Right from Dan Garcia's introductory letter at the beginning of Malo No. 1, we know what we're in for: "Malo is about booze, babes, and @ss (sic) beatings. He is here to raise hell, hand out chingazos (Spanish @ss beatings), and satisfy the ladies." You've been warned. Maybe it's the spelling of "@ss beatings" or Malo's mission to satisfy his lady friends, but this introduction makes me picture the book's creators drawing this shit up in the back of an eighth grade study hall somewhere. The first issue ultimately proves this first impression entirely true, as Malo proceeds over the next 24 pages to guzzle beer lay a smackdown on some racist gringos, and bed the bar wench. Also there's some kind of subplot about demons, or possibly aliens, I'm not really sure. The artwork fits the story perfectly, looking copied directly from the pages of Draw 101 Babes, Beasties and Badasses. Sure it's incredibly immature, but when the cover features a ludicrously buff luchador holding up a championship belt, you have to know what you're getting into when you pick this thing up.
Malo No. 2, offers more or less the same thing, with this whole ridiculously important seeming alien/mutant/demon whatever plot being pushed aside while Malo hands out chingazos like they're sandwich coupons to people who seem to have nothing whatsoever to do with advancing the story. This comic is kind of what Superman would be like if he got drunk on his way to thwarting Lex Luthor's evil plan and kept challenging people to arm-wrestle.
The first two issues were originally published by Adversary Comix out of El Paso in 2001. The third issue was delayed until 2004, this time self printed in San Antonio under the Rubberband Press imprint. In Garcia's afterward for the third issue, he explains that the group left Adversary over creative differences, and in some ways, the book suffers for the break. While the first two issues are full-sized, black-and-white with a glossy color cover, the third issue is a Kinko’s special, 3/4 size and unstapled. But while the packaging got cruder, the story gets slightly better. During the three year's gap, Garcia seems to have matured as a writer, concentrating for much of the issue on actual honest-to-god characterization. Sure Malo spends most of the issue in a demon/alien battle royal, but at least the plots advancing, now, one beaten ass at a time.
Lonely in Black, the other book bearing the Rubberband stamp is slightly better written with more interesting artwork, though it seems to draw directly from Johnen Vazquez's work (Johnny and Squee especially.) And though printed locally, the books are full-sized black-and-whites with only a year's gap between issues. Unfortunately issue one of this book also begins with a long exposition from the author describing what the book intends: "what is commonly known to intelligent people as 'satire.'" Once you trudge through the condescension, the book's pretty enjoyable. The bizarre high school love triangle (involving a perky blond cheerleader in love with an awkward Goth who's bewitched by a Hot Topic vamp) is so ridiculous, it's kind of endearing, and unlike Malo, Black's hero, Wesley, is a character the average comic book geek can identify with, except for the cheerleader part, of course. Michael Garcia has an interesting perspective.
Compared to Malo's nightmare release schedule, Black is downright dependable, with Issue 3 promised for October of this year. No release date is given for Malo #4.
While neither book is perfect, and better are available on even a gas station's paltry comics rack, the effort the Rubberband Press collective must have expended in putting them on local shelves is amazing, and the constant improvement over the past few years is encouraging. The local comics scene is goofier, more immature and all-around better for having Rubberband Press, and the value of the company's output is only increasing. Here's hoping Malo has enough chingazos left for at least one more issue. To order issues of either comic, go to the Rubberband Web site: www.rubberbandcomics.net