Love and Rockets #46 (December 1994)

Love and Rockets #46

Even with Beto doing the centerpiece, Love and Rockets #46 is (technically) a Jaime issue.

The issue opens with Maggie/Perla (it gets even more confusing because there’s a flashback to pre-Love and Rockets #1 days) and Esther hanging out at Vicki’s wrestling training camp. There are three Butt Sisters stories, but they’re really just one story with a brief interlude in the middle to catch up with Danita back in Hoppers. Jaime plays the wrestling “prologue” mostly for laughs. Esther has, unfortunately, become Hopey-lite in this story. Maybe even Hopey-lite-lite because she’s really just there to do comic emphasis for Maggie’s plight.

Maggie hasn’t worked out her issues with Gina, the wrestler who not only is mad crushing on her but also took a knife for her (sort of). Xo and Vicki are also at the wrestling camp (obviously) but they’re secondary supporting, which is kind of weird since–at least with Xo–Jaime had promoted her to a lead role. Not now with Esther around.

The interlude with Danita is Jaime’s second best work of the issue, if only because of its brevity. No dialogue, no text whatsoever. Danita misses Ray (which requires the usual massive suspension of disbelief because Ray), she’s lying to her mom about stripping, she gets a dangerous stalker, she’s in a bad place.

So the third “chapter” of Butt Sisters is Danita moving to Texas to live with Maggie and Esther. Along with her son. But mostly it’s a flashback about how Maggie got back into the mechanic business pre-Love and Rockets #1, starring Hopey, Izzy, and everyone else from those days. Even though Jaime’s doing it in his current art style, the flashback just reminds how much fun Locas used to be, which is a bit of a downer, because it’s like he knows–and Maggie definitely knows–how much more fun life was in those days.

The third part also reveals Esther is only Hopey-lite in certain circumstances. The rest of the time she’s a bit of a buzz kill.

But it’s a good story, with a really nice flashback, and a solid punchline at the end. So it’s a real surprise when Beto doesn’t just smoke it, he smokes it with his own riff on Locas.

Hernandez Satricon is Beto doing a Mechanics story. Maggie, Rena, Hopey, Penny, Izzy, Daffy, and Rand Race all appear. Maggie’s the lead, working with Rand and Rena to figure out what a gigantic bowling ball is doing. Changing reality is what it’s doing. Maggie gets the day off and spends it looking into the other scientific teams, leading to disaster, romance, and–finally–a new reality.

Beto boils it all down to the base elements and does a phenomenal job. Great art–his tightest lines in a while as he’s homaging–and a fantastic story. He brings the wonder back to Locas, whether it’s Penny as a superhero or just the pleasures of jigging. It’s awesome.

Jaime gets his own shot at Beto’s characters with the next story, which is Maricela and Riri as kids in Palomar. Riri steals her mom’s makeup so Marciela can get Luba looking like a movie star whether she likes it or not. It’s a really cute story, great art, but it’s just a cute story. Maybe cuter than Beto would ever do, sure, but it’s nowhere near as ambitious as Beto’s riff on Mechanics. Of course, Jaime only gets four pages while Beto got fifteen.

The issue starts good, with sprinkles of greatness, then gets singular with the Beto riff. The Jaime riff on Palomar is cool too. It’s just not jawdropping like the Beto.

Love and Rockets #45 (July 1994)

Love and Rockets #45

Beto’s only got one story this issue. Sure, it’s eleven or so pages–so almost twice as long as most of Jaime’s–but Jaime’s got four stories. There’s a lot from Hoppers. And a lot of Hoppers.

I guess I’m talking about Jaime’s stories first. So he’s got two stories with Maggie (Perla) and Esther. The first is Esther narrating a family get-together. Maggie there’s, Aunt Vicki and–not really introduced–family are there, Cousin Xochitl and family are there, Maggie and Esther’s dad, his new wife, their kids, are there. Lots of people. But the narration is all Esther. It’s more about her life until this point, so a short (but long) four page introduction. It’s fine. It’s a little talky and it’s weird Esther doesn’t seem to notice Maggie’s despondence, but it’s fine. It’d be nice if the accompanying party visuals worked better. But fine.

Esther narrates a lot about Hoppers and Dairytown, something Jaime’s been avoiding literalizing for… well, it’s issue #45 so forty-four issues of Love and Rockets. It gives some context for Esther’s situation, but it feels weird having this minor character doing such a big introduction.

