Book of the Month

Book of the Month – Love And Rockets: New Stories #4

What did the
iFanboy
community think?

29
Pulls
Avg Rating: 4.8
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 0.0%
 
Users who pulled this comic:
Love and Rockets_Vol4
By Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez

Published by Fantagraphics

Size: 100 pages
Price: 14.99

In the pantheon of legendary independent comics, Love and Rockets is spoken about with an equal amount of love and disdain.  Beginning in 1982 by brothers Jaime Hernandez and Gilbert Hernandez, Love and Rockets has created a legacy of nearly 30 years of independent comics. With each brother developing their own characters and ongoing storylines, the Love and Rockets institution has created a vast library of collected editions and paperbacks.  It cannot be argued the impact that the Hernandez brothers have had on the comics industry since 1982 as they’ve blazed the trail for many indie, alternative and underground cartoonists who love comics, and yet the mainstream/super hero world never really resonated with them.  The Hernandez brothers proved that you could stick to you inspiration and passions and create the comic that you wanted to and without the need to conform to the rest of the comics industry.

But now, nearly 30 years later, what’s been the source of the Hernandez brothers’ success has also become the biggest challenge for today’s readers to enter the world of Love And Rockets. With so many stories, so many collections, and so many books out there with Love and Rockets on the cover, it’s hard for someone new to comics and curious about Love And Rockets to be able to pick up and begin.  Now, personally I don’t subscribe to this. I haven’t read every Love and Rockets story, and when I picked it up for the first time in 1996, I can assure you I didn’t begin at issue #1. I just grabbed the first book I could and started reading and went from there. I recognize and understand that not everyone works that way, and for whatever reason the stumbling block for many is the vast history behind Love and Rockets.

Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 is a periodical release from Fantagraphics, paperback and coming in at 100 pages, the format is alternating chapters between Jaime and Gilbert’s own stories.  While the brothers Hernandez have similar styles, seeing them back to back here, it’s clear to see the differences in their art, as well as their stories.  Gilbert’s vampire story here continues in the vein of his Palomar stories, complete with large busted women and the bizarre world around them. While I’ve enjoyed Gilbert’s work, I’ve always been more attracted to the work of Jaime Hernandez, with his ongoing saga of Locas. Jaime style is a bit more expressive and evocative and has been more realistic of the duo’s work.

Now, you probably have no idea what Palomar or Locas is, and that’s okay.  That’s the genius of what both Jaime and Gilbert have done here. Thankfully, with Love and Rockets: New Stories #4, I can unequivocally recommend a Love and Rockets volume to anyone and assure them that they need not have any knowledge of the past 30 years of Love and Rockets. None whatsoever. You can pick this up and read it and enjoy it immensely. Why? Because it may be the most masterfully executed Love and Rockets volume to date.  It’s the culmination of both Jaime Hernandez and Gilbert Hernandez’s craft and I couldn’t be happier to tell you that.

Gilbert’s vampire story is easy to follow and identify the attraction to the vampiristic lifestyle, and the dangers that come with it. Gilbert continues the world of the surreal with this tale, while poking fun at the vampire trends of popular culture and provides numerous laughs, but when it comes to the shining star of Love and Rockets: New Stories #4, this is all about Jaime Hernandez’s stories, parts 3 through 5 of the story “The Love Bunglers

If you have kept up with Love and Rockets over the years, specifically Jaime Hernandez’s ongoing Locas storylines, you’re aware of Maggie (the Mechanic). One of the two iconic lead women in Jaime’s stories.  Maggie, along with Hopey, have been the central focus of Jamie’s ongoing tales.  This volume focuses on Maggie as she’s moved along in her life.  She’s grown older, and yet the drama around life and love continues, culminating in this story that is one of the most emotional Love and Rockets stories I’ve ever read.

Now, I know I’m a bit of a broken record here, but seriously, you do not have to know who Maggie is or what her history with any of the other characters is in this story.  Jaime has written this in a way that you can pick it up and immediately pick up on the history and subtext that comes with any relationship.  You may not know who Ray is, or what his history with Maggie is, but you sense there’s a history.  Jaime is able to map the emotional connections between his characters in such a subtle way, that any new reader could pick up on it.  Then, he masterfully inserts a flashback tale to Maggie’s childhood to give us even more perspective on her life and how she got to the point she’s at in this volume, while at the same time, packing an enormously powerful emotional punch.  This emotional punch continues into part 5 of “The Love Bunglers,” delivering a powerful climax to Maggie’s story, that I defy anyone to not get a bit misty eyed as they read.

