Love and Rockets #50 (May 1996)

Love and Rockets #50

Love and Rockets #50 is a perfectly solid issue of Love and Rockets. Beto’s Palomar farewell is outstanding in its execution, with him employing a lot more comic strip-influenced narrative techniques than usual. He doesn’t have enough room, it’s clear, and some things are rushed. Mario’s back for the finale too, which is fitting since he was in the first issue. It’s a perfectly good Mario story, not great, but with some excellent art and a fine sense of humor. And even Jaime’s Locas finale is good. It’s definitely affecting, even when Jaime’s being manipulative and burning through pages for no reason except to mess with the reader. Beto doesn’t have enough room, Jaime’s got too much.

The issue starts and ends with Jaime’s last two parts of “Bob Richardson,” which have seemingly unrelated short text pages before them. Short but big letters. So when the third part of the story opens with “God Mother Son,” you’re paying some attention to Esther talking on the phone to her mom. Maggie’s off having a really weird scene with the masked wrestler where she tells him about their mistaken engagement (her family thinks they’re getting married, as does Danita who’s in love with said masked wrestler). It’s a wordy, lengthy scene and Jaime doesn’t really get anywhere with it. Maggie seems weird. And she goes on seeming weird the rest of the chapter. Jaime’s lost her perspective. Even though “Bob Richardson” always seemed like a series finale for the strip, chapter three doesn’t feel much like chapters one or two. Maggie’s positioned way different. So’s Danita. Esther gets more to do but it’s literally nothing for herself.

Then there’s a break and it’s time for Mario’s interlude. It’s a story about him (Mario) losing his comics creating muse and how he gets her back. There’s some great art and it’s always an amusing story. It’s just not particularly special, other than Mario coming in and doing a last contribution. It just…doesn’t make a lot of sense given how little Mario’s done in the book lately. It’d be a lot more effective if he’d been regularly contributing. Emotionally effective anyway.

And then it’s for the Palomar extro, where Beto runs through what seem like a dozen story ideas–some resolving outstanding issues, some creating new ones–in twenty-four wonderful pages. There’s a big overarching story–an earthquake has hit Palomar and residents are back from all over to help in the time of crisis, including Luba’s family from the States (save Maricela). Even the awful American photographer guy comes back for a bit. It’s not exactly like a Human Diastrophism-focused sequel, but it’s sort of like one.

Beto does an amazing job hopping and skipping through all the stories as they go. Sometimes a scene or a subplot will get its own page, usually not. Sometimes it’s just an extremely well-executed panel. It’s kind of a Chelo story, but also a Luba and family story–which now includes Pipo. It’s very interesting to see how all the characters interact thanks to their developed, much different relationships, something Beto mostly skipped over when he left Palomar for a while. It’s a far more upbeat Palomar story than usual, full of Beto’s love and enthusiasm for the characters.

And he finally makes the Guadalupe and Jesus stuff work, though I might just be worn down in the last issue.

The last page is a big reveal. Sort of. It’s a big reveal with no bearing on the series, not even in hindsight. It’s just a big smile to go out on.

Jaime’s also got a big reveal in the last seven pages of Locas, “Bob Richardson Part Four.” He intentionally wastes three of those pages so it’s more like four, story-wise. Of course, the big reveal comes as an aside on one of the wasted pages, not even given a hint of the time it deserves. One last revelation about Speedy.

But otherwise, it’s just a chipperer-than-ever-before Hopey finally tracking Maggie down. Maggie’s possibly sad out of jealousy, possibly not. Doesn’t actually matter as it turns out, because the grand finale hinges on coincidence and bad luck. It’s a really fast, flashy finale, with Jaime laying on the nostalgia. It’s a perfunctory finish. There’s no ambition to it, not like Beto did in his Palomar farewell. Jaime just lets it wrap up and avoids the rest. The big difference, as always, being Beto never avoids anything, he just paces it out. Jaime always implies he’s pacing it out, then just avoids it.

Some great art on the Jaime stories, of course.

