Published February, 2010
Moments from ¡Gringo! are familiar to the serious Mextripper: a lone van nestles for the night at the foot of a desert mountain, a Mexican family arrives for a fully clothed swim in the river, a ghost campground is recognized by its knee high grass and malarial swimming pool, a local kid wants to know the exact cost (in pesos) of each of the gringos belongings.
Comic book doesnt quite capture ¡Gringo!, but its not a graphic novel eithertheres no particular plot, and the narrator is the only recurring character. The slim volume gives the impression of a talented artists journal, minus the failed attempts and half-realized sketches. The pages are lively with street scenes, adept sketches of machinery, poetry, comedic observations, and portraits accompanied by descriptions: Hes got hands like old work gloves and three teeth but he looks you in the eye when he sings so you know it means more to him than the three pesos youre paying him.
Threndyle is a first-class artist. His work is appealingly stylized, yet captures purely Mexican scenes and expressions with remarkable precision. There is a real energy to his lines: brushstrokes suggest the murmur of dusty streets, buzzing light bulbs, decades of oppression.
His writing works best when he forgoes poetic ramblings and self exploration and just lets wry asides punctuate the rhythm of his point blank descriptions: Its not uncommon to have a 9-year-old mechanic working on your car. They emerge covered in grease from under the engine, a white spark plug in their fist. Theyre usually gophers for their older brothers, overworked teenagers black to the elbows. That night we swam in the hot springs of Los Esufres and all our monstrosity melted away. Always self-aware, he ranges from angst-ridden, to angry, to goofy, to mystical.
Theres the occasional travel writing cliché: indigenous women in brightly colored traditional costumes, but you forget about it when you read something like: It [Mexico] spits me out onto the shoes of US customs and Immigration, looking like one of the Doobie Brothers dragged through Mexico behind a horse... ¡Gringo! will make you homesick for Mexico if youre not already, and grateful to be there if you happen to be so lucky.