Turns out later it doesn’t matter.

But first there’s Hopey’s interlude. She’s playing a gig in L.A. with her band and spends the day in Hoppers with her brother’s now ex-girlfriend. Hopey avoids seeing anyone she knows, dealing with any situations outstanding; it’s almost like she’s Jaime’s analogue for avoiding situations. Though Hopey does finally find out Maggie’s not back in Hoppers and gets some vague idea where she’s gone. It’s a really good Hopey story, even if it’s depressing as heck.

Then there’s the flashback story. More Hoppers history, with Ray narrating a time the KKK tried to come to town. It’s a “day with the boys” story; although the kids are in high school, Jaime draws them younger. Ish. Unlike the Esther revealing things about Hoppers, Ray’s a fairly standard Love and Rockets character. Arguably the third biggest character in Locas.

Still doesn’t make the history lesson work better. Jaime’s inorganically dumping information.

The last Jaime story is the second one with Maggie and Esther. They’re unpacking in their new apartment and trying to figure out what they’re going to do about another room. Maggie gets a little more heartbreak. Esther doesn’t really know how to help her with it. It works all right, with a funny finish.

Jaime’s best stories this issue–the Hopey one and the apartment one–aren’t the most ambitious ones. The KKK one is a true story adapted for Locas. The Esther party one… well, Love and Rockets has had some amazing parties (but they’ve all been Beto’s).

Meanwhile Beto is still peeling back the onion to reveal more of the Maria story. There are some flashbacks with some Poison River supporting players, there’s the introduction of Maria’s first… well, wait. There’s the introduction of Maria’s second husband and father of Fritz and Petra. There’s also some tying back into other Poison River events for Gorgo and maybe even some forward narrative development in the present day. Lots going on, some great art, awesome story.

Beto starts the issue too. So it’s downhill from page twelve. Yes, Jaime’s art is always great and the writing is always good–there’s nothing bad–it’s just not successful. It’s sort of ambitious? But in an obvious way. And then Jaime doesn’t even achieve the ambitions. Kind of a bummer.

Love and Rockets #44 (March 1994)

Love and Rockets #44

For the first time in either a very long time or ever, there are only two stories in the issue. One Beto, one Jaime.

First up is Jaime’s, which has Maggie’s sister Esther visiting her in Texas. Well, it starts with Esther visiting their dad, then going to see Maggie and pals but their dad is off-panel. Also Esther now calls Maggie Perla, even though I’m nearly positive Esther didn’t call Maggie Perla during the Speedy story arc.

Anyway.

It’s a simple enough story–Esther, Maggie, Xo and her husband, and Gina all go out drinking and dancing. They run into Penny and end up back at Chester Square. We learn Penny grew up near Chester Square and Jaime gives her this exceptionally affecting subplot while Gina–now in love with Maggie instead of Xo–confronts the prostitute who beat Maggie up a few issues ago.

It ends with Esther and Maggie finally having a talk about Speedy, making it the first time anyone’s actually had a talk about Speedy dying instead of just talking about possibly talking about Speedy dying. Jaime’s avoided dealing with it for dozens of issues at this point.

Jaime splits the story between Esther, Gina, Maggie, and Penny. Xo and the husband are just scenery or good for some exposition–i.e. some of what’s happened to Esther since her last appearance. Maggie’s still in a really bad place, which Jaime hints at more than explores. He’s delaying again, but it’s fine because the desolate Texas setting looks wonderful with all silhouettes and shadows and Jaime’s detailed buildings (and costumes).

And Esther’s a good supporting player. Far more than Gina, who isn’t any younger than most of the other Locas cast when the strip started but Jaime’s looking at her from Maggie’s older perspective than on Gina’s own age level. It seems like Esther’s coming into the book. We’ll see.

Then Beto introduces some mystical realism into his story, which starts in Palomar and ends in Los Angeles. His whole Farewell, Palomar story isn’t making much sense as a) he hasn’t stopped doing stories about Palomar and its denizens and b) Jesus is still in Palomar. That story was all about Jesus leaving Palomar. Wasn’t it?

