Written and illustrated by Yehudi Mercado, Pantalones, TX tells the tale of the lovable ne’er do well Chico Bustamante. He’s the baddest little dude North, South, East, or West of the Rio Grande and the Sheriff of Pantalones, one Sheriff Cornwallis, has it out for the little scamp.
The book chronicles Chico’s quest to join the ranks of Pecos Bill, Anny Oakley, John Henry, and Paul Bunyan as one of Texas’ true legends. It’s just as funny as it is misinformed. Chico takes on numerous quests to ensure his status among the Lone Star State’s pantheon, from diverting mighty rivers with only a human cannonball, to windsurfing over Thorny Patch Farms, to fighting with a giant thundercloud. It culminates in an epic showdown with a Godzilla-esque chicken named Tony, a terrifying reminder of the dangers of genetically modified poultry.
I probably would never have given this book a second glance if I hadn’t won a copy in a little Twitter giveaway; it’s not really in my wheelhouse. That being said, I’m glad I own this bad boy. It’s a beautiful, well put together hard cover that looks great on a shelf. It’s hefty, solid, and you’ll never need to worry about it falling apart. The paper stock is nice, the colors are fabulous, and the little advertisements before each chapter are a really nice touch that help to make this more than just your typical graphic novel.
When it comes to the narrative of young Chico, story I definitely aimed at a younger audience, but older readers should have no problem enjoying the youthful silliness of the book. I found out that Chico and I are brothers on the very first page:
“Bucky, my pal, the ability to pee in the great outdoors is what separates us from the animals.”
Right after that I knew I was going to enjoy myself. Yehudi keeps it clever, both pandering to typical Texas redneck stereotypes (the people of Pantalones aren’t particularly bright), and glorifying their unapologetic, larger than life attitudes. There’s a colorful cast of secondary characters that backup Chico in his ridiculous antics, including Pig Boy, Chico’s best friend, Bucky, a Jewish New Yorker everyone is convinced is foreign, Alma, a budding TV journalist, and Kim-Marie, a blonde cheerleader who swore she’d never train anyone ever again. However, as funny as these other kids are, they’re not as fully realized as Chico and the story is at its weakest when digging into their backstories.
The humor is slapstick enough for younger folks and just subtle enough to squeak some of the more intelligent stuff in for adults. That’s not to say that older readers won’t get a kick out of the physical humor. Nay, there are some very funny scenes in this book that will appeal to everyone. My one complaint is that occasionally the narrative seems to slow down and do a little wandering, which was distracting. Other than that it’s a very solid storytelling experience.
The art in Pantalones is great. It has an almost Pixar movie feel. The art is distinct, and the style Yehudi’s chosen fits the tone of the book really well. The line work is great, but I can’t really tell you what I like so much about it. Maybe that like the storytelling, it’s just solid?
However it’s the books coloring that really shines. Pantalones, TX has a palette that consists almost entirely of shades of red, yellow, orange, and brown. These warms colors immediately drop you into the blazing arid wasteland that is the town of Pantalones. It’s always hot, it’s always dusty, and the tumbleweed is all you’ve got for company. Mercado does such a phenomenal job with the colors that reading the book can almost feel oppressive, as though the pages are radiating their own inner heat. It’s almost oppressive. Very rarely do we get any other colors, but when we do it’s a relief. There is some blue and green, mostly inside buildings where we can only assume it’s a little cooler than out underneath that unforgiving Texas sun.
At the end of the day Pantalones, TX is a fun all-ages romp. The book itself is a pleasure to hold, silliness abounds, the colors are beautiful, and the story doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. It’s clever, crazy, and it has some serious heart. If you have any kids you’re looking to wrangle into comics, or just want a break from the gritty mainstream stuff you’ve been reading lately, you could do a lot worse than Pantalones, TX.