Fantagraphics; 1989; $2.95; 52 pgs; available collected.
Love and Rockets #30 stands out for a couple reasons. First Jaime does a retcon. He does a flash forward and a retcon, like he’d written himself into a hole and couldn’t find a way out. And also because Beto, in one chapter, turns in a layered, complex tragedy in the Luba origin and it’s the best single issue piece in the series so far. It’s ambitious as all hell and completely contained.
But first Jaime and Locas.
The story starts two years after the club (presumably the one from #24) burned down. Danita’s kid (who hasn’t appeared in ages) is a toddler now. He doesn’t know Maggie, who passes him on the street (Maggie’s wearing shoes now). And then the club–turns out Maggie hasn’t seen Daffy for two years. Daffy’s got a new group of punk friends. Penny has been in an accident, they tell Maggie, which sets off the story. Eventually, Maggie and Ray are back at Penny’s mansion, hanging out. Enter Hopey.
Hopey’s got a story, Penny’s got a story, even Ray gets a flashback to his time as a struggling artist out east. Jaime retcons a bit–fudging the Hopey timeline, establishing Maggie having a job as a copy machine repairperson (which is an all new development this story)–and it works. He’s able to bring the band back together.
There are casualties of course. Poor Ray gets a major downgrade. He gets a couple good moments. He and Tex are a funny pair. But it certainly doesn’t feel like it did a couple issues ago, when Jaime was prepping him for a leading role in the book.
There’s some great art. Jaime’s not doing the big panels, but he’s able to do some callbacks to the first Costigan mansion story from #4. Visual and narrative. All while maintaing his eight or nine panels a page and his comic strip pacing. It’s fantastic.
It’s also fun, funny, and life affirming.
So Beto’s story, continuing Luba’s origin, is a bit of a kick in the teeth. Almost literally because Luba’s adoptive father is passed out drunk on the street at the start of it. He and Luba make it down to his hometown, where his sister and her daughter, Ofelia, are there to take them in.
It immediately becomes Ofelia’s story, set in the early fifties, in South America (somewhere), where there are facists and there’s a chance for communism or maybe even socialism to take hold. And there’s a new sense of possibility and pride because of Frida–nice tie to Beto’s biography.
There’s a lot.
And Ofelia’s a mean caregiver to toddler Luba. Toddler Luba who has bowel and bladder control issues, which Beto plays–occasionally–for the closest thing the story has to comic relief.
There’s more than political commentary, there’s social commentary–there’s even this subplot about the racist comic book Ofelia uses to teach Luba to read. And then there’s Luba’s adoptive father; he still plays in.
The story is a series of vingettes, irregularly occuring as time progresses. The little moments in the little panels (Beto’s doing like seven most pages).
And then sixteen pages into the chapter’s twenty-two, Beto goes an entirely different, entirely unexpected but entirely logical, organic route and terrifies in a way nothing in Love and Rockets has ever terrified. Horrifies in a way the comic has never horrified.
Then there’s a little epilogue, setting up the next chapter, returning the story to Luba. Ofelia was just borrowing it.
It’s an astounding story. All the layers Beto works in, all the little threads, both in the narrative and the art. It’s phenomenal work. Jaime’s Hopey and Maggie reuniting doesn’t disappoint and excels, which is an admirable feat, but what Beto does with Poison River, Part Two is horrifically magical.