Book of the Month
What did the
Published by Fantagraphics
Size: 100 pages
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.
I’m going to need a tissue…