Jalisco is an uplifting story of a young girl taking tragedy and rebuilding herself into someone who is not merely a victim. When a young girl’s mother disappears during a family outing, she discovers that no one, not even the police, care enough or are brave enough to help her. Fortunately, a group of female vigilantes (or Adelitas) find Jalisco and help her to transform the gift of beautiful, traditional dance into a powerful form of attack and self-defense.
At a time when representation matters most, especially as refugees from Latin America are turned away at US borders, a Latina superhero who uses traditionally feminine and Mexican art to serve and protect fills a need for many readers. Young Jalisco’s tale also highlights the horrors of femicide, especially given how many officials ignore the problem and prefer to focus on clearer-cut crimes. The overall story goes down smoothly, but it can open the reader’s eyes to wider world issues.
The creative team behind Jalisco is all female and all Latina, which added to my experience as I scanned each brightly colored panel. Each creator’s personal history gave depth to her contribution, and the bonds and sisterhood between the various characters (The entire primary cast is female.) resonated as true, especially the dedication and respect for Adella. To be transparent, I am a white woman who grew up in Texas and pursued a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, so I have never personally lived in the culture full-time, only observed, consumed massive amounts of media (The 1990s were a great decade for telenovelas.), and immersed myself when I have been invited.
Baile folklorico plays a key role in Jalisco’s plot, but the graphic novel never goes as in depth as I would have liked (although the only dance I can identify on sight is La Bruja, which I adore). I wanted a long training montage of Jalisco turning her skills as a budding dancer into a powerful warrior. The pieces that played across the pages interspersed with gentle bonding hinted at our heroine’s hidden depths, but I craved the pomp of a sports movie.
The artwork for Jalisco is simple and brightly colored, and it reminds me a little of Diego Rivera’s murals (maybe not quite as odd as some of his works). I particularly enjoyed the simple, yet beautiful, designs and colors of Jalisco’s folklorico dresses; just a glimpse of one evokes the entire atmosphere of traditional Mexican dance, since the outfits are iconic.
Overall, Jalisco’s themes of powerful women fighting against the patriarchy and societal oppression went down smoothly, but it lacked the bite I wanted from a graphic novel tackling such a serious topic; however, it’s appropriate for tween/younger teen readers who can see Jalisco as a Latina role model, both in her connection to traditional Mexican art forms and a champion for women’s rights.
4.5 Incredible Full-Page Title Pages out of 5
Creative Team: Kayden Phoenix (Writer), Amanda Julina Gonzalez (Artist), Hannah Diaz (Inking), Mirelle Ortega, Addy Rivera Sonda, and Gloria Felix (Coloring), Sandra Romero (Lettering)
Publisher: Phoenix Studios LLC
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