Love and Rockets #31 (December 1989)

Love and Rockets #31

The issue starts with Maggie trying to join Hopey and Tex’s new band. They’re delayed getting back to California, which might not even be on Hopey’s radar. It’s a Maggie and Hopey story, a little different given Hopey’s hair, but also because it’s two pages and (roughly) twelve panels a page. Maggie runs into Ray’s ex-girlfriend. It’s a cute little Locas, but feels like Jaime’s just keeping their burner warm.

Next is Beto’s Poison River. Part three. Teenage Luba gets married. The husband is a band manager and conga player (in said band). He’s much older. He’s also married with at least one child, but Luba doesn’t know about the other family. He’s obsessed with her and nowhere near as creepy as the other grown men pursuing Luba and her teenage friends. There’s also the origin of the hammer. It’s an excellent story; Luba isn’t particularly familiar in it. She’s not the kid from the previous issue, she’s not the Luba from regular Palomar. She’s actually far more revealed than her adult self. The husband, who Beto didn’t identify as a husband, showed up in one panel at the start of Human Diastrophism when Beto was going over Luba’s kids’ fathers. There’s also the start of Luba’s bather career; she and her friends work at the local bath house. Beto does a lot with it, especially since everyone except Luba and her family (who don’t play a big part) are new characters. It’s excellent. Beto makes it seem casual in the excellence.

Then is a Doyle story. Jaime’s not done with Doyle, which is a surprise. It’s a flashback story to 1982, so presumably before Doyle met Hopey and Maggie but after he’d been friends with Ray. Doyle’s just out of jail, looking for Ray (who’s gone east), working for with his girlfriend and Lily, who isn’t his girlfriend yet. Lily and the girlfriend are exotic dancers, Doyle collects the money and gets rough if need be. Jaime structures it all around broken toilets keeping Doyle up at night, which is a special kind of despondence. There’s not much with the girlfriend, but the burgeoning relationship with Lily is really sweet and well-done. It’s out of place in the sweetness, but also perfect. There’s some great art too. It’s just a surprise.

But nowhere near the surprise of the last story, Beto’s Love and Rockets: Premiere. It’s this comic–but sad and dark–story about Steve Stranski, a metalhead surfer who… if you look close… once vacationed in Palomar. He’s taking a couple hot chicks to see this band, Love and Rockets, perform. Only they think it’s the actual band Love and Rockets and not some garage band knockoffs. It’s a fun, goofy story and then all of a sudden Steve meets his friend’s new Hispanic housekeeper and starts crushing on her, even giving her a ride home with pal Gerry (another surfer who vacationed in Palomar). Turns out it’s Riri and she and Marciela are trying to make it in the States. And it’s to be continued, which is another surprise. Beto’s doing Marciela’s story too.

It’s a sort of different issue–even with Luba being active in her origin, it doesn’t feel like Luba, and Doyle’s proto-Doyle, and Maggie and Hopey are just cameoing. But it’s another excellent one. Both Jaime and Beto maintain their ambitions throughout.

Love and Rockets Bonanza #1 (March 1989)

Love and Rockets Bonanza #1

Love and Rockets Bonanza collects short Love and Rockets miscellanea from, approximately, 1985 to 1988. The first issue of 1985 was #10, the last issue of 1988 was #28. All these little stories–the longest ones are six, some are just single pagers–appeared in other Love and Rockets publications, like the collections or in the color Mechanics series or Fantagraphics’s Anything Goes anthology. There’s even a Los Bros story from “The Village Voice.”

What’s so interesting about the stories in the collection is what Beto and Jaime were developing outside the regular series. Like Pipo getting dropped on her head on delivery and it haunting her. Or Pipo hanging out with the boys until she started wearing dresses. Or Chelo’s back story. None of this Palomar stuff made it into the series proper–well, maybe some hints about Pipo hanging out with the boys, but nothing to this level. Instead, it showed up in the collections–in Pipo’s case, starting with the first one. Pipo, who disappeared from the series proper, had a whole character development thing going (as a kid, anyway) and it never bled through to the main series.

