Comics Time: Love and Rockets: New Stories #4

Love and Rockets: New Stories #4
Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, writers/artists
Fantagraphics, August 2011
104 pages
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Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 will turn any fan of Los Bros Hernandez into the host of The Chris Farley Show. “Remember? That time? When you drew Calvin’s plaid shirt? So that the plaid was always facing in the same direction? No matter how much Calvin moved?…That was awesome.” I am seriously finding it difficult, if not impossible, to review this comic without simply hitting the bullets-and-numbering button and whipping up a list of everything in it that amazed me. It would be a long list, too. But I’m abstaining as much as I can — to challenge myself for starters, and to avoid spoiling the comic for those of you who haven’t yet read it (which is probably most of you since it’s not out yet) for the most part. But I’m also holding off on that listicle because I think it’s a cheat. The fact of the matter is that while reading this book I discovered that I’m at least as attached to Ray Dominguez and Fritz Martinez, the protagonists of Jaime and Gilbert’s contributions respectively, as I am to a decent number of real people in my life. So sure, I could rattle off the ways in which Xaime and Beto continually prove themselves to be among the most graphically inventive and entertaining cartoonists alive some three decades into their careers — the crosshatching on Ray’s shirt and Maggie’s sofa; Gilbert’s use of wavy, puddle-shaped, impenetrable fields of black in his vampire story; the impact of the just-this-side-of-parallel lines of Angel’s body as she bends her leg to put on a high heel; the upside-down lava-lamp shape of Fritz’s legs in a skirt, used as an anchor for panel after panel of her simply walking around town with her agent ex; dredging up a long-ago, possibly long-forgotten character, drawing him as a late-middle-aged man in a way that makes him unrecognizable until you realize just how recognizable he is; the smashed-skull-as-cubist-masterpiece in Gilbert’s customary burst of horrifying ultraviolence; the holy shit moment when you realize the visual structure to that montage spread from Jaime’s story; Gilbert storming the ramparts of the vampire story and launching sex and violence back into it like payloads from a trebuchet; Jaime serving up a story whose snapshot style echoes comparable material from “Wigwam Bam” in significant and story-relevant ways; tracing the similarities and differences between Killer and Fritz via the characters they play, the use of their amazing bodies fraught with story information. And hey, look at that, I did rattle them off! But in the end, how it looks pales in insignificance next to what happens, because making it look that good is a means to the end of imparting just how much what happens matters. Ray’s shirt and Fritz’s legs, the shadow of the vampire and the structure of the montage — they’re just landmarks to remind you where you were when you found out if Ray and Fritz and Maggie were going to get happy endings, or not. It’s the easiest thing in the world to understand, and it’s the hardest thing in the world to do, and it’s magic, pure magic, to do it this well.

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15 Responses to Comics Time: Love and Rockets: New Stories #4

  1. SeanPBelcher says:

    Thanks for the lack of spoilers – I’ve been droolin’ like some perv out of a Robert Crumb strip for this one, man.

  2. Brian Doherty says:

    Jaime’s stories particular felt so….final. It’s the first time I think that I really wondered, where can and does he go from here?
    I at first misread the ending of Love Bunglers s two alternate ways out of that singular event…it took a re-read (and advice from Joe Matt, who hadn’t even READ it, but listened to me explain it and figured it our for me) to realize that it was in fact just two time jumps from that event.

  3. Rev'd '76 says:

    Just got LOVE FROM THE SHADOWS yesterday, and, yeah– Gilbert’s so-simple, starker’n’hell art will never stop wowing me. May the B-movie goodness forever flow. Two years later and I’m -still- a total ‘tard for HYPNOTWIST!

    Half-related (the Beto half):
    I wonder when FB’s going to release JULIO’S DAY from volume 2 of L&R?

  4. Rob Clough says:

    Just read this now and I was crying like a baby at the end. The montage was absolutely stunning, and I loved the little moment shared between Maggie and Hopey so much.

    But like you, Ray D feels like a long-held friend of mine, and this issue was so fantastic with regard to him.

    I do have to wonder where on earth Jaime can go from here with these characters. He’s only been writing their adventures for 30 years now!

    • He did an interview with my friend Kiel Phegley on the Comic Book Resources boat at San Diego where he said he really had a hard time coming up with what to do for the next issue–as total a blank as he’s ever faced. You can see why! Having already played Penny and Izzy off stage previously, he gave happily-ever-afters to Maggie, Hopey, and Ray D. What do you do now?

  5. MAD says:

    Finally read it. Today is my birthday and I got it in the mail today. I could not have asked for a better birthday gift.

    I was also crying like a baby at the end. Speechless, shocked, tearful, elated…there was an emotional impact to Jaime’s stories that I haven’t felt in comics is a very long time. Not even last year’s pitch-perfect Love Bunglers/Browntown combo hit me as hard as this (and that one haunted me for days afterwards), which is crazy to think about. I want to write and write and talk and talk some more about it, but I truly feel like I cannot do it justice. The entire last chapter had me with my mouth wide open the entire time; it transported me to some higher plane from which I have yet to come down. Long live great comics.

    Now Jaime’s comments really make sense: where in the hell DOES he go from here? I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

    And notice that I haven’t even started talking about “And Then Reality Kicks In,” which was fantastic and one of Gilbert’s best works, I think. It was pure music.

  6. rev'd 76 says:

    I’ve been reading L&R since I first ran away from home at eighteen. Tonight’s encounter with Maggie, Ray, Hopey, Letty, Fritz & the rest of the cast tore my tearducts open all over again… They really can’t help being better & more brilliant with each installment. We’re all aging alongside one another, and it’s a bitterness & beauty the reader discovers in parallel with the characters themselves. I don’t think I’ve ever empathized as fully with a cast of characters.

    Maggie’s impromptu punch? That was an O Shit, for me. I think we’ve seen her react with violence, what, a total of twice? And the last one was on Hopey.

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  12. SeBso says:

    Thanks for all your very interesting posts on Love & Rockets.
    I have one question about The Love Bunglers (which, I completely agree with you, is an extraordinary achievement):
    “dredging up a long-ago, possibly long-forgotten character, drawing him as a late-middle-aged man in a way that makes him unrecognizable until you realize just how recognizable he is.” I think you are alluding to the old man whom we can see on the first page of this L&R issue, and who is called “Walter” a few pages later. I have no clue about who he is… And I am not sure to have really understood the meaning. can you help me? Who is he? And when does the scene of the first page take place? During the time of The Love Bunglers? after? Thanks for your answers…

    • He’s Yax, the cap-wearing prosolar mechanic from the Rand/Duke/Maggie days. He’s the guy she goes in on the new garage with, the one whose wife had fallen out of love and then back in love with him on that first page, which does take place at the same time as the rest of the Love Bunglers story, yeah. Hope that helps!

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