I haven’t felt this strong of an emotional resonance from a comic book since Strangers In Paradise by Terry Moore.  Those of you who have been following iFanboy for a long time will know just how much that series felt to me.  As I finished reading Love and Rockets: New Stories #4, I had to sit back and just take a moment to take it all in and collect myself, as I know that I had just completed reading one of the greatest works in comics for 2011.

Love and Rockets has been a source of inspiration within the comics industry for years, so it’s not like I’m the first one to praise the Brothers Hernandez for their contribution. But it’s even more incredible to see that after nearly 30 years, both Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez are creating some of the best comics of their careers and making them completely accessible to new readers. Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 is an achievement for the Brothers Hernandez and have earned a permanent spot on my required reading list for anyone interesting in reading the great works of modern comics creators.

Ron Richards
I’m going to need a tissue…
ron@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. Woot. Love and Rockets is definitely one of the top ten series of all time. Although I haven’t really liked (from the little I’ve read of) the newer stuff.

    I only (haha) have all of the first volume (i think its ’81-’96). I picked up two books of vol. 2 and was disappointed. Now that the books in Vol. 3 (is that right?), I should probably give it another chance…..but it’s like….I have so much already and I know it’ll never end. It would be interesting to see where everyone’s at though (and what the Bros. are like now).

    Anyways, good stuff Ron.

  2. Cormac Cormac says:

    I think I was the only person who made this Pick of the Week a few weeks ago. I felt so lonely and elitist. Now I feel warm and validated.

    I’ve actually read more Gilbert than Jaime at this point, though I’m going through Locas vol 1 right now. So I can echo Ron in saying that this story is very approachable. I knew who most of these characters are, but mostly from their earlier incarnations. I’d also read ‘The Love Bunglers’ pts 1 and 2 in last year’s L&R. That was plenty to follow along. What you have to remember is that with Los Bros, to a certain extent, you are ALWAYS late to the party. Even if you’ve read everything, there will be a gazillion unanswered questions and faces to which you can’t put names, and vice versa. That’s life. You don’t get everything with a neat little bow on it.

    Gilbert’s recent stuff has bewildered me. This entry felt pretty slight, but funny and entirely comprehensible at least. Jaime really steals the show though. You could just read his entries and more than get your money’s worth here, if Gilbert’s surreal take on the pulps isn’t your thing.

    The cartooning is just flawless. It really compares to the best work ever done in the medium. Toth-like command of page flow and lush linework, and expressiveness that Darwyn Cooke can only envy. Just gorgeous. Buy it, love it, spread the word!

  3. Palomar is one of my favorite things in existence.

    Tempted to check this out now, but want to wait for a hardcover collection . . .

    Little worried they might not do one.

    Thanks for the review.

  4. cheesywhiz cheesywhiz says:

    I’m sure this is good stuff but I can’t believe any book last month could top Thompson’s “Habibi” and it’s immense attention to detail and epic scope. Of course, I’m predisposed to the subject matter for other reasons and a fan of his work so that could be part of it. Not only is the art terrific and the story resonant, but it also is a great-looking product with presentation to match its quality–it’s a nice addition to any comic library.

  5. Cormac Cormac says:

    I’ve read enough to Habibi to say with some confidence (but not yet definitively) that this is better, at least in my mind. Habibi is beautiful, but the ornate formalism has started to get wearing. It’s almost like a book Alan Moore would draw. Every layer of meaning must be illustrated literally or figuratively on the page. And man, does that that guy have a boner for (underage) girls. It crosses over into the creepy in more than a few spots.