Similarly, Daffy is much more of a supporting cast member in some of Jaime’s extra Locas pages than she ever was in the main series. Especially in the time frame of these stories–it’s all “Mechanics”-era stuff. There’s even a story, from Anything Goes, so not a Love and Rockets collection (yet… it subsequently got collected), where there’s actual closure with Rand Race. At the time Jaime did the story for Anything Goes, Hopey and Maggie were about to be separated–or already had been–Bonanza’s March 1989 release was a flashback to a much different Love and Rockets than where Jaime and Beto had ended up in the main series at that point.

Though there were some definite hints of things to come. While most of the new elements are on their own–like Pipo’s head, Daffy’s continued presence, some actual sibling bonding for Hopey and Joey–there’s also Beto foreshadowing Ofelia’s tragic story. It’s in a story about Guadalupe’s interest in astronomy, which may or may not have the giant book from Human Diastrophism (more like does), from Anything Goes in May 1987. Beto didn’t get around to fully revealing it in the main series until #30, over two years later.

There’s also some interesting standalone stuff, like Beto and Jaime collaborating on the “Village Voice” piece. They both wrote, Jaime pencilled. It feels very much like one of Beto’s first person punk historicals, which he stopped doing in the main series ages before March 1989 when Bonanza dropped. Jaime’s got a A Date With Hopey, about some doofus who–according to him–was “this close” to dating Hopey. It’s all from his perspective, Hopey and Maggie are background, and the whole thing reads like Jaime’s trying to ape Beto’s first person style. Very, very, very interesting stuff in the creative timeline.

It’s a solid collection of stuff; Beto’s Palomar stories are the best, just because Jaime’s not trying too hard with the Locas material. It’s for fun. He’s got some great art–Maggie reading the comic book adventures of her time with Rand Race, for example, has some gorgeous science hero-ish art from Jaime; material from a September 1988 collection, years after Jaime had stopped doing “Mechanics.”

There’s some stuff with Penny telling Hopey about Costigan, so set in the early days, during a story covering Maggie’s first day as Race’s assistant. Very cute story. Jaime goes for laughs and smiles, Beto goes for laughs and smiles but with some depth.

A lot of Beto’s art is much cleaner in these little stories, less hurried, like he was trying to be impressive for the collections.

Bonanza has been collected again elsewhere, but like I said, it’s a interesting bit of creative development stuff–what the Brothers didn’t work on in the main book, but worked on to support the main book when it got collected.

Love and Rockets #30 (July 1989)

Love and Rockets #30

Love and Rockets #30 stands out for a couple reasons. First Jaime does a retcon. He does a flash forward and a retcon, like he’d written himself into a hole and couldn’t find a way out. And also because Beto, in one chapter, turns in a layered, complex tragedy in the Luba origin and it’s the best single issue piece in the series so far. It’s ambitious as all hell and completely contained.

But first Jaime and Locas.

The story starts two years after the club (presumably the one from #24) burned down. Danita’s kid (who hasn’t appeared in ages) is a toddler now. He doesn’t know Maggie, who passes him on the street (Maggie’s wearing shoes now). And then the club–turns out Maggie hasn’t seen Daffy for two years. Daffy’s got a new group of punk friends. Penny has been in an accident, they tell Maggie, which sets off the story. Eventually, Maggie and Ray are back at Penny’s mansion, hanging out. Enter Hopey.

Hopey’s got a story, Penny’s got a story, even Ray gets a flashback to his time as a struggling artist out east. Jaime retcons a bit–fudging the Hopey timeline, establishing Maggie having a job as a copy machine repairperson (which is an all new development this story)–and it works. He’s able to bring the band back together.

There are casualties of course. Poor Ray gets a major downgrade. He gets a couple good moments. He and Tex are a funny pair. But it certainly doesn’t feel like it did a couple issues ago, when Jaime was prepping him for a leading role in the book.

There’s some great art. Jaime’s not doing the big panels, but he’s able to do some callbacks to the first Costigan mansion story from #4. Visual and narrative. All while maintaing his eight or nine panels a page and his comic strip pacing. It’s fantastic.

It’s also fun, funny, and life affirming.

So Beto’s story, continuing Luba’s origin, is a bit of a kick in the teeth. Almost literally because Luba’s adoptive father is passed out drunk on the street at the start of it. He and Luba make it down to his hometown, where his sister and her daughter, Ofelia, are there to take them in.

