

1 comment to New Tales of Old Palomar #1