    • cheesywhiz cheesywhiz says:

      Your other criticisms are valid (though I personally find his inclusion of visually displaying, often subtly, the other dimensions of the story adds extra enjoyable layers to it), but I don’t think Thompson is bordering on child-porn or anything remotely close–I don’t see a “creepy” fascination with underage girls in the book at all. The moments which depict Dodola as a child-bride are disturbing and are meant to be so, but they do not pander to us, whitewash anything, or commit any great occidental sins of imposing Western concepts we would like expressed. Unless I’m forgetting something, Thompson never illustrated Dodola naked or provocatively until she was older, stated as over 18. Even then he didn’t cheesecake it up or sell it as sex, always showing harsh realities in a fuller picture but letting the strength of the character shine through, and I found a lot more actual feminism at play here then in any mainstream comic work recently.
      Anyway, I can’t fairly compare the two as I haven’t read any “Love and Rockets” in years, so I have some catching up to do. I was just surprised that anything could have topped “Habibi” last month so now I have to go and see for myself if something did! For any that have read it, can you jump right in with this current volume or do you have to backtrack to understand the story?

  6. Maty. Maty. says:

    This was a wonderful selection. I hadn’t read a Hernandez book in ages- and once I’d picked this up, I realized what I’d been missing from my comix regimen- the bizzare and surreal Gilbert and his pop-culture-absurdist brother, Jaime.

  7. Cormac Cormac says:

    Cheesywhiz – She is naked all over the place. The problem is it’s usually hard to pinpoint her age. But look at pg. 96 for example, when she is 16 (9 yrs old than Zam, who is 5 according to the same page). Despite the fact that they are discussing wee-wees, it is her that is shown fully naked, not Zam. Gee, I wonder which of ‘em Thompson would rather draw naked. Her comment on pg. 101 – ‘Zam, you’re staring. Stop staring’ could legitimately be applied to Thompson himself by that point. He is so obsessed with drawing her in every possible way that the reader feels like a participant in Zam’s/Thompson’s visual rape. I’ll happily concede that his fascination with the character goes well beyond the sexual – but the sexual element is undoubtedly there. As examples – pg. 103, pg. 107. Beautiful pages, beautiful images…but undeniably a sexual, male view (quite literally in the case of 103). Thompson clearly carries a massive boner for women, period, always has. Blankets and Carnet de Voyage made that clear. I mean, look at pg. 207 – practically orgiastic. Is it needlessly or unnecessarily sexualized? Perhaps not. It’s a harem, which of course will have lots of nude women in it. But that’s what he chose to draw, and he chose to draw scene after scene that is practically nothing but nude female flesh. The two characters could have had that same conversation in any number of places and made the same points. You can certainly give him lots of points for handling certain elements of the story without needless lewdness (such as the scene where she sells herself to the caravan traders) but again like with Alan Moore’s consistent showing of rape, you still have to question why he chose some of the ways in which he presents this character. And that’s without even going into the (undeniably powerful) 10-page plus graphic rape scene.

  8. @ron i know you mentioned that readers can just start here… but if i want to start at number one… is it “Maggie the Mechanic”?

    • Cormac Cormac says:

      http://www.fantagraphics.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=76&Itemid=135

      SNIP:

      How to Read Love and Rockets
      The Hernandez brothers’ decades-spanning oeuvre can seem overwhelming to new readers, so we’ve put together this handy guide with suggestions on which books to start with, and where to go from there. For more advice and opinions, see the recommendations of comics critics Chris Mautner of Comic Book Resources (2009), Alex Carr of Amazon’s Omnivoracious blog, Douglas Wolk at Time’s Techland blog (2010), and Sean T. Collins (2010), who alternately suggests starting anywhere at Robot 6 (2011).

      JAIME HERNANDEZ — “LOCAS”

      FIRST, read Maggie the Mechanic, which contains the earliest “Maggie and Hopey” stories, and follow up with The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S. and Perla La Loca, which collect all of the stories from Love and Rockets Vol. 1. OR, pick up the giant Locas hardcover, which collects most of this material in one volume.

    • Thanks Cormac!!

  9. bean6344 bean6344 says:

    Ron, please go back and read “Browntown” from L&R New Stories 3. While it is not a necessary read to understand and appreciate Jaime’s story from L&R NS 4, it does add a layer of character development and motivation that you do not get w-out reading this story. In may ways it is just as heartbreaking as the story from #4.
    Bean