Love and Rockets #21 (July 1987)

Love and Rockets #21

Fantagraphics; 1987; $2.25; 36 pgs; available collected.

I misunderstood last issue when the letter page said it was the last Heartbreak Soup story for a while. It might have been the last Heartbreak Soup but not the last Palomar. Palomar is going strong, with a very creepy–while still very funny at times–story about a serial killer coming to town as Archie proposes (again) to Luba. There’s also a bunch of back story on her kids. Other plot points include Carmen, Pipo, and Diana worrying abut Tonantzin’s fear of invasion, as well as the introduction of Alcalde… the mayor. Who knew Palomar had a mayor.

Beto moves between the characters, focusing mostly on Luba, before wandering from person to person. Heraclio inadvertantly claims his (unknown to him) daughter with Luba as his own, leading to a scene at Luba’s, which introduces the workers outside town. One of them is the serial killer, one of them is the man Luba can’t resist (and father of two of her children), one is Ofelia’s love interest. Kind of cool for Ofelia to finally get a love interest.

Meanwhile, Beto has the creepy monkeys–all silhouette except pointy teeth–making “chit chit chit” noises to raise the tension. Plus, one of Luba’s kids won’t stop making the noise. Creepy, romantic, funny. It’s an awesome story.

Beto’s also got a one pager opening the issue, Bala. A guy runs at the glass wall of the third wall. It’s visual, it’s funny, it’s the first time he’s had anything but Palomar in a while.

Jaime’s got two stories. First is Jerusalem Crickets, which is a quickie–seven pages–about Hopey and the band on tour. Turns out Hopey’s scared to call Maggie, who was originally supposed to go with but then they cut out on her. Jaime remembers Maggie’s a mechanic again so it’s so unclear why she had that dude she worked with fix her car a few issues ago.

It’s a fun story, especially since the bandmates have barely figured into any of the Locas stories. They’ve been present, but rarely active. Terry’s a whole lot more likable here than ever before. Things aren’t going well on the road. Jaime’s got some great single, wide panels of their shows.

Meanwhile, back in Hoppers–and after Beto’s Palomar story–Maggie’s dealing with her sister, Esther, moving to town on weekends. There’s a misunderstood love square with Maggie, Speedy (who Maggie kind of liked and who kind of liked Maggie), Esther (who likes Speedy and who Speedy now likes), and Ray (who likes Maggie but thinks she’s dating Speedy).

Alongside that story, which Jaime plays a little for laughs, a little not (Maggie is rather conflicted about her feelings, Speedy is a manipulative monster of a dude), is the Dairytown gang driving through and raising the possiblity of violence. Ray–back in town so giving the reader an entry perspective–reflects on what he sees, which lets Jaime get away with quite a bit of exposition.

Jaime uses comedic comic strip techniques on serious subjects and vice versa; it works out beautifully.

Both Bros Hernandez seem a lot less interested in being likable–if Beto was ever interested in it, but Jaime certainly made his cast likable at the start–and more confident in their storytelling. Jaime’s art for the stories this issue don’t have the big art emphasis–literally big, like big panels, where he used to let loose. He’s got a single big panel, everything else is eight panel pages, in three rows–and he lets loose in those, confidently using silhouette for mood and abbreviation, ditto expressions.

It’s a great issue. Of course it is.

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Love and Rockets #20 (April 1987)

Love and Rockets #20

Fantagraphics; 1987; $2.25; 36 pgs; available collected.

I’m getting my Carmen story. I knew I was getting my Carmen story last issue because the “next issue” thing said, it’s time for the long-awaited Carmen and Heraclio story. So apparently reading the book thirty years ago, people had the same anticipation for a Carmen story. Shame it’s not a Carmen story.

It’s a Heraclio story. And it’s good. It’s dense. It’s Heraclio’s history of Palomar, basically covering everything occuring in Beto’s Palomar stories since Love and Rockets started, but it’s not Carmen’s story. She’s the subject of it–Heraclio relates his love for Carmen. He thought she was a funny little tween in the first Palomar two-parter, just like everyone else, but she was the protagonist and narrator of that story. Since then Beto’s pulled way back and changed the angle on the stories. Even though occasionally it seems like she still might be the narrator, just more removed.

So it’s dense. Like twelve panels on most pages, starting with Heraclio moving to town and then retelling everything from his perspective. It’s pretty much as expected, since Beto hasn’t ignored Heraclio stories in the new Palomar time frame, but there are some surprises. Like why Israel is really staying away from Palomar and Heraclio having a history of getting shit-faced and bothering Luba about her deflowering him as a teenager. But nothing about how maybe one of her kids is his. It’s all in summary and even with some great expressive art, which implies a lot about Carmen’s present-day antics, she’s still a mystery. There’s one word balloon in the story and it’s not her’s. It’s not even Heraclio’s.

It’s a lovely, successful story. It’s just not a Carmen story. Arguably it isn’t even a Heraclio story. It’s the story of Palomar from Heraclio’s perspective. Beto’s narrative summarizing work on it is phenomenal. And the art is precise and precious. Not a lot of room with twelve panels a page; his composition is always just right.

That story is actually the second in the issue. It’s just, you know, I’ve been waiting for it for fifteen issues.

Anyway. The first story is Jaime’s. It’s a Locas, about Maggie without Hopey. Not just not living with Hopey, but after Hopey and her band has gone on tour. Jaime introduces a lot of new characters while cementing the new supporting cast (basically, bye, Penny). Maggie’s mom makes an appearance as does a younger sister, Esther. Speedy’s back, but only for long enough to foreshadow some trouble ahead with Esther and him.

Izzy smiles. It’s kind of trippy. Daffy’s back for a page or two and it seems like Doyle’s going to be big in the supporting cast. Or at least he’s going to be around more.

Maggie spends the day with Danita, who she worked with before both girls quit their jobs. They bond, with Maggie sort of giving Danita a tour of she and Hopey’s regular stomping grounds. And Danita asks about Maggie and Hopey, which leads to some real talk from Maggie.

Jaime juxtaposes in flashbacks, visually toggling between past and present, with some relationship development. Hopey’s not in the present but she’s always present.

Of course, the whole thing is about Ray Dominguez coming back to town. Maggie liked him in high school. He knows Doyle, he knows Maggie’s family, he’s in the flashback. It’s an interesting introduction because Ray gets thought balloons, something the supporting cast usually doesn’t get in Locas. If ever.

It’s an excellent story, lots of great art, beautiful pacing from Jaime on the story. Some great scenes and tough moments as Maggie settles into her new normal. Beto’s got the Heartbreak Soup label for his Palomar stories, but Locas this issue reverberates with Maggie’s missing Hopey. It’s great.

Love and Rockets #19 (January 1987)

Love and Rockets #19

Fantagraphics; 1987; $2.25; 36 pgs; available collected.

Most of this issue of Love and Rockets is Beto’s. Jaime has three stories, but none of them are long ones. The Locas story, which starts the issue, is six pages. It’s mostly a flashback story, framed in the present with Hopey and Terry talking reminiscing. Though reminiscing has some positive connotations and there probably aren’t any of those for Terry.

The flashback is to when Hopey and Maggie become friends, set after they first meet, which Jaime covered at some point earlier. Hopey’s still got her shaved head and she’s best buds with Terry. Terry, who has the same haircut in the flashback Hopey has now. One of Jaime’s more subtle details. And Terry and Hopey are together together, not maybe or sometimes together like Hopey and Maggie.

It’s a mostly funny, quick Hopey story. Maggie’s very different. Some great silhouettes from Jaime and a mix of more comic strip humor pacing and, what I imagine, a romance comic would look like. The flashback is to when Maggie’s still living with her aunt (the first time). Also: Jaime remembers Maggie’s a mechanic in the flashback. So fingers crossed it was a fluke she wasn’t in the last issue (or the one before).

And then the end frame is a one panel joke about Maggie’s life with her aunt now.

But there’s also another flashback; four panels with Hopey waking Maggie up to bother her. It’s kind of funny but mostly cute.

