Love and Rockets #12 (July 1985)

Love and Rockets #12

This issue of Love and Rockets is different from the table of contents–no Mechanics, no Locas. Jaime’s doing a Rocky and Fumble and it’s in between two Palomar. And these are kind of different Palomar tales.

The first gives Tonantzin a feature. She’s been a supporting cast member since the “jump ahead,” and she might have even had a brief appearance in the first story, but now she’s front and center. Beto had made her sort of a ditz before, especially in the party issue. Not anymore. Now she’s a goddess. Kind of literally.

The story is simple, slice of life. She gets up, gets her sister, gets her assistant, goes slug hunting. The finale pulls back to give the story a narrator, who can see the characters–Tonantzin and her sister–for the goddesses they embody. It’s an awesome little strip.

And fun. It’s a fun Palomar. Will Jaime have fun with Rocky and Fumble, his fun strip?

No. He’ll do an intense, dangerous, scary action strip. Rocky and Fumble go to visit Rocky’s niece, who’s just a few years younger. The niece has outer space in her backyard. You climb the fence into outer space, go to other planets. Thanks to Rocky having Fumble, they can go into outer space. And they do. They go to another planet.

Where a crazy guy kidnaps Fumble because the guy wants to kill all robots. So Rocky has to find people to help her rescue Fumble. Very, very intense stuff.

And then there’s an emotionally devastating hard cliffhanger, which incorporates the reality of Rocky and Fumble with its fantastical elements. Serious stuff. Maybe a little too serious. Jaime apparently wasn’t satisified making everyone worry about Maggie, time to worry about Rocky and Fumble too.

Then comes Beto’s second Palomar story. It’s all about Heraclio and Luba. Now, they met in the first Palomar story and this one–in a flashback in the flashback–revises the original relationship between the two characters. It’s a comedy strip, taking all the serious stuff Beto has been looking at, and presenting it slice of life and comedy.

Kind of exactly what he should’ve done to make the party in issue ten work, but whatever. He’s on point here. However, he’s so on point it’s a somewhat less exciting success than his first story this issue. Beto’s not going new places, he’s going familiar places and figuring out how to package them to reveal new things. Heraclio and the guys on the town, for instance, was introduced in the Heraclio and the guys story a few issues ago. The guys and their current situations informs the flashback. The first layer flashback. Beto likes doing the flashback in the flashback, particularly because it lets him get his third person Palomar narration on.

The composition styles are a little different too. The first one is more ambitious with composition and the physical comedy. The second one is more traditional. At least traditional for Beto. Some gorgeous stuff too.

Jaime’s art is something else too. He’s doing action in a way he’s never done before in Rockets, with sometimes silly looking characters. Not just sci-fi looking, but silly looking. As always, he stays focused on the story as it plays through Rocky’s expressions. The strip is about her character development through these fantastic adventures, or at least fantastic looking adventures, and Jaime makes sure the reader can track her expressions.

Killer cliffhanger on it though.

So, different–Jaime going serious in a usually light strip, Beto going light in his more serious strip. So good too.

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Monster (2016)

Monster

Monster is a strange comic. It’s British, was serialized weekly, running a couple years in a couple different comics magazines–Scream then Eagle–and there’s a very British comics storytelling sensibility to it. There’s also the reality of a weekly four-to-five page chapter and how doing recap–doing some really effecient recap too, using repetitive dialogue to force events into memory. It’s also about a kid who discovers his deformed “monster” of an uncle locked in the attic and has to take care of him. But it’s still a little strange on its own.

First, because it never becomes a morality tale. Second, because the twelve year-old kid goes from being a protagonist to the subject of the adults’ attention. Cops, doctors, lawyers, social workers, all talking down to the kid. Because the kid thinks his uncle shouldn’t be hunted down like a monster.

It takes a long, long time before the kid even gets one adult to agree. The writers–and especially the artist–aren’t really interested in making the uncle a comfortable presence. He’s always extremely dangerous.

Alan Moore writes the first installment. Not sure his name deserves top-billing; I get it from a marketing standpoint, but seriously… four pages? He wrote four pages on Monster. Most of the writing is John Wagner writing solo, but there’s also some with he and Alan Grant sharing duties. They take a single pseudonym, Rick Clark. Wagner continues using it alone. Wagner’s workman. He’s good workman. But the writing isn’t the draw on Monster (though, when the book seems like it’s going to be a riff on Frankenstein, maybe it could’ve been).

The draw of the book is the art. Jesus Redondo black and white horror art. It’s magical. The first strip has a different artist, Heinzl, who’s got some great gothic detail going but Redondo makes it into a gothic horror action comic. He definitely does the Frankenstein riffing, even if the writing doesn’t keep it up.

Because eventually the kid–Kenny–stops being the protagonist. And the protagonist becomes the uncle, Terry, who’s never going to stop killing people even though Kenny tells him not to kill anyone ever again and Terry promises. Terry always promises, but then Terry gets mad. And, really, it’s nearly always self defense. Or defending Kenny. There’s the occasional rage attack, but by the end of the book, Terry’s fairly in check.

Because Terry gets all the character development. He doesn’t really realize it because he’s three, but he goes from being confined to an attic for thirty-two years-old to traveling the British countryside, Scotland, Australia, whatever else. There’s definite development. There’s also the constant danger, constant threat.

The book has three text stories from a later Scream series where Terry is basically a hero. Clearly, over the run of the strip, there were some changes made to the trajectory.

Even with every fifth page effectively being a repeat of the previous page, Monster is a good read. Kenny’s not the best lead, because Wagner and Grant have zero interest in writing a kid, but Terry’s great.

And the art. The gorgeous, beautiful, haunting, horrific, glorious art.

Not quite the “Alan Moore’s Monster” I was expecting, however.

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