De Amor De Ilusion la Muerta
The lady I’m going to open up your brain goo to this week has quickly become one of my favorite characters. Not only because she is simply awesome as a kitten’s cute little hairballs (they’re cute, shut up), but she is also a great embodiment of Mexican culture.
Though fantasy, La Muerte is all astonishment wrapped up in a plate of conchas. Originally a kickstarter campaign, La Muerta: The Descent is written by Brian Pulido and illustrated by Joel Gomez. Though Joel lays down some great artwork, it is Ceci de la Cruz’s poppin’ color that really captures the spirit of this book. Flat and boring color is simply a no-no when it comes to this style.
Before she became known as La Muerta, her name was Maria Diaz, a soldier in the army who has seen her fair share of blood and violence. She returns home to her familia on Dia de los Muertos, and tells them that she is done with the army and wants to do something else with her life. They family celebrates the night together, visiting the grave of Maria’s abuela and spending time together. Of course, not all things are joy and happiness for Maria, as her mother tells her that Xavier, her brother, is suspected of being back on drugs.
Shortly after, a gang breaks into the family’s house looking for Xavier, as he has been suspected of stealing money from them and their leader, Mama Z. The scene turns violent, and Maria sees her childhood house go up in flames as her family is murdered, and knows she is about to be taken with them. She hears death beckoning, but is surprised to wake up in a house of a man called Faustino, who she had helped later that day at a statue of Santa Muerte. He tells her that she’s been dead for eight months, not even breathing, and he has taken care of her.
It seems like a dream to Maria, but her family is still indeed gone, and the Zavala Cartel still terrorizes the helpless people of the city. After trying to seek help from the police and other sources with no luck, Maria decides to take the task of getting revenge upon herself. Though when she sleeps at night, a ghostly figure of Santa Muerte whispers “justicia” in her ear, not venganza.
That’s exactly what the people of the town need, after all, being tormented by Mama Z as her sheep do her bidding. Mama Z claims that her ancestor was an Aztec priest, and she has her token gang member, El Diablo (not that original but I’ll take it), hunt down innocent people and cut out their hearts for her to eat. Or feed to her snake, whichever one suits her at the moment.
Maria decides that the person she once was is dead, and paints her face in traditional calavera style to represent the person she has to become. Ferocity wells up inside her as she goes after the Z members, adding fear to injury as they see someone painted like a ghost in the night.
Usually the face paint in which Maria adorns is used for celebratory occasions, but the book hints that she wears it to represent the lives lost due to the Zavala Cartel. People around town name her La Muerta, and though it is not explained, it’s pretty obvious that they do so because a ghostly woman is running around town killing the bad guys. She may not be saint of any sort, but being amongst the living, you have to make due of what you’ve got.
There are some extremely beautiful covers for this book, and a couple simply idiotic ones. Scott Lewis does a gorgeous ghostly cover, though Richard Ortiz really steals the show with his exclusive kickstarter edition cover. Also, if anyone wants to send me one of those, my birthday is sometime once a year. There are a couple aforementioned variants that simply have boobs for boob’s sake, and really don’t represent the book or Maria at all. It’s a shame, but it’s great that there are several amazing images to see aside from those.
I am always a huge fan of anything Dia de los Muertos related, and simply going to a celebration once a year is not enough to get gorgeous artwork stuffed into my brain. It’s also nice that this book does not once commit even the tiniest bit of cultural appropriation, and does not DARE call it “Mexican Halloween”. I will forever sigh at that phrase.
Not to mention the real reason for the holiday to begin with. Though it is a celebration of life, it’s really fantasmic to see a comic that does a good job blending English and Spanish together, and hitting on solid points that are part of the Mexican culture. Even if you yourself are not from the culture, La Muerta is a fantastical read into the world of a woman that slays in a mix of death and life.