And then comes the Palomar story. And wow, the Palomar story. Israel’s story. Not set in Palomar, except in flashback. The flashback reveals Israel had a twin sister who literally disappeared during an eclipse, which haunts him throughout his life. The flashback also establishes Pipo was friends–as a kid–with the boys. Also establishes basically every tween boy in Palomar lost their virginity with Tonantzin.

Anyway. The present. The present is Israel living in the city, a bisexual gigolio, living off “the old man.” Of course, Israel steps out on the old man to find his pot–weed is very serious (a little too serious)–and hook up with a lady friend. Beto then reintroduces Marcos, who was in prison with Jesus. Jesus never makes an appearance (outside the cast list at the beginning), but there’s some exposition about him.

See, Israel is on some kind of quest, off to the town of Olympus, which is kind of a surburban atmosphere but it’s unclear. There he visits Pipo, who’s having problems with Gato (but not the problems Beto implied earlier in that picnic story, in fact, he directly walks back Gato being physically abusive).

Then it’s off to see Satch, who turns out to be physically abusive to his wife (after the initial implication he’s not). In the one page with Satch, Beto follows up on that Vicente story from last issue (or whenever) with he and the roommate being out of work. The roommate’s name is Saturino, which never got mentioned in the story and the table of contents said it was Jesus. So. At least he gets a name. But they’ve gone off to the States to look for work.

Then Israel meets up with Tonantzin–by chance at a party–and there’s the flashback after they get it on. Of course, Israel is actually at the party because he’s talking to a psychic about his sister. So he loses it after he and Tonantzin hook up. Then Israel’s got an encounter with an ex-boyfriend, then with Gato, and finally he’s shacked up with an old lady. Carrying on with a dude on the side. Flip flop, flip flop.

It’s a lot. Israel’s never had this much material on his own before, so Beto’s not just establishing his whole life, there’s also the catch-up to the other residents of Palomar who’ve left Palomar. It’s a little bit like that Vincente and Saturino story but without the first person narration. Because it’s all framed around Israel’s sadness over losing his sister and the mystery of it.

It’s a fantastic twenty pages of comics.

Then come Jaime’s two final stories. First is a two-pager about migrant workers. Speedy makes a cameo, but otherwise it’s just all new characters. They’re worried about getting busted by immigration. Lots of silhouette, some gentle humor, but it seems like the strip has to be setup for something more later. Or I’m just remember when I read the Locas collection a decade ago.

Then it’s a two page Rena story, set after she and Bernie Carbo hooked up, while Bernie still flew with Duke. It’s mostly laughs, but some great art–and anti-silhouette, the ship is crashed in the snow–and it’s nice to see Rena and Bernie.

The Jaime stories are fine. The two-pagers feel a little like filler, the Locas flashback is nice, but it’s Beto’s issue. The Israel story is phenomenal.

Love and Rockets #18 (September 1986)

Love and Rockets #18

Fantagraphics; 1986; $2.25; 36 pgs; available collected.

The issue opens with the second part of Beto’s Palomar story. Luba is still stuck in a hole, daughter Guadalupe still hasn’t told anyone (or gotten her mom any food), the bruja has brought a plague to town–her baby’s skull is missing–and sheriff Chelo is down for the count. So Chelo enlists Tonantzin as a deputy.

There are three plotlines: Tonantzin and Guadalupe get the big ones, Chelo gets the third. Because Chelo comes in late–to save the day–while Tonantzin is getting radicalized by a guy out to kill Chelo for killing his brother (last issue). Guadalupe catches the bruja sickness and starts hallucinating while out trying to save Luba from drowning; there’s going to be a major storm.

Lots happens, including a cameo from Errata Stigmata (in Guadalupe’s fever dream). Beto also brings back the original Luba–from the first issue of Love and Rockets–to terrorize Guadalupe. It’s intense. Meanwhile Tonantzin’s pal ends up getting more and more dangerous, including to her, and Chelo’s just trying to get the bruja out of town.

Beto paces it for humor after a while. He starts with it being dangerous and, frankly, gross (everyone’s got brusing on their faces from the bruja’s plague). It never loses either of those traits, Beto just brings in the humor eventually. Because Guadalupe is fun. Tonantzin is fun. He puts off embracing it until the last possible moment.

Then he ends it on this ominous, sad, desperate note. Only to do a final page of nine panels showcasing life in Palomar after the plague and the troubles it brought its cast. It’s an excellent comic. And completely different than the first part of the story. Beto’s visual pacing is different, how he lays out the town–visually presents it for the reader to track the action through it–is different. Probably because the streets are mostly empty due to plague and storms.

Locas gets the second half of the issue. A lot happens, including the return of Penny Century, who’s no longer the fun loving pal from earlier issues but now a slightly despondent trophy wife. And she’s dyed her hair.

Jaime also confirms Hopey and Maggie are occasional lovers. He also seems to forget Maggie is (or was) a mechanic. At her new job, her car breaks down and her dude coworker has to fix it for her. The Penny thing is a little strange, because she used to get her own strips and now she’s uncool. Maggie and Hopey getting it on is fine. Not sure why the confirmation is coming here, maybe because Maggie’s moving in with her aunt for a while. But the mechanic thing? It’s bothersome. Really bothersome.

Because it’s not even like Maggie just lets the guy do it. She actually appears to have forgotten her mechanic skills.

The story itself is Maggie and Hopey moving into Terry’s. Their moving day and all the things they have to do; it’s a direct sequel to the previous issue’s entry, with Hopey profusely apologizing to Terry happening off-page.

After twelve pages of Hopey and Maggie getting through the day, which includes a wake, a trip to the guitar shop (bringing further revelations about Hopey’s band), a second appearance from Doyle (who’s got a truck and is helping move), and some Izzy insight too. Jaime does a whole lot.

He’s established an excellent overall pace to the recent Locas strips. They’re slice of life but dramatic and revelatory. There’s not as much ambitious art–no full page silhouette pages, for example–but Jaime keeps busy integrating all those ambitions into the panels. Anything with a shadow is all shadow. It makes everything real sharp, including the humor panels.

Hopefully Maggie remembers she knows how to mechanic soon, because it’s the only concerning thing. Otherwise, awesome. Even when–particularly when–it’s slightly uncomfortable or unpleasant.

Love and Rockets #17 (June 1986)

Love and Rockets #17

Fantagraphics; 1986; $2.25; 36 pgs; available collected.

Love and Rockets #17 starts off with a Locas but split between Hopey and her brother, Joey, who’s been in the comic before but I don’t know if it was established he was Hopey’s brother. This issue is where a bunch of supporting characters start shit-mouthing Maggie (behind her back) about gaining weight. I remember this era from when I read the Locas collection. It makes for a lot of unpleasant (and unsympathetic) characters.

I hope the Tony kid gets hit by a bus. Ditto Terry, to be honest.

The strip–running ten pages–is a masterpiece. Joey is questing for his record. He goes all around town, eventually getting to Hopey. She, Maggie, and Izzy all have to be out of Izzy’s house the next day. Not sure it was established to be a rental, but whatever. So Izzy and Hopey are packing while Maggie is tired. Maggie doesn’t have a single line the whole strip. She’s too tired. Jaime uses Hopey yelling at her for not helping as a jump cut system. It’s an awesome move.

The story takes place over an afternoon, introduces some possibly interesting new characters–and gives Daffy some page time–and ends with this lyrical mood. Jaime gets to use his silhouettes, he gets to do a lot of comic strip style–particularly for Joey–he gets to do like three or four layered plot lines. It’s a masterful ten pages of comics.

Then comes Beto’s Palomar side story. It’s set in the city about Vincente and his roommate. I don’t think the roommate has a name; the table of contents identify him as “Jesus” but it’s a typo. Four pages, lots and lots of first person narration, all great, about Vincente and the roommate trying to find work. There’s action, comedy, romance, joy. It’s a beautiful strip with a great tone. It doesn’t feel like Palomar because it’s not. It’s the city. But it’s also Beto combining styles; it’s like his non-fiction riff strips, just with the Palomar connection.