Anyway. He splits the story between Luba’s daughters in the States, though it’s mostly through Pipo’s perspective–with Diana showing up for a bit too–and Luba’s daughters in Palomar. The mystical realism comes in when Casimira (I cannot remember who she’s got for a father) goes hunting this evil bird who pecks out the eye of one of her friends.

There’s a real soap element to the story and all the romantic troubles (or at least complications) in the lives of Luba’s daughters and it’s all very open-ended, which isn’t how Beto usually does a story. He usually at least implies a wrap-up. Not here. The biggest change from beginning to end is daughter Dolaris goes from Palomar to the States. And I guess Gato and Jesus are there now too, but they’re still background. They’re less background than some of the other cast members–Carmen and Heraclio for example–but Beto’s definitely made some changes in who he’s telling the stories about.

So I guess maybe he did say Farewell to Palomar a little, but Beto’s Palomar stories have always been a lot more fluid than, well, anything else in Love and Rockets. The soap aspect just makes it feel a little more Jaime than usual… but also not.

Beto’s art is also a little different. There’s a different sense of visual pacing and scope.

While Jaime’s story is good and affecting–the Penny stuff is phenomenal–Beto’s new normal is amazing.

Love and Rockets #43 (December 1993)

Love and Rockets #43

It’s a packed issue. Six stories, three from each brother. While Beto’s got one wordless one, he’s also got a sixteen panels a page one. Packed. And kind of entirely unexpected, as far as Beto’s stuff.

His first story catches up with Petra and Fritzi–the two half-sisters Luba doesn’t know she has in the states–as well as their mother, Maria. The story jumps all over, time-wise, and is mostly about Gorgo’s involvement with the family. It jumps around so much it’s hard to say whether it’s all reality or some of it might not be, but there are some definite events. It’s rather unsettling at times. Beto does eight panels a page, with some fantastic art.

While he maybe has said “Farewell” to Palomar, he’s building a lot off the Poison River story arc.

Jaime also expands with the next story, giving Maggie’s cousin Xochitl and her family their own story. Xo’s the wrestler who never wins. The story’s this gentle family thing with the three kids bickering about what TV to watch and Xo and her husband have a late dinner and a big fight. Lots of character stuff in a few pages, with some really nice art. It’s a cute and intense story. The realities of domestic bliss angle works.

Then Beto’s got this wordless three page boxing match. Just two fighters pummeling each other. Great art. It’s just the two fighters too. Around them is endless black. Real good. Beto’s getting a lot more experimental with the visual narrative lately.

Next is Jaime’s flashback to 1967 Hoppers and Ray and his fellow kids being excited about Christmas. It’s three pages and cute. Not much else to it. Lots of exagerated expression and the possible implication grade school Doyle is already a lush.

It’s certainly nowhere near as ambitious as Beto’s Pipo story, which is that sixteen panels a page one I mentioned earlier. Sixteen panels a page and maybe five hundred words a page. It’s intense. The story is in the text, which is Pipo’s first person recounting of her present situation and how she got there. Beto also brings up the whole “Pipo and Gato are back in Love and Rockets and Gato’s beating her” thing, which he’s always avoided until now. Not sure it was worth waiting thirty issues for the whole story, but it’s nice to see him finally address it. The art is Pipo leaving Palomar for Los Angeles and then her adventures in Hollywood. The story’s exceptionally dense and good.

Though, again, when Beto suggests he’s done with Palomar does he just mean the place?

Finally, there’s a Maggie story. Or a Perla story. Penny tries to get her to get a mechanic job. There’s some development–Maggie makes a date and discovers someone’s got a crush on her. Someone unexpected, not the guy she makes a date with. There’s a flashback, which informs some of Maggie’s situation when Jaime came back to her a few issues ago, and a lot of Rand Race mentions before he finally returns. Well, in a newspaper story. The story’s good, if a little less ambitious, narrative-wise, than even the kids at Christmas one.

The issue showcases a big constrast between Los Bros–Jaime’s still avoiding things (that Maggie flashback could’ve been its own story and, even though her first return story was excellent, maybe should’ve been revealed first) while Beto’s examining them. Even if the timeline occasionally gets fractured too much.

Also, while the last few issues certainly “felt” like they were wrapping up Rockets (which is now t-minus six issues to end), this one doesn’t. The Pipo story doesn’t feel like a conclusion but a beginning. And, hey, kid Ray is just as engaging as adult Ray.

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