Fantagraphics; 1990; $2.50; 36 pgs; available collected.
In all… Love and Rockets #34 is the least successful issue of the comic book so far. It’s still a good comic. With great art. But as far as what Los Bros do and get done? It’s distracted and erratic.
Or just downright problematic. The first story, Beto’s Poison River installment, jumps all over the place as Peter’s boss has to have him investigated as a leftist to keep their government connections happy. Drug trade and all. Eventually it turns out to be a scheme from Peter’s former bandmates and his baby mama (principally baby mama) to get him in trouble for being a commie. Only Peter’s not going to be the one investigated, Luba and his father are going to be investigated.
Last chapter ended with Peter going to get his father. This chapter has his father around, but without any dialogue from him. Luba’s busy getting high–presumably on heroin, shooting between her toes–with a couple other bored young housewives. One of her friends wants into the locked diary Luba’s mother left her, which is pretty much the only attachment to the original Poison River. Beto’s gotten side-tracked with Peter and the club and especially scheming Blas, the former bandmate who wants into the drug business and is trying to seduce Peter’s boss to accomplish it. Luckily, Peter’s boss just thinks Blas is a boy toy, not management potential. Or not luckily, since it’ll probably mean he likes the whole framing Peter as a communist thing.
After seven pages of jumping around, location and time, Beto ends with a “reveal,” which is possibly… the most problematic thing in any of his strips so far. Peter’s club–his dancers–are all transgender. It’s the club’s theme, which Beto has been hiding until this point. Given Peter’s stomach fetish and all the other sexual hints in the last couple issues… Beto’s on some kind of icky, exploitative ground here. Or at least he stands next to that ground. The cheap “reveal” is icky enough on its own. We’ll see.
Then comes Jaime’s Hoppers–though no one calls it Hoppers–story. It’s Doyle’s birthday and he’s headed into get a breakfast from sort of girlfriend Lily. He’s not living with Lily right now, instead preferring to be homeless and in a camp with some other guys, which is a whole other thing. Lily’s forgotten because she’s teaching Danita to dance; it’s Danita’s first night stripping. Meanwhile, Itsuki and Daffy keep hearing how Maggie’s back in town, mostly from Nami, Daffy’s sister. Nami will be important later. Doyle hooks up with Ray, who’s almost evicted, and they both need showers.
Eventually the story gets to the strip club and then to Daffy’s house so Doyle can reject sixteen year-old Nami, kicking off a fight scene in the finale, and all around. Jaime jumps between Lily and Danita, Doyle, Ray, Daffy….
And Hopey. Because Hopey’s stayed out east and now she’s crashing with one of her friends (romantically) causing all sorts of trouble in the local art scene. There’s a little about why Maggie left, but really just a retread of what happened last installment. It’s all over the place. And… good for Jaime, he can do it? He can do a nineteen page story with probably twenty-five speaking parts? It’s competently executed but far from ambitious. There’s also a lot of avoidance; he’s contriving events to delay.
Some great art, of course.
Then is the Love and Rockets installment, which is five pages and the defacto greatest success. It’s too short and Beto’s trying to keep subplots going while focusing on Steve heading to the party with Junior Brooks and the other two Black guys. Presumably they’ll run into the neo-nazis who assaulted an elderly Black woman at the swank Hollywood party. This issue focuses on Steve’s homelife and his complicated history as an anti-racist skinhead punk in the early eighties versus what’s become of skinheads since.
It’s pretty intense actually. Steve’s turned out to be a far better character than expected.
But it’s still a far from wholly successful entry. It’s too short.
The issue spins its wheels and shows off Los Bros’s abilities, but without any forward momentum. It’s hard to think of a Love and Rockets being by rote but #34 is as close as the book’s ever come to this point.
And Poison River is in dangerously cringey territory.