Love and Rockets: New Stories #1
Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, writer/artists
Mario Hernandez, writer
Fantagraphics, July 2008
Buy it from Fantagraphics at some point
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(Note: This review was originally posted on August 4th, 2008. For my more recent take on Jaime’s contributions to the volume, click here. And come back in two days for my review of Gilbert’s contributions to New Stories — the final LOVE AND ROCKTOBER review!)
This handsome new book-sized version of Los Bros’ hallowed series continues both Fantagraphics’ TPB hot streak – Mome and the Love & Rockets digests are also doozies of an argument for this format – and the Brothers’ almost absurd mastery of the art form.
Jaime’s contribution is your proverbial superhero epic, in which Maggie’s friend Angel joins forces with several different teams of female superheroes to help subdue Penny Century, who’s gone and pulled a Parallax (nerd points!) after her fulfilling her long-standing dream of gaining super-powers proves disastrous. It’s fun to see Jaime shift this seamlessly back into the sort of revisionist-genre storytelling he practiced in L&R‘s earliest issues. The trick to it is delivering everything you want in a superhero story – action, suspense, tight costumes – while maintaining his characters’ neuroses and having the events of the tale spring directly from them just like they would in a normal “Locas” story. Also, I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but he’s pretty okay at drawing women, spotting blacks, and pacing panel transitions. I know, I hope you were sitting down.
For me, though, it’s Gilbert who’s killing the game here. Sandwiched between his brothers’ two superhero installments, Gilbert’s comics are mostly short, largely abstract, and completely devastating. Two subtly interlocking strips set in completely different milieux , “Papa” and “Victory Dance,” muse on love and restlessness, using disease and solitary travel to nail that feeling of wanting to drop it all and go somewhere, anywhere, as long as it’s somewhere else. Another strip flips this idea around, recasting Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis as jovial space barbarians who slaughter their way back together across a hostile world after their duo has been forcibly disbanded by aliens. Both “Victory Dance” and “?” showcase Beto’s skill at “choreographing” the images in each panel into a rhythm, the former literally through depiction of a dance, the latter with Woodring-esque surrealism. “Never Say Never” is also on the surreal side, invoking Freud and Dali with slightly blue gags about sex and money among funny animals. “Chiro El Indio,” written by Mario, reads like an out-of-continuity “Palomar” excerpt. “The Funny Papers” serves up three newspaper-size strips, any one of which would be the best strip I read all year. This is a guy who makes you want to push away from your table and give up.