Fantagraphics; 1983; $2.95; 68 pgs; available collected.
Love and Rockets #2 has Mechanics. Mechanics is a forty-ish page story by Jaime. Maggie is in foreign Zhato on a job with Rand Race, Duke, and Gak. Gak might not even have any lines in the whole story. Most of the story–at least at the start–is text. Maggie’s letters back home to Hopey. While Hopey was her boring life waiting for the bus, she can read about Maggie fixing a rocket ship. Said rocket ship has landed next to a dinosaur.
It’s fantastical. It’s also not. Because bureaucracy. Jaime illustrates the letter, which goes all over the place. Single panels of a scene, said scene covered in the text. Sometimes seven a page. Mechanics has a deliberate, but fluid pace when Jaime’s using the letters to guide the visuals.
Then, on page five, which is “Day 12” of Maggie’s trip, Jaime goes into regular comics. For Maggie and Rand Race getting amorous. It’s sexy, it’s funny, then it’s dangerous, then it’s sweet. There’s a lot of action, with Jaime not just scaling up for the activity well, but also using the sequence to reinforce things in Maggie’s letters. It’s awesome.
It’s also where the narrative format changes. Jaime relies on regular comic storytelling. The long narration returns occasionally, usually to set up a new chapter (Mechanics has six chapters). Or Jaime will go through the letters to Hopey and check in with her and the rest of the gang for a page or two. The contrast between normal life and Maggie’s adventuring is measured and rather well-done. So far, Mechanics is a world of infinite possiblities. Rocket ships, dinosaurs, wrestling champions, and dictators too, unfortunately.
Jaime’s got a big cast for Mechanics. And he keeps introducing new characters. The new characters often end up doing more than the regular characters, even Maggie.
The time in the jungle–Zhato’s got jungles–starts wearing on everyone, leaving Maggie isolated. Rena, the former world wrestling champion turned adventurer and revolutionary, gets a flashback to herself. Maggie’s there to chronicle it.
Jaime’s presentation of the story is wondrous. Gary Groth has another column introducing the issue–I couldn’t read it, I just can’t get into the tone–and he jabbers about the story’s excellence. He’s not wrong at all. Mechanics is a masterpiece. And it’s just issue #2.
But Mechanics isn’t the only story in Love and Rockets #2. There are three more.
First up is Radio Zero, which is about a young woman named Errata Stigmata. Hopefully you’re paying attention to her name because stigmata’s going to come into play later. Not a lot, but a little. Enough you should’ve been paying attention.
Brother Mario writes, Beto draws.
Errata has this crazy bad day, with explosives, intrigue, protests, all sorts of stuff. It’s a strange story with a strange setting. It’s futuristic, it’s self-aware, it’s erratic. There’s a lot of action but Mario and Beto keep it focused on Errata, who gets thought balloons and talks to herself.
Also good, also by Mario–this time story and art–is Somewhere in California. It’s this bad luck coincidence story involving revolts against foreign powers, interdimensional exploration, and some dope dealing. It’s set in a cheap apartment complex with a big cast.
Mario (with Beto co-scripting) does a great job. It’s complicated but never too complicated. The climax is oddly ineffective, with the payoff panel being strangely underwhelming. But otherwise pretty good stuff. Mario juggles a lot and keeps it all controlled but never hampered.
The last story is Music for Monsters by Beto. It’s about Inez and Bang, who were in the previous issue. It’s a very short story–four pages–with the characters encountering killer snowmen. It’s funny, with some great art.
Both Radio and Somewhere were ten or more pages. So Music for Monsters has a lot less room. Turns out Beto can do rushed action just fine.
It’s a great comic. Mechanics alone would make it great no matter what came next. Just happens the backups are all strong too.