Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez

New York: DC Comics, 2006

external image sloth-738415.jpgMiguel, a troubled teenager, manages to slip himself into a year-long coma. After his long nap, Miguel awakens himself and plunges back into his normal life (including his band "Sloth", his girlfriend Lita, and their friend Romeo) except, this time, he is a walking urban legend, moving at a sloth-like pace.

This graphic novel addresses the apathy, frustration, and general bewilderment characteristic of teenage life. "Adults who burn out from living in the city pick up their families and move to towns like this for the slower pace, the quiet. They feel they can raise their younger kids in relative peace and safety. What they fail to recognize is that it's their teenagers who suffer boredom and existential low self-esteem in extreme ways." (Hernandez). It is a rather bleak view, but softened by the metaphysical aspects, such as Miguel's escape into coma and murder and urban-legends-come-to-life in the local lemon orchards.

In reading Sloth, the book is able to capture its readers by introducing Miguel as the character who comes out of his coma, and learns about the slowpace in life, his true love for Lita, but at the same time he wonders if Romeo and Lita had some type of relationship while he was in his coma. And just when we thought we knew most of Miguel's feelings, the story transcends into Lita waking from her coma, and she tries to grasp Miguel's attention. In doing so, she buys tickets for the Romeo singer, and she invites Miguel to the concert. Just when we learn wwhich characters associates with the other, the reader now views Romeo as the person who slips into the coma state, and Lita and Miguel live happy as a couple. Throughout the book, it is able to grasp the reader by wondering what is going to happen next, and just when you thought you caught on to the plot, it takes an interesting twist, in which the reader might say "what is actually happening?"
The black and white illustrations are emotional and expressive. The action is easy to follow from scene to scene, but "chapter" breaks are unsignaled and can be jarring. This is, perhaps, an artistic choice.

Teaching this novel is impractical, though it contains much food for thought. It is "suggested for mature readers" due to profanity and sexual situations. Sloth deals with many mature themes, so it should be suggested only for upper high school students. It may appeal to struggling readers, not only because of the medium, but also because of the subject matter. However, midway through Sloth, characters switch roles and supernatural elements work to confuse the story, veering away from its previously linear path. This change could prove frustrating and confusing for readers. However it may benefit from discussion. Since this graphic novel does not lend itself to classroom teaching, it could be suggested to hand-picked students as an independent reading project with teacher guidance (and with parent permission).

Other Books by Gilbert Hernandez:

  • Love and Rockets, Volume 1: Music for Mechanics.
  • Beyond Palomer: A Love and Rockets Book
  • Fear of Comics.
  • Girl Crazy.
Self Portrait
Self Portrait

About the Author:

Here are some interesting facts about the author's background found on the
webpage that gives a pretty good explanation
of why Glilbert writes graphic novels. In reviewing his childhood, Gilbert learned
at a young age, taught by his mom, about drawing different characters,
and creating a comic-like scenery through a lot of his writings.
"Born in 1957, Gilbert Hernandez was raised in Oxford, Southern California
with his four brothers and one sister. His father was a Mexican
immigrant, married to a Texan family with deep Mexican roots. In her
youth, his mother collected comic books and that passion was passed
on to her children. "It was nostalogic for her, I guess. So comics were
always normal to us, it was an everyday thing. It wasn't until school
that we realized that we were abnormal," commented Gilbert.

Raised on a diet of pop culture, comics, sciece fiction, and monster
movies, all the family drawing comics came at an early age. However,
for Gilbert and Jamie that childhood passion never left them,
even when punk rock gripped their lives in the late 1970's. At the
urging of elder brother Mario, Jamie and Gilbert self-published the first
issue of Love & Rockets, which was quickly picked up by then fledging comic
publisher Fantagraphics in 1982, and continues yet to this day."

For More Information: