Despite the increasing popularity of graphic novels, finely drawn volumes with a compelling plot and characters can still be challenging to find. Fortunately for those who love comics or are looking for a creative answer to, “What to read on vacation this summer?”

 Jessica Abel’s La Perdida is all of those things. Abel won the prestigious Harvey and Lulu awards for her previous comic work, and is best known as the creator of the series Artbabe. La Perdida, her first graphic novel, centers on Carla, a Mexican-American woman who moves to Mexico City indefinitely to “find herself.” Along the way she crashes with her ex-boyfriend, a WASP named Harry; teaches English to support herself; and meets a cast of local characters who at first seem like innocuous, although misguided, political radicals.

It is this group of young men who, as they show Carla around the Mexican capital, ultimately prove to be trouble. Three-quarters of the way though the novel the story takes a turn from finely drawn scenes of Mexico City, Carla’s bumbling naïveté, and her friends’ alcohol fueled exploits to a riveting thriller involving drug running, kidnapping, and a hostage situation. It is at this juncture where La Perdida falls short.

Unfortunately, the ending moves the novel from a thoughtful sketch of cultural differences and Americans abroad to dealing in expected stereotypes that render all the characters one-dimensional. It is the ending that reminds readers that while it reads an engrossing autobiography, La Perdida is a successful work of pure graphic fiction. 

Eleanor is a writer and educator living in Brooklyn, New York. She blogs at killerfemme.blogspot.com. 

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