LOVE AND ROCKTOBER | Comics Time: Love and Rockets: New Stories #3

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Love and Rockets: New Stories #3

featuring “The Love Bunglers Part One,” “Browntown,” and “The Love Bunglers Part Two”

Jaime Hernandez, writer/artist

Fantagraphics, 2010

104 pages

$14.99

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If I had to sum up all of the post “Wigwam Bam/Chester Square/Bob Richardson” Locas stories in a phrase, it would be “coming to terms.” With adulthood, with the death of punk, with a career, with the past, with reaching middle age, with falling in and out of love, with family and friends and heroes, with your limitations, even with really good things like your talents. (Heck, even this story reveals that Maggie’s planning to open up her own garage, finally utilizing her long-dormant skills as a mechanic.) For the most part this has gone, if not smoothly, then at least pretty well in the end. Maggie and Hopey both seem less prone to disaster than ever before, as does Ray. Yes, Izzy had a fairly spectacular flame-out–literally!–but Ghost of Hoppers nonetheless ended on an optimistic note for her future. Put it this way: No, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the last we saw of her, if she were lost to mental illness and to us forever, but nor would I be surprised if she came back reunited with her man in Mexico, content and writing again. Penny sort of exploded her way out of the series too, depending on how much credence you give “Ti-Girls Adventures Number 34,” but her story also ended on a note of hope for future reconciliation with her children and repentance for her life of fecklessness. A few years ago, Jaime ended Love and Rockets Mark II with two dueling stories of people making other people feel whole again by virtue of their very presence. What a kindly pair of comics,” I said.

So much for kindness.

The suite of strips that Jaime contributed to this year’s Love and Rockets: New Stories volume, which revolve around the long centerpiece “Browntown,” comprise the cruelest and story he’s ever told. Sadder than “The Death of Speedy,” scarier than “Flies on the Ceiling,” crueler than “Wigwam Bam.” Jaime’s line, which has been loosening somewhat over the course of the last few books (I first noticed it in “La Maggie La Loca”–a de-tightened approach to better accommodate Steve Weissman’s colors), is as limber here as I’ve ever seen it, the closest perhaps he is capable to looking like he drew something in a white heat. In filling in one of the biggest remaining gaps in Maggie’s backstory, the two years she spent living with her family away from Hoppers, Jaime reveals what seems like the key piece of the puzzle of Maggie’s bad luck in love and her punk-era rebelliousness, and a sealed-off well of pain caused by her estrangement from her family. But worse–and I don’t want to spoil anything here, so I’m not even going to say who I’m talking about–it introduces a character who, at long last, can’t come to terms. What happened in this person’s life, through no fault of anyone but the perpetrator but as a result of unwittingly malign neglect by everyone else, broke them, never to recover.

It’s easy enough to tell that sort of story, I suppose, but difficult to make the reader feel an impact of discovery of this tragedy commensurate to what the characters themselves might feel. Jaime’s genius is that he pulls it off, with an out-of-nowhere punch-to-the-gut revelation that literally made me gasp out loud. It’s his “I did it thirty-five minutes ago.” And ever since I read it, when I think of it, I just keep thinking to myself, “Poor [name]. Poor, poor [name].” It makes me want to cry! Cry for an imaginary person I’d never read about until a few pages earlier. (It’s the flipside of feeling proud of the entirely imaginary Hopey Glass for becoming a teacher’s assistant, I guess.) Such power! Between this and the not at all dissimilar ACME Novelty Library #20, this year has featured two of the most devastating–and I mean so sad it impacted me physically–comics I’ve ever read. I will never forget reading this book. Finally, I was there.