Next is what seems to be the last Rocky and Fumble. It’s a great strip, straight to the jugular from Jaime, who’s apparently done with the series. It’s particularly harsh because it begs a sequel.

Then comes another Palomar. It’s a two-parter this time, with Beto doing this awesome, flowing narrative about… well, let’s see. Chelo fatally apprehending a murderer. Luba being stuck in a hole and her kids trying to get her food but not help because Luba’s embarrassed. There’s a complication with everything, like a short scene with Gato and Pipo after the funeral (it was Gato’s brother). Ofelia is sick and sleeping, which fouls up Luba’s plans for food. Then there’s a hunt for food, with a Tontazin appearance. Then some kids playing when a bruja (witch) comes to town.

And Chelo’s banging one of her misdemeanor offenders while the deputies are away.

Then the whole bruja thing with Chelo. It’s a crazy lot of stuff. Kind of a comedy of errors but more situtions. Beto speeds it up, slows it down, it’s fantastic. Maybe better than the earlier story, but so entirely differently told it’s hard to say. It’s also a two-parter, ending on an incredibly unnerving cliffhanger.

So, great issue of Love and Rockets. Tony’s a dick. Rocky and Fumble shouldn’t have ended. It’s an exceptional comic book.

Love and Rockets #16 (March 1986)

Love and Rockets #16

Fantagraphics; 1986; $2.25; 36 pgs; available collected.

I finally get my Carmen issue. Only not really.

Carmen and Heraclio do get the cover, but the story ends up sticking more with him. It’s a slice of life bit, with Beto exploring their married day-to-day.

Before I forget–the giant statue head makes another appearance on the outskirts of town–it’s interesting how Beto is visually incorporating it without ever making it part of the story.

So Carmen is mad at Heraclio because he reads for pleasure and Carmen doesn’t. He had to teach her after all. Then Beto sticks with Heraclio and his work day, where he has a fetching female coworker who also reads for pleasure (and gives him a ride home). Then Heraclio defends Luba to Carmen in front of Tontazin, resulting in Carmen kicking Heraclio out. He gets drunk and ends up on Luba’s couch, with Beto going into their history.

It’s a good story and really sweet at times, but it’s still not the freaking Carmen story. Just one Carmen story. I don’t get it.

And then Jaime’s got a really serious Rena, Maggie, and Vicki story. Rena’s back to wrestling–so it’s the “newest” story in the Locas universe. Maggie is going to see her fight, Vicki’s also fighting that night. There’s a lot of history drug up by both fighters, with Maggie in the middle.

Then there’s backstory for Rena–revelatory backstory details, actually, which change her in Maggie’s estimation as well as the reader’s. Not so sure about that move. Jaime’s very confident, which is great–Izzy and Hopey appear in a cameo, so do Tontazin and Vincente from Palomar (Maggie guested in this issue’s story too–the crossovers are single panels, outside the story). It’s ambitious, it’s beautifully realized, it’s a little too much.

It’s a thirteen page story and it’s basically all just to do a reveal on Rena. It ends on the big reveal. It’s perfectly well-done, but mercenary. Jaime never lets loose. Rena and Maggie are too big to share a story in this way.

Then Beto’s got a great three and a half page “true story” wrestling strip. It’s fun and strange. Beto’s real life stories are always a little strange because they don’t fit with the Palomar tone.

And then Jaime finishes the book with a half page, eight panel strip about dinosaurs. Sitcom comic strip stuff. It’s fine. But it’s kind of unexpected. After the finished quality of both features, Los Bros end on a “fun filler” note. It’s good and it’s fine and all but then you remember that Rena story wasn’t as good as it should’ve been.

This issue–#16–might be the least interesting in the series so far. It’s still outstanding and expert, but it’s also within existing constraints. Beto and Jaime’s ambitions here are familiar ones. They accomplish them, but they’ve accomblished the same things before.

Love and Rockets #15 (January 1986)

Love and Rockets #15

Fantagraphics; 1986; $2.25; 36 pgs; available collected.

It’s a dark Love and Rockets. It’s also a light issue, but then it’ll get dark. It does go from dark to light once, but not enough to not make the issue real heavy.

Jaime starts with Locas. He starts it at the beach. Can’t get much brighter than the beach, even with Hopey and Izzy crashing and ruining the fun. Jaime plays it all for humor, even as it turns into Maggie on an impromptu mechanic call. Hopey and Maggie get a whole page to talk and it’s a great sequence. Masterful pacing from Jaime.

From there, it’s Hopey to her band practice, which doesn’t go well, and Maggie off to play with boys. The issue ends with Terry confronting Hopey over her relationship with Maggie and Maggie’s latest suitor getting teased for liking her. It’s all beautifully done–with Jaime using a real comic strip pacing to the transitions–and kind of dark and despondent. Like it’s a fun installment and all, but it’s not a happy one.

Then Beto ups the ante by a gazillion in Palomar. Jesus in prison. Some giant egg-looking clay prison on an island. The whole thing seeps misery. Beto’s sympathetic to all of the prisoners, which makes the whole thing even more miserable.

(It should be noted none of the prisoners are actually villainous, so it’s easier to be sympathetic towards them).

Anyway. Jesus spends his days daydreaming about Luba. He spends his nights rolling around with the boys, but the days are spent imagining Luba jumping him. Except then Luba turns into his wife in his daydreams. And then he remembers what got him in trouble, which Beto hasn’t ever visualized firsthand before. Not from Jesus’s perspective anyway.

And he also got in more trouble after the first conviction, saving a fellow inmate from a particularly bad beating. That inmate is the sidekick in this story–the guy, Obregon, has this intensely memorable Beto face. There’s a lot of exagerrated expression in the story, but it’s when Beto’s not doing a lot of emoting his faces are best. Some great quiet expressions this issue.

Whole story hinges one actually.

It’s a serious story. With a glimmer of light at the end. It’s probably Beto’s best done-in-one Palomar story so far. Even if it’s real unpleasant.

Then comes a Rena story. Queen Rena. It’s a flashback to before she hooked up with Bernie Carbo, which Jaime even acknowledges is a plot point in the subtitles to the story. Rena is bounty hunting. She’s after a shitty, physically abusive man. Some of the story is the chase, which is funny and intense and unpleasant.

Here Jaime does all the unpleasant upfront. As the story goes on, bringing young Duke in, bringing young Bernie Carbo in, even Bull Marie (who’s never young), it gets lighter. Rena’s a hero and she’s got a traditional supporting cast, but the settings and circumstances are all different. It’s fun. It’s funny.

Jaime lightens it up. He even goes dark–to silhouette–with the finale and it turns out to be slapstick. It’s a fantastic mix, with Rena at the center. She’s a great character and kind of Jaime’s best lead so far. She can handle the “lead” much better than Maggie. At this point, anyway.

Love and Rockets #14 (November 1985)

Love and Rockets #14

Fantagraphics; 1985; $2.25; 36 pgs; available collected.

An American in Palomar wraps up this issue and it’s not really like the first installment at all. Beto still has some stuff from the American photographer’s perspective, but it’s much more a regular Palomar story. There’s no more supernatural implications. It just doesn’t come up again.

Instead, it’s about how Carmen, Tonantzín, and Luba deal with the reality of the American’s intentions. Carmen not because she’s involved but because she’s got to get involved. Luba and Tonantzín get the biggest scenes, though Augustín finally gets something to do besides hang around. There’s even some nice character development (for everyone except the American).

The story also implies the third person narrator is very close to Carmen. Both through the actual narration and how Beto focuses on Carmen for a reaction shot. So I’ve been feeling like she hasn’t been a part of the series enough since the jump ahead, but maybe she’s always present. Makes sense.

There’s some excellent art, with Beto exploring Palomar visually without breaking from the story. It’s a great finish, just entirely different from where Beto seemed to be taking it last issue.

