Thursday, May 2, 2013

I Reads You Review: LOVE AND ROCKETS: New Stories #5

FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS – @fantagraphics

WRITERS: Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez
ARTISTS: Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez
COVER: Jaime Hernandez
ISBN: 978-1-60699-586-0; paperback (2012)
104pp, B&W, $14.99 U.S.

Love and Rockets: New Stories is the third incarnation of the comic book series, Love and Rockets, which I think is the best American comic book series ever published. It is the creation of Los. Bros, the brothers Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez (with brother Mario occasionally contributing). Published by Fantagraphics Books, New Stories is a reboot of Love and Rockets as an annual, graphic novel-length package, resembling both a comic book and a literary magazine. This publishing format is designed to appeal to the people who decide what will make the shelves of bookstores.

Published in 2012, Love and Rockets: New Stories #5 opens with “Somewhere Outside the U.S. Border” by Gilbert. As 2012 is the 30th anniversary of Love and Rockets, Gilbert celebrates by transporting one of his current characters, Dora “Killer” Rivera, to the site of his beloved south-of-the-border village of Palomar.

In “Proof That the Devil Loves You,” Fritz (Luba’s half-sister) stars in a fictionalized “movie” Palomar, with Fritz starring as a combination of Luba and Tonantzín. The real characters, including Luba, Sheriff Chelo, and Carmen, among others, appear in two vignettes, “Somewhere in the U.S.” and “And Back Again.”

On Jaime’s side of things, he has to follow up the incredible “The Love Bunglers,” so he offers four stories for New Stories #5. Jaime focuses on a familiar character, Vivian “Frogmouth” Solis, the bombshell ex-girlfriend of Ray Dominguez. However, Jaime’s opening story is “Tonta,” which introduces Vivian’s half-sister, Tonta. In that story, Tonta is determined to meet Eric Lopez, the lead singer of Ooot, a punk band.

In “Crime Raiders International Mobsters and Executioners,” Vivian attracts the attention of an old gangster type named, Mel Spropp, who owns the Cobia Club. Spropp wants Vivian to sit by the phone at her home and wait for him to call, but Vivian isn’t exactly the type to cooperate. “Uh… Oh, Yeah” is a look at Doyle. In “Shoes,” Tonta goes exploring with Gretchen A.K.A. “Medusa.”

After the stunning events depicted in Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 (2011), the Hernandez Brothers could be described as shifting focus or even moving sideways for New Stories #5. I cannot figure out what Gilbert is doing with this return – both real and surreal – to Palomar. I think most of Gilbert’s best work, which is a mixture of magical realist fiction and soap operas, is set in Palomar. These new stories make me hope that he is returning to Palomar in some manner or at least to some extent.

Meanwhile, Jaime seems ready to unleash a whole new group of characters in his Locas cycle. Right from the beginning, I find Tonta, Frank Lopez, and Gretchen/Medusa fascinating. Also, after not taking Vivian seriously, I am intrigued by her, and clearly Jaime is also looking at the character from a new perspective.

Honestly, it was going to be hard to follow New Stories #4, and Love and Rockets: New Stories #5 lacks the kind of exceptional, game-changing material the previous edition has. However, this is another volume of New Stories which proves that Love and Rockets is as strong as ever and is ready for 30 more great years.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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