Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review: LOVE AND ROCKETS: New Stories #6

FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS – @fantagraphics

WRITERS: Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez
ARTISTS: Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez
EDITOR: Eric Reynolds
COVER: Gilbert Hernandez
ISBN: 978-1-60699-679-9; paperback (September 2013)
100pp, B&W, $14.99 U.S.

Fall means a new volume of Love and Rockets: New Stories.  Under a Gilbert Hernandez cover – featuring new player, “Killer,” Love and Rockets: New Stories #6 arrives with new stories featuring new characters.

Love and Rockets: New Stories is the third incarnation of the comic book series, Love and Rockets, rebooted as an annual, graphic novel-length package, resembling both a comic book and a literary magazine.  L&R remains the creation of Los. Bros, the brothers Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez (with brother Mario occasionally contributing).  According to the publisher, this publishing format is designed to appeal to the people who decide what will be placed on the shelves in bookstores.

Love and Rockets: New Stories #6 brings Love and Rockets into its fourth decade with a focus on new lead characters.  Dora “Killer” Rivera, Gilbert’s new star is somewhere outside of the United States in the south of the border town of Palomar.  Killer strikes a hammer-wielding pose on New Stories #6’s cover that recalls her grandmother, Luba, Gilbert’s signature character.

Killer (also known as “Sad Girl”) discovers that Maria, her great-grandmother (and Luba’s mother) starred in a 1950s crime movie.  That leads her to begin to delve into the details of her family’s twisted history.  She’ll also discover that not everyone is interested in history, ancient or otherwise, and she is about to get a ghostly visit.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Love and Rockets: New Stories #6, Jaime continues to explore his intriguing new character, Tonta Agajanian.  Things start off innocently enough in “Fuck Summer,” as Tonta tries to get some attention from Eric Lopez of the garage punk band, Ooot.

Trying to get Tonta’s attention is Coach Angel Rivera, the new P.E. teacher at Bradbury’s Girl School.  Coach seems to know a lot about Tonta, but Tonta does not think that she has ever heard of Rivera.  “Tarzana Adventures” with “Pack Mules” will reveal all; keyword is “luchadora.”  It’s not all fun and games.  There is a dark mystery and something sinister going on in Tonta’s immediate and extended family that includes her older and squabbling half-siblings.

Each Hernandez bro approaches the introduction of new characters and storylines differently.  Gilbert depicts Killer as forging her own way by delving into the past.  Jaime has Tonta forging her way, but ensnared by the past.  The high school student is seemingly not interested in her family’s past, nor does she seem particularly interested in her siblings.

Killer loves the intricate connections that extend from Palomar outside to the United States and other places beyond the border of the U.S.  Gilbert, however, relishes muddying the past for his star, and making connections tenuous.  Is memory reliable?  Is history a story or fact?  After awhile, I start to see Satchel Paige’s axiom about not looking back in Killer’s adventures.  Gilbert’s final entry in New Stories #6 enforces that theme, but I know that I wanted Killer to turn around and look.

For Jaime’s Tonta, familial connections are not so much intricate, as they form a net.  Or maybe, they are like those hooked-laden Cenobite chains that snake out from the darkness in Hellraiser movies.  Jaime’s focus on Tonta is divided into 17 short stories in Love and Rockets: New Stories #6 (compared with Gilbert’s 8).  They form one large story through which run three stories or subplots.  Each one of the three recalls classic Jaime themes:  music (punk), wrestling (Mexican), and family.

Unlike Gilbert’s stories, which seem to want to connect Killer to the past, Jaime seems determined to disconnect Tonta from the past, at least by my reading.  The story of Tonta will be about her, not about her in a context of what came before her.  This comes through in Tonta’s visits to the “swimming hole,” as when one character declares that she did not invite Tonta’s companion.

I find that in Love and Rockets: New Stories #6, Gilbert’s holds up his end of the volume better than he did in New Stories #5.  Here, both brothers are like great athletes that use human growth hormone (HGH) to extend their peak performance into middle age.  Los Bros. have found creative and artistic steroids, as they are producing Love and Rockets comics that are as good as they’ve ever been.  Or maybe genius never gets old and keeps producing all-star work.


Review by Leroy Douresseaux

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

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