Then Jaime gets the rest of the issue. First up is Locas, with Maggie and Hopey still stuck at Izzy’s, though trying to get out. Maggie kind of considers going back to a garage–just no longer interested in a prosolar future.

It’s only a five page story. Much of it involves Izzy promising Maggie a car if she can fix it. Then Maggie trying to get to Hopey’s show and her setbacks.

There’s more with the band than usual and more with Hopey interacting with her bandmates alone. They’ve had group scenes before and Hopey took Maggie around recently, but Hopey’s now got scenes to herself. Well, with other characters, but without Maggie and without a group. Jaime’s getting more comfortable giving Hopey time; Locas does just fine without the glamour and adventure of Mechanics.

Lots of blacks from Jaime (but not always silhouettes), some comic strip sensibilities, and some character development. Just what a five page story ought to do.

Then Jaime’s got a nine page Rena story. Tse Tse shows up for a bit, but most of it is a flashback telling the story of one of Rena’s wrestling friends. Duke makes a cameo and even Bernie Carbo, though Jaime’s not ready to tell that story (the one he hinted about ten issues ago). Instead, it’s about this other wrestler and Rena.

Rena’s such a strong protagonist. It’s only her second strip to herself–and the previous one was a one pager–and she’s fantastic. A lot of the time Jaime just has other characters talking about an off-page Rena; he always gets Rena caught up once she appears, recentered, once again the obvious protagonist of the story.

It’s a sad, scary, funny, tragic story. The finale sort of cliffhangs, but more just promises more Rena stories.

Love and Rockets #14 is another fine issue. Beto wins with the American in Palomar, but Jaime launching Rena in her own strip so successfully is no small potatoes. Even though the Locas is technically the least impressive story, it’s still damn great comics. It couldn’t be anything but.

Love and Rockets #13 (September 1985)

lr13

Fantagraphics; 1985; $2.25; 44 pgs; available collected.

There’s no resolution to the Rocky and Fumble this issue, but Locas is back. Right away, with Roy Cowboy (a comic strip character who’s had a couple appearances in non-Locas stuff from Jaime) introducing the full names of all the girls. Except Penny. For some reason no Penny.

It’s cute since Daphne, Terry, and Beatríz have been making appearances (or been being discussed) in the book since early on.

And it’s a smiling Izzy.

The story itself is about Hopey and Maggie trying to figure out where to move. Maggie’s just back from her resurrection, which no one has really talked to her about, certainly not Hopey, and things are tense. She’s got a crap new job and never wants to mechanic again.

The strip is Hopey and Maggie going from place to place, talking to people about the living situation, bickering, getting into arguments. Izzy comes in as the voice of reason at the end.

It’s a really nice postscript to Maggie’s extraordinary adventures in the previous storyline, because life just kept going for Hopey and everyone else. And although the world stopped when everyone thought Maggie was dead, Maggie wasn’t thinking about everyone thinking she was dead. She was trying to live.

It’s funny, with some great–bright–composition from Jaime. And a great comic strip finish.

Then Beto’s got Heraclio and Pepo taking a friend from out of town–but not far out of town, just not a Palomar resident–around looking at girls. It calls out most of the female characters before the visitor settles on Tonantzin. And there’s a nice bit for Heraclio and Carmen, though–again–not much for Carmen to do.

Beto’s art is so smooth. The strip just zips along.

The first two stories have a lot of walking in them. For the movement, Beto wins. Palomar is smaller scale and almost every single panel is full of its personality. And there’s a good punch line from Luba, showing off how well Beto’s constructed the plotting.

Then a sadly one page Rena story from Jaime, another epilogue to the previous Mechanics arc. It reintroduces Tse Tse, who was in the first big Mechanics story, and has some lovely art. It’s just too short. Especially since Jaime’s got these “widescreen” establishing panels cropped to fit.

Then another Jaime. A “Young Locas” three-page strip about thirteen-year-old Maggie deciding to be a mechanic even if it wasn’t girly enough.

It’s a good strip, with some great character moments for Maggie, and some nice foreshadowing. It’s also really, really dark for a second, completely against the existing mood of the piece.

Finally, another Palomar, the first part of “An American in Palomar.” Some pretentious fake hippie photojournalist wants to document poor Indian people being poor and miserable and decides on Palomar. Diana and Theo get the most to do of the existing characters, while Luba allows herself a daydream, and then there’s the giant mother goddess temple outside town, which is making its first appearance.

It’s the only two-parter (even if it’s just the first part) in the whole issue and Beto’s plotting is excellent. He’s deft in his changing perspectives (from the photographer to the townspeople) and follows a fairly strict three act structure. It’s deliberate and rather successful thanks to that effort.

So next issue is “American, Part Two” and, maybe–hopefully–the next Rocky and Fumble story. Everyone’s okay in Locas right now. Rocky and Fumble aren’t okay.

Love and Rockets #12 (July 1985)

Love and Rockets #12

Fantagraphics; 1985; $1.95; 36 pgs; available collected.

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.

Love and Rockets #11 (April 1986)

Love and Rockets #11

Fantagraphics; 1985; $1.95; 36 pgs; available collected.

This issue of Love and Rockets is a weird one. Beto’s single story is a Errata Stigmata, who hasn’t had her own story in ages. Mario even gets a credit on her story, his first credit in ages. But before that strange, profoundly disturbing entry, Jaime’s finale for the current Mechanics arc.

Jaime has twelve pages to wrap up Maggie and Rena being thought dead and definitely lost on the bigger than it looks island. And the Race, Dot, and Maggie triangle. And Hopey thinking Maggie’s dead. And some other things.

Instead of wrapping up the story, Jaime ignores most of it. Race and Dot have a story mostly separate from the love triangle, kind of a “pro solar mechanic and reporter in political danger zone” action-comedy. Hopey was shipped off to her mom last issue and Jaime doesn’t do anything with that subplot. He just brings Hopey home with some comedic exposition and no reaction shot to Maggie’s being alive before the finale.

Rena and Maggie do get a nice plot, but Jaime’s focus on Rena overshadows everything else. She’s the key to the story, something Jaime only started embracing in the last two issues. It does reduce Maggie’s part in their trying escape; at least she’s got that love triangle.

Not.

Jaime skips it to go for a finish without resolution. There’s some drama, but none for Maggie.

Penny actually gets more to do that Hopey and it’s just her and Costigan having what ends up a cute scene.

Jaime’s going for lackluster on the narrative payoff. It’s an intentional move. It doesn’t come off as well as the story deserves. It feels forced and contrived.

Gorgeous art though. Twice the amount of pages–Jaime is at twelve here–and he probably would’ve had enough space to plot it better.

And then Errata from Beto. Tears from Heaven: The life and times of Errata Stigmata. It’s an origin story. A completely and utterly horrifying origin story.

Before this story, Errata stories have had various settings. The first story has her in some cyberpunk totalitarist future where practically the entire speaking cast is female (and queer). And Errata seems perfectly at home. Then there’s one where Beto’s basically doing a three page comedy strip with Errata and a boyfriend. Perfectly at home there. She gets mentioned as a comic book in one of the Music with Monsters strips and she cameoed in Beto’s Palomar party last issue.

But Tears from Heaven is something else entirely. It’s this nightmarish backstory about orphaned Errata being exploited by her guardians–her aunt and uncle–once her stigmata develops. Except before the stigmata develops, there’s a lot of psychological abuse, often directly sexually related or implied. Or just hinted enough to make the stomach queasy. It’s a twelve page story, so not short, but it’s astounding how unpleasant Beto can make things.

And Errata basically doesn’t talk. She’s this tragic kid. It’s a combination of heartbreaking (while empathizing with Errata) and utterly revolting (while reading the comic). In some ways Beto frontloads the revolting, with the finale being a nice despondent heartbreaker.

It’s a lot.

Mario gets an “additional material” credit so who knows.

The last story is a three page Rocky and Fumble. They’re run away from home again, this time going out to sea on a rowboat, in search of an unexplored island.