It immediately becomes Ofelia’s story, set in the early fifties, in South America (somewhere), where there are facists and there’s a chance for communism or maybe even socialism to take hold. And there’s a new sense of possibility and pride because of Frida–nice tie to Beto’s biography.

There’s a lot.

And Ofelia’s a mean caregiver to toddler Luba. Toddler Luba who has bowel and bladder control issues, which Beto plays–occasionally–for the closest thing the story has to comic relief.

There’s more than political commentary, there’s social commentary–there’s even this subplot about the racist comic book Ofelia uses to teach Luba to read. And then there’s Luba’s adoptive father; he still plays in.

The story is a series of vingettes, irregularly occuring as time progresses. The little moments in the little panels (Beto’s doing like seven most pages).

And then sixteen pages into the chapter’s twenty-two, Beto goes an entirely different, entirely unexpected but entirely logical, organic route and terrifies in a way nothing in Love and Rockets has ever terrified. Horrifies in a way the comic has never horrified.

Then there’s a little epilogue, setting up the next chapter, returning the story to Luba. Ofelia was just borrowing it.

It’s an astounding story. All the layers Beto works in, all the little threads, both in the narrative and the art. It’s phenomenal work. Jaime’s Hopey and Maggie reuniting doesn’t disappoint and excels, which is an admirable feat, but what Beto does with Poison River, Part Two is horrifically magical.

The Comics Fondle Podcast | Episode 48

It’s been five weeks, which makes sense since it’s not easy to find books! Even some mainstays have disappointed the last couple months… and, of course, some haven’t.

Floppies – The Weatherman, Punks Not Dead, Barbarella, Bloodstrike, Highest House, Ether: Copper Golems, Infinity 8 vol 2, Maestros, Jimmy’s Bastards, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest, Redneck, X-Men: Second Genesis, Seeds, Kaijumax Season Four.

Retro – Love and Rockets.

Trades – Complete Aleck Sinner Vol 2, Fourth World Omnibus, The Complete The Killer.

Mixed media – Luke Cage, CW, Titans.

you can also subscribe on iTunes…

Love and Rockets #29 (March 1989)

Love and Rockets #29

Beto’s back to Palomar in Love and Rockets #29. Well, he’s back to some kind of Heartbreak Soup, maybe not Palomar. He’s got the first chapter of Poison River, which recounts this terrible tale of migrant workers. Eventually. It opens with a housekeeper thinking she’s rescuing a baby from the father burning it with a cigar. Or worse. It’s unclear. Beto doesn’t have any exposition in the story. He often doesn’t have any dialogue. For example, when the man’s wife (and presumably the baby’s mother) returns and gets booted out of the house, it’s all without dialogue.

Then Beto introduces Eduardo and Juan, two ditch diggers. They’re hungry, it’s hard to find work (and the boss lays off at least one person a day). Eduardo has Juan over for dinner; now, Eduardo is the one who took the baby in the opening scene. He’s now living with the mother. Or more like the mother is living with him. Eduardo’s also got another woman, Karlota. It’s unclear who he’s supposed to be with; though it definitely seems like Karlota.

There’s jealousy, drunkenness, disaster, and Eduardo ends up in charge of the baby. Baby Luba.

Beto throws in that revelation in the second to last panel, long after he’s proven the Palomar-free Heartbreak Soup story. His art’s fantastic, the pacing of it and the panel composition. A lot happens in the panels’ backgrounds in the story. Lots with recurring visual motif, lots with expression. Never with exposition. Beto’s got a lot to say in Poison River, a lot to talk about, but he never gives the reader a vocabulary guide. He’ll have these single panel scenes, then multi-panel sequences, sometimes flashbacks; there’s a severe narrative distance. Eduardo’s the protagonist, but the story’s not from his perspective. Not most of the time. Probably.

It’s awesome.

And it maybe has an Izzy cameo. What’s Izzy doing in Mexico? Well, Jaime’s story for the issue is Flies on the Ceiling: The Story of Isabel in Mexico. This story has come up in the comic before, with Hopey wanting to read about it in Izzy’s diaries, but it’s not like Hopey shared her findings with the reader. There has been some back story on Izzy, especially tying her into the version of Isabel from the first issue of Love and Rockets; Jaime repeats some of that distinct imagery here. But then he tells a very different, utterly heartbreaking tale. Frankly it’s hard to imagine Hopey would find anything to laugh about.