The last pages of the comic advertise the future from Los Bros, so you’re not too broken up about the series’s conclusion (I mean, Beto practically has Chelo advertise a new Luba comic), but it’s an earnest occasion. Especially since both Bros had done some amazing work in just the last few issues, when they weren’t steaming to the end. Or, at least, you didn’t know they were. Love and Rockets goes out high.

Love and Rockets #49 (November 1995)

Love and Rockets #49

On the inside front cover, there’s an announcement Love and Rockets #49 is the penultimate issue. Both Bros embrace it, but very, very differently.

Beto has this exceedingly disturbing and self-loathing series of short strips, usually starring himself (or an obvious analog). There’s some great art and some rather good storytelling–like the one where he talks about meeting a girl–and some “funny” anecdotes. Like the kid superhero, unidentified by name, he just has a big G on his chest. There’s also a lot about racism and how it exists simultaneous with his art. Like, it’s a lot. Beto digs really, really deep. Or gives the impression of doing so. Given the bad situations the stories recount or imply, one hopes there’s some narrative liberty.

The least depressing story has a guy chopped in the head with a butcher knife who can’t get change to make a phone call. Because maybe all but two of the rest of them have a bunch to do with abuse. Usually with a child suffering. Like, it’s really heavy, all the way through.

Beto’s got some great visual pacing in the stories, great storytelling, especially with the longer pieces (standouts for visual storytelling are the superhero one and one with an alien kid getting in trouble for staying out after school). Oh. And then the adorable Disney one about the dead father.

Running through it all is this undercurrent Beto–the creator–is a failure for the series ending.

It’s almost unbearably heavy.

Jaime does the complete opposite. Sure Maggie’s got to tell everyone she’s not really getting married and she’s got to survive Rena and her cousin getting attacked by would-be kidnappers, but it’s all fun. Rena and her cousin kick ass. The cousin’s the masked wrestler who Danita works for and, we find out, secretly loves. Danita’s convinced Maggie is going to steal him away. Meanwhile Esther feels like Maggie is abandoning her after her telling her to come to Texas. And Hopey is in town on tour and trying to see Maggie.

There’s some wonderful art and great moments from Jaime and he’s really just getting ready to give everyone a nice ending. It’s all romantic confusion and delayed gratification (the Locas way). There’s a cameo from one of Luba’s sisters, which is funny, and then a visual callback to the Izzy story in the very first Love and Rockets. Jaime’s story seems content.

Beto’s stories do not.

It’s a great issue. The clashing styles does make it read a little funny–if Beto went second with all the downers it’d be a very different experience–but Jaime’s pacing makes it work. He seems to have some regret about wasting Esther and Danita’s time, which makes one wonder what the original plan was for the three girls living together.

But it’s an extremely well-executed wrap-up. Jaime’s storytelling is a lot tighter. Even if it does turn Hopey into a cameo in her own book.

Love and Rockets #48 (August 1995)

Love and Rockets #48

Two issues to go, but no countdown clock other than Beto promising a last visit to Palomar in #50. Now, he got me once before with that Farewell, My Palomar story so I’m not sure I’d have believed him back in 1995.

Because the Jaime story, despite dealing with Maggie trying to tie up the loose ends of her life, doesn’t seem like an end of the book story. It might be an end of the arc story, but there’s nothing ominous about the story. It’s Maggie going and telling people she’s getting married, presumably to a guy named Bob Richardson (the title of the story). She breaks wrestler Gina’s heart, has a pointless farewell with the migrant worker guy who she literally made out with once, tells Aunt Vicki, then gets herself held hostage with Rena.

Locas is so much more exciting with Rena around.

Meanwhile, Esther is having a secret birthday and Danita is thinking maybe her boss is sweet on her. Mild stuff. Then a big cliffhanger. It’s good. Jaime works at it composition-wise. Maybe it doesn’t feel like a second-to-penultimate story because it’s such a solid narrative. Jaime’s not doing a long-form Peanuts, he’s doing a Locas. It’s really cool.