It’s a nice strip–short–and well-illustrated. It doesn’t quite provide the emotional relief needed after Errata but it comes pretty close. Another page would’ve done it. Jaime tends to experiment with truncation in Rocky and Fumble when it comes to reveals; in Mechanics, he’s a lot more visual about it. Rocky and Fumble is more comic strip transitions. Jump cuts.

Jaime seems rushed with the three pages, both writing and art. But it’s still a charming three pages.

Love and Rockets #10 (January 1985)

Love and Rockets #10

Fantagraphics; 1985; $2.50; 52 pgs; available collected.

Love and Rockets #10 is a celebration. There are some original character design sketches and even a portfolio section with the pre-published work from Los Bros. Jaime opens the issue with a fourth wall breaking Locas one-pager, Beto closes the issue with a fourth wall breaking one-pager. Jaime’s ends up being more about Hopey and Maggie (who are still in the middle of a very dramatic Mechanics) while Beto’s is all about his artistic creations hounding him.

Each brother has a feature. Jaime the aforementioned Mechanics installment. Everyone still thinks Maggie and Rena are dead, leading to some beautiful mourning panels from Jaime. He gets to use all that black. And since some the issue is in darkness (the tunnels where Maggie and Rena are traveling, Hopey shut off from the world), it’s much more than silhouette.

Maggie and Rena’s plot takes them to a native village–giving Jaime his first major cheesecake in a while–while Race gets close to Dot Winks again. It’s hard to hate Dot anymore. Though I can see why Penny is done with Race; even when he means well, he’s sort of a doof.

And Hopey gets to muscle through some of her mourning. She even gets rid of the blonde dye job.

Then there are thirteen pages of sketches. Some awesome stuff. Makes you wonder what Music for Monsters could’ve been.

And then Palomar. Beto throws a party. It’s a literal party. The residents of Palomar are having a cookout. Everyone’s there, including Beto’s other (human) Love and Rockets creations as well as all of Jaime’s principals. And Frida.

Beto has a wandering narrative, starting by following Heraclio around the party, then passing the baton to Luba for a while, then Pipo (returning for the first time since issue three–all grown up and beyond glamorous)–then to Tonantzin, then he wanders between them all. We find out Pipo’s not just glamourous, she’s being physically abused by her husband (that dipshit Gato, also not seen since issue three). The nasty old sheriff is back (though Chelo appears to have forgotten her previous, clandestine sexual relationship with him).

On one hand, it’s great catchup with the cast. On the other, it’s Beto dealing with some serious things–particularly Pipo, but also the would-be rapist ex-sheriff–in a cartoonish manner. It’s beautifully executed, in terms of art and pacing. Beto excels at juggling all the characters and plot threads, it’s just a tad too functional.

It’s a fine tenth issue though; Los Bros have accomplished a lot. A breather is all right; fine for Love and Rockets, after all, is still excellent comics. It’s also a little jarring to see the cast in color (on the front and back covers). Well, everyone except Izzy. Jarring in a good way.

Love and Rockets #9 (November 1984)

Love and Rockets #9

Fantagraphics; 1984; $1.95; 36 pgs; available collected.

Jaime opens Mechanics this issue with an eight-panel retelling of the story so far. At least the most relevant parts. They’re little panels too. Top half of the page. It’s beautifully done.

Turns out the flashback panels are Race’s thoughts as he’s recovering. He’s survived the blast, no one knows about Maggie and Rena Titañon. The story–ten pages this time–is split between the rest of the cast (Hopey, Penny, Race) and Maggie and Rena. They’re in the sewers, trying to get out to sea. It lets Jaime do a lot of work with black. He’s been doing big panels with a lot of silhouettes and shadows lately, but here he gets to do almost a whole strip of them.

Plus there’s a tie-in to Rocky and Fumble. Maggie and Rena use a Fumble-head as a flashlight. First official crossover, I think. Derek Cinema gets mentioned in Mechanics and one of Mario’s strips, but a Fumble-head is the first visual crossover.

Then Beto’s got the Palomar conclusion. He makes it sad, funny, dangerous, funny, and sad. And then sweet, while still being sad. The (now grown) boys head into the hills to find their missing pal, who’s run off after attacking his wife and child. There’s character development in two flashbacks–Beto does for comedy in both, but differently. The first time it’s a funny flashback. The second time it’s this concerning foreshadowing, played for visual humor.

The story of Jesús–the missing guy–has two nice bookends. Then Beto postscripts with Carmen and Heraclio. Now, Carmen still hasn’t gotten a full story to herself, but in the one page–she doesn’t appear in the rest of this chapter–she becomes the emphasis of the whole thing. The action just leads to Carmen’s reaction to it all.

It’s nice, but it’d be nicer for her to have her own story one of these issues. Beto’s only established her as Mrs. Heraclio. She’s got personality but nothing going on.

Then it’s a Rocky and Fumble, where Rocky runs away. She and Fumble do it up Mark Twain style, on the river. This strip started in space–like a “Jetsons” thing–and it’s just gotten more and more grounded. The strip’s full of humor and emotion. Growing pains emotion for Rocky and her parents, which she can’t really verbalize and they don’t want to verbalize.

Plus Fumble’s adorable.

And Jaime’s art is beautiful. Again he’s playing with the blacks, so much of it is silhouette. Some rather neat composition too. Even planet-bound, Jaime enjoys doing the comedic action with Rocky and Fumble.

So it’s another good issue. Beto’s playing with his narrative, Jaime’s playing with his art. Seems to be par for the course at this point.

Love and Rockets #8 (September 1984)

Love and Rockets #8

Fantagraphics; 1984; $1.95; 36 pgs; available collected.

Jaime gets a few more pages on Mechanics this issue and it changes the reading experience a bit. He has time to dawdle. This installment brings Rena Titañon in–it’s been a while since her last appearance (in present or flashback)–but also has time to give Hopey a whole subplot. And a whole other implied subplot because Izzy had an accident at Hopey’s apartment, a serious enough one to put Izzy in the hospital. Even though it doesn’t get explained.

There’s also enough room for Jaime to explore the band. At least, the bandmates gossiping about Hopey, Maggie, and whatever else. Jaime introduces some too obvious to be serious foreshadowing with the bandmates scenes too. It kind of works, kind of doesn’t. Similarly, Dot the reporter kind of works here and kind of doesn’t, as her seduction of Race (away from Maggie).

Then there’s the action finale, which Jaime executes beautifully.

Jaime’s not exactly stretching with the extra pages but he’s definitely exuberantly reaching. Again, he’s letting Mechanics get away from Maggie, which means more action maybe, but also less focus.

Then Beto has two Palomar stories.

The first one, The Laughing Sun, brings in the tween boys from the first Palomar story. They’re not tweens anymore, it’s ten years after that story (the first time–I think–there’s been an exact duration given). One of them attacks his wife and child, the rest reunite to track him down. Beto’s got all sorts of nods to the original story–or does he, because maybe it’s just how Palomar is going to progress. In temporal fluidity. But they feel like nods. With flashback, he can foreshadow past events for effect. And fun. Sometimes he just seems to be doing it for fun, which is nice because it’s a heavy story. And it cliffhangs because everything resolutionary is next issue.

And Beto’s second story is under the Heartbreak Soup Theater banner, On Isidro’s Beach. It’s a Luba story, more specifically, it’s a Luba’s daughter daughter Lupe story. She’s the second oldest (I think) and obsessed with Les Misérables (the book). And she’s a great protagonist for the story. Or the most pages of it. Because it goes back to Luba for the last three pages when the heaviness arrives. The sadness of life stuff.

Beto still gets in some good jokes, including a great finishing one.

It’s a strange issue. The stories don’t feel balanced, like Jaime’s going too long and Beto’s getting shorted. But not exactly because Beto’s pace on his stories is so good. They’re just breezy reads. Kind of too breezy. While Mechanics is full and good but clunky. But not exactly because Jaime can still get it to flow smoothly, full and clunky or not.

Love and Rockets #7 (July 1984)

Love and Rockets #7

Fantagraphics; 1984; $1.95; 36 pgs; available collected.

