Angola Janga

Ang2

Angola Janga is historical fiction. It falls victim to a few of the genre’s main pitfalls. Cartoonist Marcelo D'Salete has done his research, he knows all the facts. And he moves within them. With the single exception of flashing forward to modern-day, urban Brazil (which turns out to be a bad move), D’Salete does it all straight. He stays within those fact lines. And Janga suffers for it.

Also, it suffers from the translation’s subtle Kingdom of Runaway Slaves. The actual translation of the original subtitle would be something like A History of Palmares. Now, maybe Fantagraphics is thinking American audiences won’t know Palmares—it’s a quilombo or a settlement of escaped slaves in 17th century Brazil. Palmares lasted eighty-nine years before the Portuguese destroyed it.

D’Salete doesn’t do a great job, in the comic, of laying out Palmares or the kingdom. The supporting cast isn’t interchangeable because there’s not really a supporting cast. Not of the escaped slaves. There’s a bunch of Portuguese supporting players, but it’s a core group of African survivors.

The comic starts in 1673. Palmares started in 1605. So D'Salete is skipping a lot of the formative stuff, because it’s not about the formative stuff. It’s not really a “History” of Palmares. Not like you’d know anything more about the historical facts. D’Salete, as an artist, also isn’t big on aging his cast, so they never feel like living people. And D’Salete’s got a great essay about the history. Mixing text and comics might be the better way of conveying the story. Though Angola Janga’s story also falls victim to that other big historical fiction pitfall… the wrong protagonist. D’Salete picks the wrong guy to follow, even though the whole thing is structured to follow this guy. He lacks personality, even as D’Salete keeps throwing him curveballs, the protagonist never reacts in an interesting way. Meanwhile all the Portuguese get great characterizations—with a single exception, they’re all exceptionally bad people—D’Salete gives them a lot of personality. But the actual good guys, D’Salete tries to humanize them through their faults. It’s very weird.

Again, D’Salete’s sticking to the facts and his cast are historical figures but… he’s got no insight into them. Hence why a more mixed media approach might sit better. Especially given there are leaps ahead in time between every chapter and no time spent connecting to the previous one’s cliffhanger or finish.

Art-wise, D’Salete’s fine. He’s best, both in art and writing, when doing the battle sequences. They’re incredible and make you wish he just did a war comic out of it instead of the story of the settlement’s downfall. The history is full of doubt, cowardice, and betrayal. D’Salete never makes it feel melodramatic but he also never makes it compelling.

It ought to at least be compelling. The battle stuff is phenomenal; compelling. The rest is obviously interesting, but not interesting in its execution.

More Formal Comics: Kevin Huizenga

Ganges #5Ganges #5; Fantagraphics; 2016; $8, 32 pgs; in print.
Ganges #6; Fielder Media; 2017; $8, 36 pgs; in print.
Fielder #1; Drawn & Quarterly; 2017; $8, 36 pgs; in print.

As far as results in mainstream comics go, entertainment is the number one priority, generally. But what if a creator(s) wanted to add something else to the mix? More extraneous content, such as a secondary, or plural purpose behind their intentions? Formal comics, as I call them, take into account a creator’s desire to go beyond simple entertainment. Such as adding a “profound” point, or perhaps displaying further inclusions into the author’s mind. Perhaps, dare I say it, comics providing an additional level of sensory experience?

Kevin Huizenga, what one could label a contemporary formal cartoonist, has been working for a number of years now, eschewing powerful fictional leads and situations, and produced some truly thought provoking work, with a talent that still entertains, yet seeks to provide another layer of humanism to the mix.

Initially in self produced “fanzine” formatted mini comics, Kevin has explored subtle questions about a variety of personal interests, pushing the expectations of comics in a uniquely different direction, while simultaneously giving himself aesthetic challenges to what comics depict, as well as attempt to reveal questions that puzzle him and provide impetus to produce comics, and test the mettle of his act of creation.

These examinations look toward the real and the imagined, the easily visible and experienced, as well as the realm of unreality itself. Whether it be a more traditional biographical approach, incorporating the side tracks and inroads towards non visceral, imagined, and theoretical reality as well.

His narrative approach, while seeming scattershot at times, reveals an artist that loves tangents, forks in the road as it were, to explore and develop as he goes along and discovers them, all the while keeping a touch of narrative approach to keep the reader on board. These little pamphlets have the physical ability to be both charming, intellectual, yet never entirely give up on the basic goal of comics themselves: to keep the reader reading, take them on a journey, and prove to them its an interesting journey in and of itself.

Now this approach can be fortuitous with success, or a disaster that leaves the reader lost, whirling in an undefined haze that ditches the needs of the reader for an egotistical self navel gazing mess that no one but the creator is interested in. For every rare successor, there are countless others that have left the witness behind in a surreal dimension that is neither interesting and fails utterly to come close to entertainment.

Yet, Huizenga’s craft level does this, submerging his personal context to keep the oddball topics accessible and even provoking. This is even reflected in his artwork that continues this approach, sublimating any type of recognizable style of rendering for a simple, basic, shape based set of visual icons that doesn’t bombard the reader with fancy visual tricks. It almost could be categorized as a non art type of visual, leaving no overt personality to interfere with the ideas he’s exploring.

