Cartoonist: Gustaffo Vargas
Publisher: Tacu Tinta Press (Self-Published)
WHAT IS IT?
L1ma is a hard comic to explain to someone because it's so unique – a "#goodproblem" we see a lot in Vargas's other works. Much like Trujillo, L1ma is best described as a high-tech, low-life city located in Perú, with an emphasis on "low-life." However, this time around, we focus on pirañas (piranhas,) vultures, robots, and the mafia.
L1ma can be compared to Lord of The Flies with a dash of Alita: Battle Angel.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
On the coast of Peru lies the city of Lima, where a group of street kids called the Pirañas use the rooftops to escape from Gallinazos (Black Vultures). Yet, the Pirañas come across mafia members Jaguar and Dragón in the midst of killing each other over a mysterious package. What else can they do but steal it?
However, the package is only the start of the Pirañas' troubles. Soon after, a fearsome quadruped robot known as a Cabeza Clava comes knocking at their door.
If only the Cabeza Clava was the height of their problems. Nonetheless, L1ma is a high-speed story of a group of street kids tangled up in something that they should've never been involved in. What follows is death, blood, and a...god?
The cover works because Vargas knows that his art is the key draw here. When you look at the cover, you're already interested about the story, and the rest of the information doesn't clutter the art.
Vargas keeps the story fast and constantly pushing forward (this can also lead to a few cons, which we'll talk about later).
At the end of L1ma, Vargas adds a bonus page that goes over some details on the characters and the environment. One of the most interesting notes is why he had the idea of the Pirañas using the rooftop.
Within the story are a few concepts that make it unique compared to other cyberpunk tales, and the ending leaves us wanting more.
L1ma continues the trend of a Pre-Columbian cyberpunk Peru steeped with culture. This can be seen in the Cabeza Clava robot, and one of the mafia groups is based on the Chavín culture with phenomenal visuals. Vargas mentions this in the bonus content.
I'm not really familiar with Pre-Columbian culture. However, Vargas's use of it, and the plot surrounding it, made it extremely interesting. This made me look up quite a bit while reading and spurred my desire to learn more. As expected, Vargas shows great respect for the culture in storytelling, but especially so in the visual department.
One thing that made L1ma really stand out is the cityscape and just how well Vargas nails it. In the bonus section, he mentions his visit, explains the city a little and provides a picture. The picture gives us a good reference point for appreciating his adaptation, and you can totally see the city evolving into this cyberpunk future.
Vargas has a knack for fantastic designs, and his characters really stand out. Everyone is unique, yet you can see how they all relate to a degree. His tattoo work on some of the characters really stands out too, and you can see the inspiration from the culture he includes.
Vargas keeps the panel and page layouts distinctive, but they never distract.
Although there aren't many fights, the few we get are wonderfully presented in a brutal fashion that's still easy to digest. Vargas makes the fights dynamic and easy to follow, especially when he switches the POV to the Cabeza Clava. We get an interesting view that ends magnificently.
L1ma contains some fantastic bright colors that look gorgeous but are also dimmed to show a city that might have been once filled with happy, vibrant life but is now "down in the gutters."
Two visual elements that are amplified by Vargas's colors are the lively tattoos and the gore. Vargas's art here is effective and horrifying, but his colors help take it up a notch.
Vargas's lettering continues to be amazing, with fun sound effects that liven up the action. He also makes the Chavines Priest's words and bubble stand out with black lettering and red balloons.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Content Warning: There are some violent parts and some moments heavy on blood. L1ma also includes a scene with kids post-torture, which may be hard for some to see.
With L1ma being so fast-paced, there is no time to get to know the kids. This makes it hard to have a connection to them or care about what transpires within the story. Although Trujillo was fast-paced, there were a few slower moments that explored the characters. Sadly, L1ma can feel more like a list of plot points at times.
Although the kids in the Pirañas have great design, you can easily forget who is whom. Vargas has each character say whoever they are talking to by name (most times), but that doesn't always work. He does include a list of every character at the end, but it feels like it would've helped with a roll call when we meet them.
It would've been nice to have a little more character come out in the main characters and for Vargas to give us more of a reason to root for them. Instead, the desire to read on doesn't come from the characters, but from the potential tragedy. Granted, you don't need to do a "character piece," but when you have these unique characters and world it feels like a waste.
L1ma's story is interesting, but it really doesn't hit its stride until the last few pages and it feels kind of like a prologue. Those last few pages are amazing, and really make you want a follow-up series.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
L1ma is Vargas's second comic based around a Pre-Columbian cyberpunk culture, and he continues to improve. Not only does he show how well he has the genre down, but just how damn fantastic his writing and art style is in concert with the book's themes.
If you were a fan of Trujillo, or even if you were just interested because of his amazing cover, L1ma is a fine read that will make you want more stories around this city and the Pirañas.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Trujillo by Gustaffo Vargas
Protector (Now Called First Knife) by Daniel Bensen, Simon Roy, Artyom Trakhanov, Jason Wordie, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Coffin Bound, Vol. 1 by Dan Watters, Dani, Brad Simpson, Aditya Bidikar
If you like the art:
Manu by Gustaffo Vargas
Tartarus, Vol.. 1 by Johnnie Christmas, Jack T. Cole, Jim Campbell
Sweet Downfall #1 by Stefano Cardoselli, Panta Rea, Bram Meehan
ABOUT THE CREATOR
Gustaffo Vargas – Cartoonist (@GustaffoVargas)
Outlander: Vargas is Peruvian and lives in Edinburgh, UK.
Multitalented: Does all the work on his comics.
He also speaks Spanish, English and German.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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