Diario de Oaxaca: A Newsarama "Best Of"
By Michael C Lorah
A warning: this book missed Diamond's cutoff numbers, so you may have a hard time finding it in your local comics shop. But it's worth the extra effort to track down a copy. Peter Kuper, co-founder and co-editor of "World War 3 Illustrated" and current author of "Mad"'s "Spy vs. Spy", spent two years living in the southern Mexican state Oaxaca, arriving just in time for an annual teachers' strike in the cause of increased wages to turn violent, leaving dozens of people dead.
"Diario de Oaxaca" is Kuper's sketchbook and journal of the events that occurred during his time in Mexico. The political content is smaller than many readers will probably expect, but the strike ended shortly into Kuper's tenure, so most of the material was created in the aftermath. On the other hand, though the strike is ended, its shadow lingers over most of the book.
With not much in the way of traditional comics, "Diario" provides insights into the Oaxacan culture via Kuper's expressive, collage-like sketchbook illustrations, which are offset by one- to two-page text journal entries that enable Kuper to expand on what he's witnessed politically, socially and culturally. The illustrations are far more than sketches, however. Each page is a full color tapestry of an amazing city and its culture. Peppered with embedded photographs of the concrete reality of Oaxaca, each of Kuper's pages explores a festival, burned-out cars, flora and fauna, ancient Zapotec structures, witnessed public relations, or myriad other nuances of local life.
In a beautiful hardcover edition, with over 200 pages of Oaxacan culture and political strife to uncover, "Diario de Oaxaca" is one of the most important comics of the year. It's touching and sensitive, righteously angry and in awe of the history and culture it's immersed in. Peter Kuper's been one of comics must-read talents for a long time now, and "Diario de Oaxaca" is just another feather in his cap.