In Mexico, sometime after having an abortion, Izzy is shuffling through a town. A single father asks for her help getting his son to eat dinner. Izzy starts rooming with the pair and in a nine-panel page of fantastic montage, becomes a member of the family. The son likes her, the father is crushing on her. Eventually Izzy even smiles.

After an old woman ominously speaks to Izzy on the street, Izzy confesses her past to the man. He loves her anyway. Just as much. Izzy’s happy. Until one day she has a vision and has to leave the man and the boy, locking herself away in a one room apartment; there, the devil confronts her. They’ve–why assume the devil is a he, the devil tells her–been following her. They love her suffering.

It becomes this hard story about Izzy’s emotional and mental breakdown; with flashbacks to her abortion. She’s traumatized, over and over again.

It’s an emotional roller coaster of fifteen pages. Tragic, beautifully illustrated (Jaime does these super-thin background lines, focusing the foreground against them). The whole story plays out on Izzy’s face, panel to panel, with the occasional haunting or disturbing image. It too is an awesome story. And probably Jaime’s best done-in-one and maybe best overall since he’s moved to the nine-panel a page layout, which he uses for the entire story, save the title page. It’s a rending tale.

So, great issue. For maybe the first time in the series, Beto and Jaime are handling some of the same themes between their stories in one issue.

Love and Rockets #28 (December 1988)

Love and Rockets #28

Love and Rockets #28–at least the Jaime stories (he has four)–almost read like an entirely different comic, just with the same characters and the same artist.

The issue opens the only Maggie story. It’s set… sometime after the last issue’s events with her aunt, with Ray painting Maggie. Then he paints Danita instead. There are some jokes and wigging out from Maggie, but Jaime’s a lot more interested in it as Ray the conflicted creative. Lots of thought balloons about his artistic consternation. It’s got a comedic finish (and a Luba reference), but even the finale punchline is a little different. It’s good, with some great motion, but it’s Ray’s comic strip. Even if Maggie’s in it. Weird.

Then is a flashback story about Terry, Hopey’s ex-girlfriend and ex-bandmate. It’s Terry’s story for like a page (in the present people are talking about her to the reader, breaking the fourth wall), but by the second, Hopey’s there and it’s mostly Hopey’s story. Like the subtext is Hopey’s back story (more of it) and the big stuff is Terry’s. It’s beautifully paced. And arguably the most “normal” Locas story in the issue.

Because then it’s another Ray story, only it’s when Ray’s a little kid and it’s like Peanuts. Only with talking adults and lots of trouble and fantastically detailed backgrounds. It’s a cute little story, with Jaime really showing off his comic strip pacing abilities. Some gorgeous silhouettes too.

Then there’s a break in Jaime stuff and it’s Beto’s biography of Frida Kahlo. It’s an illustrated timeline of her life’s big events, with some tangiental information, and some phenomenal art. And a Tonantzin cameo (because Beto couldn’t help himself?). It’s a twelve-page story; the first eight or nine speed past. It slows down before Frida’s death, but Beto doesn’t foreshadow the death. He’s just changing up the pace a little. To be fair, it’s Frida’s life’s events. They’re changing up the pace. Then it’s got a beautiful finish.

It’s confident, measured work from Beto. He’s got his ambitions and he realizes them, even if it is the first time since Love and Rockets started I wished the book was in color. The visuals don’t need it, but who knows what they’d be like if they had color. It’d be cool to see.

Finally, it’s a beautifully paced six pager about Ray and Doyle taking a high school buddy out drinking. It’s played almost entirely for laughs, with a very different sense of humor than Jaime’s ever employed before. The scenes are paced perfectly, there are some great expressions, but there’s no punchline. Not for the characters, not for the reader. Jaime tries something talky for emphasis, it’s just dull. His previous stories all ended with sharp punchlines this issue–even the non-epical Terry story–and it’s a rocky out for the issue. (Beto had a perfectly good finish for the Frida biography too).

So. Kind of strange issue. Successful, especially Beto’s biography thing, but strange thanks to Jaime’s meandering. Sometimes it works better than other times–it might just be Doyle’s a bad character to lead a story, he’s always been a lot better playing off people and Ray’s got zilch in that last story too.

It’s like Locas with dudes, only… the dudes aren’t dynamic.

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