Los Bros Hernandez offer up a sci-fi epic overflowing with ideas and artwork soaked in retro cool.
136 pgs., B&W; $19.99
(W: Mario Hernandez; A: Gilbert Hernandez)
Citizen Rex is an exuberant science fiction comic by the Hernandez Brothers which is the very antithesis of neat and tidy. I think that’s a good thing, but be forewarned: more happens in one issue of this comic (and six issues are collected in the hardcover volume released by Dark Horse) than in the entire run of some comics I could name, and it’s kind of tough to keep track of what’s going on. Given a choice between developing one idea or introducing five new ideas, the brothers go for the latter every time, and they’re happy to allude to cultural touchstones, from Metropolis to 2001, without feeling bound to maintain any sort of consistency.
Citizen Rex is set in the semi-near future in an unnamed Latin American city, where people drive flying cars and most of the work is done by robot companion-servants. Scary, black-hooded people (or creatures or robots—I’m not sure which) called "truth takers" roam the streets like secret police. There’s a huge black market in replacement body parts (why put up with inferior human parts if you don’t have to?), some of which have an almost supernatural element—if you steal someone’s artificial eye, you can literally see through their eyes, as in, see what they see.
Our guide to this strange yet oddly familiar world is a hipster blogger with the not-very-clever handle of "Bloggo." His real name is Sergio Bauntin, and he’s financially dependent on his wealthy father (sound like any hipsters you know?), yet is a fairly sympathetic character and one of the few in this story granted much humanity. The eponymous character is an extremely lifelike robot (officially CTZ-RX-1) who went missing for about 20 years, and has now reappeared along with numerous duplicates of himself. The Citizen Rex universe is also population by curvaceous babes, ugly old crones, robots of all varieties, and some scary gangsters with whom it would be best not to meddle.
For all the sci-fi elements of this comic, it also has a nourished 1940’s feel, due in large part to the retro artwork by Gilbert Hernandez. His art is a huge part of the appeal for me—it’s goofy yet precise, done in pure black-and-white with large regions of solid black, and creates a sense of plausibility in the face of the absurdities which come fast and furious in the storyline. In some ways, Hernandez’s art looks like something a kid might draw, yet everything is so specific and precise, and such a good match to the story, that I have to assume that the stylistic infelicities are deliberate.
You can see a preview of Citizen Rex, and read an interview with the authors, here http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=21418. Extras in the hardcover collection include a short introduction and postscript by Mario Hernandez, and some preliminary artwork by Gilbert Hernandez. | Sarah Boslaugh