Love and Rockets #7 opens with Mechanics and with this haunting image of Maggie in front of the sea, looking out of the page, quietly crying. The action immediately cuts away; Hopey and Penny (with a new haircut, colored like a skunk, and looking nothing like Penny) read a letter from Maggie recounting her latest Mechanic adventure. There’s Rand Race, of course, but also creepy rich guy hiring them to work on robots. Jaime amps up the strange–lots and lots of strange–before closing on the Race, Maggie, and Dot the reporter love triangle.

Jaime mixes romance comic angles and comic strip pacing. It’s a breezy read, light adventure comedy. Jaime’s art gets it through the somewhat shallow depth. Race ain’t that interesting. At least, not yet.

Then it’s Act of Contrition, Part Three from Beto, which is breezy and sort of light and sort of comedy, but it’s still incredibly dramatic. Beto splits the ten pages between Archie and the Palomar residents. Actually, the point of view sort of progresses, because how Archie gets back with Luba is what it’s all about. Only there’s a lot going on. So it’s sort of about how Archie gets integrated into Palomar-proper.

It’s a nice chapter; Beto enjoys showcasing the humanity of the characters here. Even when they’re problematic people, he keeps digging.

The next story is Locos. Not Locas, Locos. Speedy gets his own story, though he’s really just telling his friend all about Izzy. Izzy, who really is Izzy Ruebens, who Jaime used as a pseudonym for the first Mechanics story and then gave her own story. As a mystery writer (so was I right about guessing it or did I just not remember this confirmation consciously). Nothing about nun stuff though. There was an Izzy Ruebens, a nun, narrator page once.

It’s a strange story because it offers another take on Izzy, who Jaime usually uses for comic relief opposite Maggie and Hopey. It casts her as this sad, haunted person, who Izzy doesn’t exactly come across when she gets her own pages. It’s rather interesting how Jaime’s expanding the Locas “universe.”

He also uses Spanish to English translations at the bottom of each page; it’s similar, but different, from what Beto did on the first Heartbreak Soup story. Beto, of course, was doing Spanish proper noun pronunciations. You’d think Chelo sounded like cello but no. Or I would’ve anyway.

Speaking of Beto and Heartbreak Soup, the final story in the issue is The Whispering Tree. It’s another sidequel (to the main Palomar tale, Contrition) with Luba’s kids having a little adventure. Three pages. For laughs. Even though Jaime’s the one with the exploration of comic strip narrative principles, Beto can do it too. It’s a funny strip, lots of exaggerated action, a great–thoughtful too–punchline.

It’s a good issue. Light, happy, and good.

Love and Rockets #6 (May 1984)

Love and Rockets #6

Fantagraphics; 1984; $1.95; 36 pgs; available collected.

The first story in Love and Rockets #6–Beto’s Heartbreak Soup Theater: The Mystery Wen–brings back some more of the Palomar cast. But after the jump-ahead Beto did with the Luba story. Wen is about grown-up accordion teacher Heraclio having a bump on his head and freaking out about it. He’s now married to Carmen (who hasn’t gotten any taller).

It’s a six page story, all comedic. Beto plots it out like a series of strips. Little scenes with rising actions and resolutions, focusing on the bump plot. It’s fun. Carmen’s got some of the same traits as before, but Heraclio is pretty much a restart. But with the same history. The story starts the issue off quite well and will provide a contrast to Beto’s Luba story, which is featured on the cover.

But first it’s time for Mechanics. Jaime’s loving the art this story. There’s some noirish stuff, a lot of action, a lot of physical comedy, a lot of depth composition stuff. It’s eight pages–Maggie goes back to work, where a fetching reporter named Dot is trying to get Race for a feature article. She thinks she can make him a heartthrob. It’s mostly the physical comedy, though Hopey and Penny show up for a page. It grounds the story with Maggie, who isn’t involved with all the Dot and Race antics; she’s mostly bystander.

It’s a good setup. Some great art. The last panel–the teaser for the next installment–is both predictable and rewarding. Jaime’s established a tone for the story and promises more in the same vein.

Then it’s time for Act of Contrition, Part 2, Beto’s Luba story. The Palomar side of the story–even though it starts with townsfolk gossiping about Luba and her dance paramour, Archie–doesn’t figure in much. Most of the story is Archie’s. Beto reveals some things–he and Luba’s backstory, his hidden profession (mortician)–and gives him the big moments later on. It’s only eleven pages. Beto does a bunch in eleven pages.

The subplots from the previous installment sort of carry over but, again, it’s mostly Archie’s story. The first part’s B subplots go C here. They support Luba, it’s not Luba’s story this time. Good art. Great mood.

The last story is Jaime’s four-page “half chapter” for Mechanics. Penny is telling Maggie how she knows Race. It’s a lot of good art and funny scenes. Penny tells the story, which feels a little romance-y with the pace (and the outfits), but in a good way. Jaime handles the humor well between the flashback and the present; the tones are very different.

It’s a good issue. Of course it is. It’s Love and Rockets.

Love and Rockets #5 (March 1984)

Love and Rockets #5

Fantagraphics; 1984; $1.95; 36 pgs; available collected.

Hopey gets to headline her first story in Love and Rockets #5. She’s been sidekick up until now. The story’s straight comedy, with Hopey tempted to return to her graffiti days; the fresh white wall across the street is proving too hard to resist. Maggie and Izzy just want what’s best for Hopey and best is tagging the wall.

There are cops to avoid, paint colors to choose, all sorts of little things Jaime touches on in the eight page story. Lots of good monologues. Lots of good laughs in the dialogue, lots of mood. It’s not an ambitious strip, but it’s still an excellent one.

Then comes Beto’s Fan Letter. It’s a first person narrator talking about his favorite band, “Twitch City,” also the name of an unrelated Beto strip in a previous issue. It’s the story of a punk band’s rise and fall, in mostly text. Beto paces it beautifully, the momentum of the text paying off in the art. It’s excellent. And kind of ambitious.

Jaime’s Penny Century strip isn’t ambitious but it’s beautiful. Three pages of comic humor.

Then comes Act of Contrition, Beto’s return to Palomar. It’s a few years later and Luba’s the main character. None of the last Palomar story’s principal cast return. Some get a mention. Some previous supporting cast cameo. But it’s a new thing.

All but three pages of it is about Luba rediscovering herself thanks to a horny acquantiance and a new dress. It’s kind of a fairy tale setup (a box of dresses magically appears, enabling Luba’s night out). Beto grounds it though. He’s also got a lot of exagerrated humor, which ungrounds it. But the characters are all so real, which grounds it again.

Contrition is glorious comics.

Then Beto’s got Errata Stigmata again. She was in the first issue of Rockets and a comic book character in the fourth (or third). Now she gets an initially heady, then jokey strip about her boyfriend only being in it for her stigmata. Great art, great pacing of the characters through the panels (Beto and Jaime showing off the comic “strip” skills in different ways this issue). Great punchline.

And then Jaime’s got a lovely Rocky and Fumble. It’s their origin story. The art is beautiful, not a lot of backgrounds, a lot of mood. Perfect summary storytelling on the flashbacks. It’s lovely. Jaime’s style is always clean but it’s a little cleaner here than in Locas, giving the strip its own feel.

Jaime also shows off his ability to deftly tug the heartstrings, pacing the strip just right to get the most effect.

It’s an outstanding thirty-two pages of comic books.

Love and Rockets #4 (Fall 1983)

Love and Rockets #4

Fantagraphics; 1983; $2.95; 68 pgs; available collected.

Love and Rockets #4 opens with Jaime and 100 Rooms, a Locas story. The first page is a recap, sort of, of the previous Mechanics and Locas stories. It’s an introduction from Isabel Ortiz Ruebens, who appears to be a nun. She’s not Izzy (as in Maggie and Hopey’s friend) but maybe she’s the author from a few of Jaime’s stories in #1.

It doesn’t really matter because after the nice intro page, Jaime just drops the narration and goes into the story.

