Indie Comics Review: Loquita: Book One
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Publisher: Phoenix Studios
Writer: Kayden Phoenix
Art: Eva Cabrera
Letters: Sandra Romero
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
Loquita is the third book from Phoenix Studios set in La Brava Universe. Preceded by Jalisco and Santa, Loquita is the story of a teenager who as she reaches womanhood realizes she has special powers that allow her to see and fight against supernatural intruders into the physical world.
Loquita has a number of things going for it and perhaps the first indication is the dedication before you get to page one of the story, “Dedicated to every young lady. Keep going.” Now if that doesn’t tell you there’s some real big picture thinking going on I don’t know what does. The remarkable part about Loquita is that is accomplishes this big thinking in a story that is interesting, exciting and suspenseful as well as thought provoking and effective.
As the dedication states, this book is for all young ladies, the young ladies who need to be reminded of their importance when so many things in the world seem to say the opposite. And for the boys and men who don’t understand them either because they don’t try or they are incapable. It’s also for the parents that don’t always recognize that kids grow up into adults and it’s not always easy.
Eva Cabrera approaches the art from a world adjacent to the work seen in Archie Comics, and while there’s some similarity it’s not so stylized as to be simplistic. She includes a lot in her work including the cameo of Jalisco on Loquita’s shirt and bedspread. Cabrera doesn’t waste a panel as she moves the story along quickly. At first it feels like you’re missing a panel, but she’s just not including the unnecessary stuff, the stuff you don’t need to see. She trusts that the reader knows how comics work and that the brain will fill in those gaps. And the brain does. After a few pages in it’s not noticeable and it’s obvious Cabrera has her own approach to storytelling going that is recognizable as a style. Additionally, she pours a lot of detail into the many-armed Vyka. She makes her fairly terrifying along with the other supernatural creatures that Loquita runs across. Akimaro’s vibrant colors compliment Cabrera’s work beautifully, helping to set the tone of each scene. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself caught up in the pages at times.
Without wishing to spoil what happens in Loquita, it’s important to expound upon the metaphor that Kayden Phoenix is employing, because that’s what makes the book so powerful. When the story opens Zully (Loquita) is having visions of a girl that doesn’t seem to exist. This girl, Sissel, implores her to help and warns her of an impending danger. We see that Zully is also having visions of demonic creatures. We also see that Zully has begun her first menstrual cycle. Odd detail to mention, but it’s important to the overall theme. Early on in the book if feels like it’s going to be sort of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch inspired, but it’s really only tangential at most.
What Phoenix does is use the demons and Vyka as metaphors for those inner demons and external demons that young ladies must overcome as they mature- whether it’s psychological, physical or other people. The book even addresses suicide which comes across as a huge shock, but also powerfully. The real brilliance of it, though is that Phoenix implies that it is only Zully who is able to see the demons is the only one that can help BECAUSE she has had her first menstruation. Now that sounds a little odd, but the point is that in terms of the metaphor, it means that women through their maturity and owning who they are and learning to be comfortable with who they are is how they derive their power. And, that’s how you defeat your demons. It empowers women and demonstrates the inherent value of women not only to themselves but to others. Even the name Zully chooses for her superhero identity indicates an understanding that she’s “embracing the crazy” as her identity- Loquita means crazy in Spanish, specifically a young female.
While the first bit of the story takes a little getting used to, once you get going and find your rhythm with it there’s no turning back.
There’s a podcast, Indie Comics Spotlight, on which I’ve been a guest, and the host, Tony Farina always asks his guest, “who would you give this book to?” Loquita is one of those stories that comes across with some powerful messages. In some ways it seems like they could be therapeutic. I hope I’m not off base, but I would give this to every young lady I know. This book says, “you are important,” “you perfect the way you are,” “you aren’t alone,” “you have the power within you to overcome your demons,” and “there’s always someone there to listen and willing to help.” My own life was impacted recently through a record album- The Darkest Skies are the Brightest by Anneke Van Giersbergen and I experience in Loquita a familiar powerful healing message.