But then Jaime does that promised “Last Maria and Gorgo Story,” which is about Fritzi and Petra going down to Palomar to meet Luba, Guadalupe revealing her son’s father, Gorgo and Luba getting used to being around each other, whatever’s going on with Jesus and Guadalupe stalking him (sort of). It’s all set against Doralis getting famous on TV. It’s a big, awesome story, in seventeen pages but two of them don’t relate so it’s fifteen amazing pages. It’s absurdly great work.

There a bunch of Palomar cameos–Ofelia gets an arc, sort of, but enough of one–and maybe even some visual references to previous issues. There’s one big one and I wish I could remember if Beto’d used the visual before. Luba also gets more to do than she’s had, in the present, since before Poison River. It’s established material with Beto’s always developing narrative skills looking at it with slightly different eyes. It’s very much a done-in-one.

And then Beto just one-ups the whole thing with the last page. It’s too good.

Right before he promises last Palomar story in two issues, which doesn’t exactly make the story any better but it does make reading experience sincerly precious. After forty-seven issues, Beto’s earned the right to be sincerly precious with Palomar. He’s more than earned it.

Great issue.

Love and Rockets #47 (April 1995)

Love and Rockets #47

It’s an outstanding issue. Los Bros each contribute a story and each story does very different things.

Beto’s first. He’s finally bringing Luba’s daughters into contact with their previously unknown grandmother, while also doing a Gorgo story. There are flashbacks for Gorgo and Maria–including Maria’s (previously unrevealed, I think) involvement in Eduardo’s death (which happened during Poison River). In the present it’s mostly a Doralis story, as she’s meeting her grandmother and Gorgo. She saw Gorgo get shot on the news, so Beto finally irons out that timeline of events. Maricela, Pipo, and Guadalupe all have parts too. As well as Fritzi and Petra. Beto juggles it all beautifully, taking the time to do two almost wordless pages of Maria flashback with a bunch of sci-fi slash good girl art while still making time to do character development on the entire cast. Even Gorgo, though not in the present. He barely speaks in the present.

It’s a fantastic story. Lots of seriousness but a lighter tone than usual. It’s sunnier than Palomar or, most definitely, Poison River.

The end has Luba being brought into it (only just), along with the promise of the “Last Maria/Gorgo Story” next issue. So while Poison River started as a Luba origin story, that phase of Beto’s Love and Rockets has really become the Maria/Gorgo Stories? He’s done amazingly well with it, given how much he’s been doing at once and in extended format. It’s not a single story, it’s threads in a series of stories, something Jaime (initially) did a lot better in the book.

Speaking of Jaime, his story’s excellent too. Though it’s all about the subtle formal exploration he’s doing with it. He’s basically doing a long form Peanuts strip, which he references at the end of the story.

It’s a Maggie (or Perla but really Maggie) story. Danita’s sick and Maggie needs to take her wrestling valet outfit to the evening’s match. Esther’s hanging around the house, around for conversation and to further Maggie’s character development but otherwise mostly inactive. She peaked early.

Simultaneously the prostitute Maggie had problems with at Chester Square gets run out of said strip mall and ends up at an Italian restaurant. After a frustrating adventure of dropping off the outfit at the wrestling match (and having to dodge Gina, who’s still in love with her but also wants to beat her up for the prostitute cutting her), Maggie heads over to the same restaurant. There she’s got to avoid Gina, survive an encounter with the prostitute, all while trying to find out if the masked wrestler Danita works for is handsome under his mask.

And then she runs into an old friend.

It’s light and mostly breezy–though with some real danger at times–and Jaime, of course, avoids the pay-off scene with the old friend. But he doesn’t avoid it too much. He lets it affect Maggie; the story, which is continuous, has some really solid character development for her.

Great art, fantastic visual pacing, all while sticking to that extended form Peanuts riff.

It’s a fantastic issue. Each story has very different ambitions–the enthusiasm is the closest similarity–and both Bros realize them successfully.

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