This issue ends up being rather distinct because both Jaime and Beto are going to be doing amazing work. 100 Rooms is a twenty-six page epic. It also doesn’t have any jokes about Maggie being dumb, which is nice. Instead, it’s sort of a Maggie grows or at least Maggie realizes how she wants to grow story.

Jaime opens it with a visit to Tía Vicki, who he has been mentioning maybe since issue one. Vicki. The wrestler who cheated to beat Rena Titañon. Vicki used the ropes. But visiting Tía Vicki isn’t the point. Maggie’s just looking for money. Because she desperately wants some boots. She drags Hopey around town trying to find someone to loan it to her. They come across Penny Century, who has a plan.

Jaime never shows the full exterior of the mansion, instead relying on interiors to show the grand scale of it

That plan lands the girls–Maggie, Hopey, Penny, and Izzy–in billionaire H.R. Costigan’s mansion. In that mansion, lots happens. Like Maggie getting lost and kidnapped. And then there’s a party. And a supervillain fight. And Rand Race.

100 Rooms has five parts, not including the one page intro. First part is all about Vicki and the boots with an appearance from Speedy. Speedy is Hopey’s cousin who Maggie thinks is hot. Part two is an intro to the mansion then Maggie finding dangerous romance. Part three is romance plus the girls bonding. Part four is the party setup. Part five is the rest of the party. Each first page of the “chapters” has a big establishing panel. Otherwise Jaime sticks to three rows of three panels. Sometimes he joins two of the panels. But mostly 100 Rooms is read across, down and back, across, down and back. There’s so much with the narrative flow too. The visual transitions. Jaime changes angles between panels to move the story along, but also move the characters in the scene. It’s breathtaking.

And probably should, experimentally, be cut up and read horizontally.

Supervillain action, Love and Rockets style

Once again Hopey gets a lot less to do than Maggie–but more, especially when Maggie’s missing–and Maggie gets this strange, but sexy subplot involving European royalty in exile. The party is where Jaime goes crazy with the action. Before he’s being deliberate but casual with the angle changes. The party is all about being full and action-packed, whether it’s in the establishing panels or the regular ones. Which isn’t to say Jaime doesn’t employ the angle changes to move the action and story along. He just adds to it.

It’s awesome. The best Locas so far.

Next is Beto’s Twitch City. It’s cyberpunk, with noir narration. Emico is the lead. She’s a sixteen year-old cop in New Hiroshima (in South Oregon). It’s a five page story. It covers Emico at work then at home. It’s rather depressing. Beto does a great job with it.

Music and Monsters goes to sea

Then is another Music for Monsters (so the issue has three Beto stories and two Jaime). Inez is babysitting a monster’s egg. For four fifty an hour. The egg is at sea, so Inez is fighting off sea monsters. Bang parachutes in to hang out with her. It’s another short one–four pages this time–but Beto manages to get in some drama over a messed up Errata Stigmata comic. The first issue of Love and Rockets had an Errata Stigmata story.

And, of course, there’s a monster they need to fight.

One of Out O’ Space’s perfect panels

Jaime then has Out O’ Space set in a “Jetsons” future with the lead–a teenage girl named Rocky–hanging out on an asteroid belt with her robot, Fumble. She’s lost, cutting school, and decides to claim her own planet. Unfortunately a rock creature named Patrick has crashlanded on the other side of Rocky’s planet. A turf war ensues. It’s a fun strip with some great art.

And, then, finally, it’s time for Palomar and Heartbreak Soup Part Two. A twenty-one page continuation of the previous issue’s story. Beto takes the first two pages to recap everything in that story. The principals of the story change a little. Gato, who had a lot to do last issue has very little to do in this story. Manuel and Pipo, having made repeat visits to Soledad’s house while he’s out of town, both get a lot. Manuel because he’s breaking Pipo’s heart and Pipo because her heart’s being broken. At the same time Beto is moving along the Luba vs. Chelo storyline.

The tween boys figure in a little, mostly serving to inadvisably gossip within other people’s earshot. Hercalio figures in more than a lot of characters–Carmen, for instance–but it’s mostly just Manuel and Pipo. Or about Manuel and Pipo.

Pipo tells Tipin’ Tipin’ all about Sopa De Gran Pena (Heartbreak Soup)

Beto mixes styles–Pipo and her siblings versus Manuel on the make–or pretty much any of the exterior scenes. Palomar is simultaneously empty but teeming. The story takes a lot of unexpected turns, including in the to the two-page epilogue. There’s also a lot of dialogue. Pipo makes the titular Heartbreak Soup for herself and Tipin’ Tipin’ and tells him all about their lives in Palomar. He’s still around because, in the most minor subplot, Carmen is trying to rehabilitate him.

It’s a sad, aching story. And rather beautiful. And better than the first part.

Love and Rockets #4 is sixty-four pages of phenomenal comics. Jaime and Beto both hit highs with their exquisite storytelling.

Love and Rockets #3 (Fall 1983)

Love and Rockets #3

Fantagraphics; 1983; $2.95; 68 pgs; available collected.

Love and Rockets #3 opens with a Jaime story. It’s just called Love and Rockets. A car stopped on the train tracks, its driver reminiscing about a lost love. Then the lost love thing takes a comic book-related twist. And then Jaime goes crazy with the intensity of an oncoming train and the driver’s endurance. The two-page story then has two additional twists… in the last two panels. Jaime turns it all upside down and inside out in a panel. And that last twist simultaneously grounds the story and makes it even more ethereal.

Love and Rockets‘s second page has a lot of black. There are nine panels on the page and only one of them doesn’t use silhouette to focus on the driver in her car. The next story, Beto’s Sopa De Gran Pena–you know, Soap’-uh deh Grawn Pen‘-uh–Heartbreak Soup opens with a white on black title panel then some more dark blacks. It also has all the violence Jaime teased. Though Beto shows the effects of the violence a lot more than the action of it. It’s for humor, after all. Tip in’ Tip in’ is just getting his butt kicked by another girl who doesn’t want him. It’s only his eighty-seventh such rejection.

Three pages into the story, on the bottom panel–after establishing a narrator to Soup–Beto brings in its protagonist. Carmen.

Carmen

Carmen is maybe ten. She lives in Palomar, she tells the reader (so Beto’s gone from an in-story but uninvolved narrator to the protagonist breaking the fourth wall). Palomar. “Where men are men, and women need a sense of humor.” At the bottom of every page, Beto has pronuncations for the characters’ names. It’s also a good way to keep track of how many new characters Beto is introducing per page.

Seven on the first page, for instance. Because Beto moves to around nine panels a page (somewhere between eight and eleven), and he uses the foreground and background to bring characters in. It’s a beautifully drawn story. Beto loves his detail. There’s Carmen’s sister, for instance. Her younger sister, Lucia, not the older one. Lucia never talks and never gets to do much. Instead so just glares wickedly. Sometimes at the reader. It’s this fantastic visual detail.

Beto’s visual transitions between panels are something else. Something else good, but something else. He completely reorients the reader, sometimes with every panel on the page. The perspective has changed, time has changed, the characters sometimes are changed out. It creates a rapid pace for Heartbreak Soup. An urgency for the reader (and some of the characters), but not at all for the majority of the characters. And not really for Beto. He’ll slow down and linger, even when he’s doing radical cuts between panels.

It’s awesome.

Foreground and background actions.

The story continues, focusing mostly on Carmen and her older sister, Pipo. Pipo is fourteen and “all women” (ew). She has multiple suitors, with Manuel being the cute one and Gato being the kind of creepy one. The story is set when Pipo and Carmen’s mother is out of town. Pipo’s in charge, which leads Carmen to letting drunken melancholic Tip in’ Tip in’ (the guy who got beat up at the beginning) stay with them. Most of the rest of the story builds around that subplot. Though the teenage boys just hang out. New-to-town Heraclio learns about town and so does the reader. But he and his friends are mostly loitering, which also has Luba–from Bem in the first issue–showing back up. Chelo is the town’s bañadora (she washes the town’s men, who either can’t bathe themselves or just don’t have tubs?). There’s nothing creepy about it though. At least not yet.

