Sunday, August 16, 2015

Review: LOVE AND ROCKETS: New Stories #7

FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS – @fantagraphics

[This review first appeared on Patreon.]

WRITERS: Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez – @BetomessGilbert @xaimeh
ARTISTS: Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez
EDITOR: Eric Reynolds – @earinc
COVER: Jaime Hernandez
ISBN: 978-1-60699-679-9; paperback (January 2015)
100pp, B&W, $14.99 U.S.

We last saw a new volume of the annual Love and Rockets: New Stories (#6) in the fall of 2013.  Since then, creators and brothers, Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez (a.k.a. Los Bros.), each finally won his first Eisner Award (Will Eisner Comics Industry Awards).

Love and Rockets: New Stories #7 was published in March, I think (although the publishing date inside the book is listed as January 2015).  The latest volume contains 14 stories, 6 six by Gilbert and 8 by Jaime.  Among Gilbert's (Beto) offerings is a story that runs slightly longer than a single-issue comic book.  Entitled “The Magic Voyage of Aladdin,” it pits Morgan Le Fey (as played by Fritz) and Aladdin against two evil bitches, Circe and Jasmin, who are trying to obtain Aladdin's magic lamp.  “Daughters and Mothers and Daughters” is a flashback story about Maria, the mother of Luba (one of Beto's central L&R characters).  “Killer in Palomar” finds Dora “Killer” Rivera in Palomar, and Fritz and Fritz-wannabes compete in a few shorter stories.

Jaime (Xaime) puts the focus squarely on his signature characters, Maggie and Hopey.  The life-long friends and former lovers take a road trip to Huerta for a “punk rock reunion.”  However, their proximity to each other reveals that their humdrum domestic lives have not quite tamed the passion nor has it severed the romantic connection between them.  Plus, the comic book-length “Princess Animus!” plays out the classic bad movie that Maggie and Hopey watch at the old “Vogue Theater” while in Huerta.  In  “if it ain't fixed, don't break it!”a tawdry true-crime television show brings up the nutty and perhaps murderous secrets of Tonta Agajanian's nutty family.

I am not one of those Love and Rockets admirers who have bought into the idea of high and low periods in the quality of Los Bros.' output.  For me, all their comics have been at least great comics or hugely intriguing, with the best of it being high-comics art.  Since I first discovered their work 30 years ago, I have been fascinated by everything that the brothers have done in L&R.

Still, even L&R fanboy that I have am, I must admit that Love and Rockets: New Stories has seen Los Bros. soar to new heights of comics art excellence, beginning with New Stories #3, in particular.  In New Stories #7, both brothers revisit old haunts and familiar characters.

“Daughters and Mothers and Daughters,” Gilbert uses Maria to reveal how the ugly secrets of the past continue to affect a family long past the origin of the secrets.  The fanciful derring-do of “The Magic Voyage of Aladdin” recalls Beto's wild and wholly early comics, with their mixture of B-movie plots, weird fiction, and lowbrow comic book sci-fi.  While Jaime has found fresh potting soil for his stories in Tonta, he has kept his eyes on the magnetic attraction between Maggie and Hopey.  Time is neutral, and the notion of “what is past” is an illusion, especially when it comes to these two classic comix characters.  Recalling the best of the brothers' BEM stories (big-eyed monsters), “Princess Animus!” is a joy to read at 18 pages, and I could have read another 18 pages of it.

So with the final panel of Fritz, we have to wait another year for “the most important and enduring alternative comics series in the history of the medium.”  Hopefully, some graphic novel collections (God and Science and The Love Bunglers) will hold me until then.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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