Ganges #6

Such mundane topics as cohabitation, video games, sleep disorders, as well as fascinations with historical figures and events are all delivered with an almost generic method of depiction, yet the effect of page layout on the way your eye travels across the page are all done with the utmost care during this process, each with its own set of visual cues that the witness can grasp, and have fun with on this journey.

We comic readers generally all have this “stack” of unread comics we’ve accumulated yet not read, and when I recently purchased a copy of Huizenga’s Ganges #6, and discovered I had a copy of issue #5, they both fell into a two issue examination of the life and experiences of protagonist Glenn Ganges, a character I assume is a metaphor for Huizenga himself. Shortly after, I came across his newest comic, Fielder, that nicely rounds out a good reading challenge.

Ganges #5 explores many domestic topics including his relationship with Wendy, Glenn’s wife(?), their shared careers in creative art, the interaction of family members during a funeral that winds up with feelings of misplaced guilt that pretty much anyone could relate to. All of these topics work within the 12 page story, and despite its all over the place approach, comes off as linear and relaxed. The second, which begins as an overview of James Hutton, the originator(?) of modern geological theory, segues into an existential treatise on the passage of time, and how perception can completely turn around your view in an instant, all the while keeping its narrative focus and avoid being a didactical mess. It’s rounded out by a few pages of short bursts, comprised of little questions thrown at the reader to puzzle and explore.

Ganges #6 significantly ups the ante, utilizing almost the entire issue depicting reflections of Glenn’s perception of reality, seamlessly integrating a more complex set of visual tactics, dense packed with as many things as the brain can handle, yet it still comes off as a structured narrative, with as good a conclusion as we can produce in our own real time. All this and accomplishing a developed set of visual devices while still maintaining a non personal, simple drawing style that keeps the focus on its proceedings. Ganges #6 would have to be one of the more complex comic books I have ever read, yet keeps its identity as an accessible, entertaining exercise in its own right. Incredible.

Fielder #1

Fielder #1, the most recent, entertains, yet provides a half book length exploration this time putting forth his formal recreation of an abysmal third rate 60’s style adventure comic, breaking it down into pieces to examine its elements, and displaying their strengths and weaknesses for us to contemplate. The final set of short stories, one featuring Glenn Ganges and an overview of the mixing of sleeping and waking perceptions, features little reference to personal life pretty much entirely, and another more abstract video game interpretation of creation(?) round it out, except for the final tale, an unmistakable auto biographical foray in to Ganges life as an artist, takes a 180 degree turn as it is realistic, and cannot be confused with anything other than a mature cartoonist at the crossroads of his career and life. It comes off as somewhat melancholy, and discusses in length developments in his drawn work, and is purposely I believe depicted in as personal and realistic(?) manner as Huizenga has ever shown. While troubling, it may signify an end(?) to his previous approach, and sadly to this reader, an unknown sense of whether we’ll see him again. Nonetheless, Fielder #1 remains a solid example of what has come so far, and I really want to see what comes next for this impassioned, thought provoking artist that many can relate to, and of course, enjoy. I also noticed that the time it took me to read these three 32 page comics was just about 2 hours total. Try getting that much experience from three issues of the X-Men.

While Huizenga is not a simple read, he pays great dividends to the comic readers that will appreciate a road less traveled, as well as one that transcends typical storytelling methods for a greater reward, and perhaps an expanded view of what comics can be and achieve.

Wait, I don’t get the title: Colleen Coover’s Small Favors

I have no idea how I’m going to talk about Small Favors; it’s my first “erotic” comic. Possibly ever. (The first edition of Lost Girls is sitting on my shelf, still unread).

The collection’s subtitle is “The Definitive Girly Porno Collection.” I’m just worried what kind of SEO I’m going to get from frequent usages of the phrase “Girly Porno.”

So. We’ll see how this post goes.

The collection—three years of short stories, plus sketches, plus at least one new story—starts with compulsive masturbator Annie (set off by her fetching neighbor) getting in trouble for her lack of conscience. So she gets assigned on in the form of Nibbil. Nibbil’s probably the size of an action figure. And Annie seduces her before they even get back to the real world from the magical sexy land. Sexy but no sex. Annie’s got too much of the sex is the whole point.

After the setup, each strip is basically Annie and Nibbil being adorable and then having sex. Eventually they make a girl friend—every character in Small Favors is a woman, which becomes apparent after Nibbil reveals to Annie she can grow to human-size (instantaneously, which writer and artist Colleen Coover uses imaginatively)—and have adventures with her. Though their adventures tend to all go the same way. Adorable setup at the beginning of the strip, then sex.

There’s some tension involving a bean counter out to confirm Nibbil’s doing her job in keeping Annie’s sex addiction under control and another subplot involving the girl friend trying to find love. But mostly it’s just explicit and very positively portrayed sex.

Coover’s Good Girl art is fantastic. All but one of the strips are in black and white, with Coover occasionally trying a little bit different of a style. The color entry is fantastic; color adds a whole new dimension to Favors. Not the sexy time, but the narrative stuff. Well, probably the sexy time stuff too but the big surprise is how lush the Coover intends the world. The strip’s positivity doesn’t start and end with its constant hay-rolling.

I’m now getting into euphemism territory so it’s time to wrap up; Small Favors is precious and quite exquisitely executed.

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.

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.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: