Love and Rockets Vol. 2 #20
featuring “La Maggie La Loca” and “Gold Diggers of 1969″
Jaime Hernandez, writer/artist
(First, a quick reader’s note: At this point I’ve read all of the all-Jaime/Locas L&R collections. For this, the final issue of Love and Rockets as a comic-book-format periodical, and for the three currently available volumes of its new squarebound incarnation, Love and Rockets: New Stories, I’m going to be reading and reviewing Jaime’s stuff on its own before starting over at the beginning with Beto. There are other ways I could play this, but I’m enamored by the idea of being all caught up with Maggie and company. And yes, this means LOVEMBER AND ROCKETS is on its way…)
The triumph of the continuity! Leave it to Jaime to use “La Maggie La Loca,” the inaugural strip for The New York Times‘ “Funny Pages” lit-comics section, to address one of the oldest, wildest, most sci-fi strips in his series’ history. Though the more outlandish details are largely (but not entirely–I spy a glowing robot head in one of those flashback panels) elided, Maggie the Mechanic’s adventures in the jungle alongside Rena Titanon and Rand Race are officially not retconned. I’m happy about this because I’m the sort of person who pulls for that early sci-fi stuff, encouraging folks who want to start reading the series to start there even though it’s so different in vibe and visuals from what it ends up being. I’m also happy because it means that Maggie’s translator for that time, Tse Tse, returns for the strip, revealing herself to have become maybe the smartest and most successful of the characters. (I’d always considered her the “lost Loca” and hoped she’d somehow find her way to Hoppers or the Valley.)
The strip’s story involves Maggie receiving an invite to come visit Rena on the private island where she hides from the admirers and enemies she made during her dual careers as a wrestling champion and a revolutionary icon. Maggie, of course, is just a humble apartment manager, and she spends most of the visit alternating between awe, jealousy, and contempt for her hostess, whose glamour and strength appears to have slowly edged into isolation and paranoia. But what makes the strip really worthwhile in terms of how it relates to the Locas strips of the here and now can be summed up by one panel: A nude, 40-year-old Maggie, standing with her back to us in all her craggy, doughy, Rubenesque magnificence, looking out the window at Rena, her back also to us, arms akimbo, her 70-plus-year-old back and arms still seeming hewn out of wood despite her age, staring down at gifts left by her devoted fans. But as that mirrored pose indicates, both women have essentially the same plight: To what extent are they comfortable with their achievements? To what extent can they let the people they love into their lives? To what extent are they just standing there alone–or is the important thing that they’re looking at people who care about them? Maggie may just be an apartment manager anymore, she may now get in way over her head (literally) when she attempts to have a fun island adventure like she used to, but the way Rena sneaks into her room at night just to watch her sleep reveals that the aging heroine could use a dose of the community and camaraderie that’s part and parcel of Maggie’s dayjob. A life spent fighting people in the ring and the streets has left her admired but alone; Maggie’s misadventure teaches her it’s okay to focus on the former to ameliorate the latter.
Accompanying the main strip is “Gold Diggers of 1969,” a flashback strip drawn in Jaime’s Sunday-funnies kiddie-comic style and concerning li’l Maggie as she bounces between her three other mother figures–her actual mom, her Tia Vicki, and her babysitter/mentor Izzy from back in her wannabe-gangsta teenage years–on a particularly dramatic day. Again we see the ways in which these strong women are weak (I was particularly tickled by the revelation that Izzy’s not a founding member of the Widows at all; sorry, Speedy), and the ways in which they draw strength by helping to protect people weaker than they. Little Perla’s way too young to really notice any of this, but I think that’s the point–flash forward about 15 years when she’s off gallivanting with Rena in the jungle, and she’s still mostly too besotted with hero worship to notice the toll Rena’s glamourous, dangerous life has taken on her. In much the same way that connecting with her new baby brother and her mom and dad makes young Maggie feel like part of a whole, so too does her semi-disastrous visit to Rena at age 40 help give a hero her strength back. What a kindly pair of comics.