Luba is the town’s new bandora. Their growing competition is a subplot. A quiet one, but one Beto returns to again and again. It helps him establish the town and gives him a surprising, touching grand finale to the chapter. Because Heartbreak Soup is to be continued.

Next up is Maggie vs. Maniakk, which has a Fourth Worlder monologuing at the start. Then it gets to Maggie and Hopey and Penny and company. Penny wishes she was a superhero (still) and it turns out Maggie was a superhero for a day.

Turns out she was sidekick to Ultimax, a washed up superhero who she has to convince to come back and save the world after she lets Maniakk out of an alternate dimension. It’s a fast, funny story with some great panels. Jaime will move the story forward not just in a panel’s narration from Maggie, but also in the dialogue. It’s great. He keeps up the pacing when it gets to the fight scenes too.

Mario writes Maniaak’s Kirby-esque dialogue.

The story does, however, establish how mean some of Maggie’s friends are to her, which is going to come back in a bit.

Of course, nothing can prepare for Beto’s one page story. It’s a wonderfully done twenty-four panel (on a single page, usually with the same “shots”) weird little thing. Showcases Beto’s understanding of how dialogue works when being read against certain visuals. Amazing economy.

Then is another installment of Somewhere in California, by Mario. The last issue’s installment of this strip had a rather final ending, so a continuation is a surprise. The tone is a little different–and it’s much easier to follow on a casual read–but it still is a big story. The revolutionaries from the previous installment are still around. They’ve just trashed a movie director’s house. One of the revolutionaries slash terrorists has a girlfriend. Her ex-husband and his cleaning crew is hired to take care of the messed up house. Turns out the ex-husband is a failed screenwriter. There’s a lot of story. But most of it turns out to be about the protagonist failed screenwriter–Brian–ingesting some kind of lizard egg and the creature is growing inside him.

The blasé way Mario handles the lizard living inside the guy is the coolest thing about California. The ending is overcomplicated and the flashforward doesn’t work great, but it’s still a strong strip. Especially since it seems the flashforwards aren’t important (at least the first story’s wasn’t so why would this story’s be any different).

Back to Jaime (and Maggie and Hopey). Locas Tambien. It’s a two-page strip. It’s great–twenty-four panels over two pages, covering Maggie and Hopey going grocery shopping. It references Rand Race, who otherwise doesn’t make an appearance, but also establishes Maggie and Hopey’s friends think Maggie is dumb. Hopey doesn’t get much action after the first eight panels, instead Jaime uses her as a reaction touchstone for the reader.

The many panels.

Very cool.

There’s another La Chota strip. She’s a waitress. She beats up the cook. It’s all in Spanish. Maybe Spanish. But not a dialect Google likes to translate.

And then another creepy weird–but gorgeously illustrated–Beto one-pager. It’s about life in the Lower Side. Beto implies a lot in the three sentences of narration, which is cool. It’s just very, very weird.

Everybody knows Maggie’s aunt used the ropes.

Finally, another Jaime. It’s twelve pages–Toyo’s Request–and it’s a direct sequel to last issue’s Mechanics. Though it’s about world champion wrestler and revolutionary Rena Titañon. Only from the perspective of an ex-boyfriend. Rena is a great character–she’s doing a noirish detective story in the flashback, along with a bunch of action. Then the action increases to include airplanes and bombs and old wrestling rivalries. It’s a lot of fun with some excellent art.

It also introduces young Duke; old Duke was Maggie’s boss in the first two issues.

Jaime runs out of time to tell the full story in the flashback, hopefully he’ll come back to it.

So #3 introduces quite a lot. However many characters in Heartbreak Soup, not to mention Palomar in general. Then Jaime’s building up the characters from the Mechanics, particularly Maggie, but also the supporting mythos.

And the weirdness of Somewhere in California, which has more danger than anything else in the issue. After Jaime’s first two-page story, anyway.

It’s great.

Love and Rockets #2 (Spring 1982)

Love and Rockets #2

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.

It’s good.

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.

Love and Rockets #1 (September 1982)

Love and Rockets #1

Fantagraphics; 1982; $2.95; 68 pgs; available collected.

Love & Rockets is an anthology. Los Bros Hernandez–Beto and Jaime–alternate strips. In this first issue, Beto gets six parts, Jaime gets five. Most of Beto’s are chapters in one story, Bem. The issue runs sixty-eight pages. This #1 is actually L&R’s second; Los Bros put out a thirty-two page ashcan a year before. Fantagraphics scooped them up. The issue even opens with a mildly problematic introduction from Los Bros fan and Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth. The introduction’s problematic in how much Groth emphasizes the writing over the art.

The original LOVE AND ROCKETS #1, self-published in 1981 by Los Bros Hernandez.

Anyway.

Bem.

Bem opens with mollusk shells. Detail on mollusk shells, a single page spread (with title). The first words? “Meanwhile.” Groth’s not wrong to be impressed with Los Bros’s writing, it’s exceptional. But to intro the comic and tell people not to pay attention to the art. Sorry, it grates me.

The first page of Bem introduces the monster. A moth slash grasshopper looking giant monster. Cut to Leonore. Leonore and her boyfriend, who I don’t think gets a name, get a lot of time in the story without ever doing much. She’s the Cassandra. Beto’s going to mix a lot of things–evil-looking Mothra and the woman with the strange connection to it–but he also mixes them visually. Bem gets positively absurd, while still serious because people are going crazy and terrified, but there are rayguns and maybe an alien or a clown type thing. Regardless, his name is Bob Zitz. The guy with the raygun is Harold Penis. Beto’s all over the place. He’s staying busy with the visual pacing–very noir while still keeping some comic strip visual gag nimbleness–while he’s drawing attention through the text.

Introducing Luba.

Then it’s time for Luba. Luba and her male servant. They’re on the island where the monster is going to make landfall. Luba’s going to go on to a lot in Love & Rockets and while that future’s unknown in issue one, Beto loves the character. She’s hilarious and imposing.

Then it’s the detective. Castle Radium. He’s a noir detective, just one in a somewhat futuristic (sometimes) setting. Beto goes for some weird humor with him. Then cuts away fast back to Cassandra. And it seems like the strip’s done. Only it’s not. There’s two more pages with a lot of exposition for Luba and Castle and the reader.

Beto establishes everything in Bem, then does some more. He’s a little light on the “Bem” backstory. He’s this unseen menace, the monster is the present danger. He keeps the story compelling over the characters.

Jaime does the opposite with Mechan-X, which introduces Maggie, Hopey, and Rand Race. Jaime did the story under pseudonym–Izzy Ruebens.

Meet Maggie and Hopey.

The page starts with Maggie and Hopey crashed out after partying. It’s a messy apartment. They’re sleeping on the pullout sofa. Lots of talking, lots of movement. Maggie sits up between panels, lays down between panels. She moves around the apartment, getting ready for work, bickering with Hopey. Jaime does a bunch with expression when he gets closer, but there aren’t many close-ups. Like close-ups would get in the way of the movement.

The page ends with Maggie on a hoverbike. Because there are hoverbikes in Love & Rockets. Maggie’s off to her new job as a mechanic again. She’s working with prosolar mechanic Rand Race. Prosolar just means you’re a rich and famous mechanic. Jaime introduces Race to Maggie (and the reader) along with the boss. Race and the boss both know Maggie’s cousin, “the world’s female wrestling champ.”

There’s some more bonding between Maggie and Race, some foreshadowing thanks to odd behavior, and some ground situation exposition. The mechanics haven’t gotten to finish a job in months. They get sent out, then the “business magistrates” call to cancel and the mechanics blow up the job.

The job is canceled.

Jaime splits subplots on each page. Race and his boss and the jobs never getting completed take up maybe a third of the page. More when it’s something involving Maggie. It results in this great rhythm. You read Love & Rockets at a pace. Because there’s the art to look at too. Not just the exquisite detail, but Jaime uses foreground and background to deliver information.

The story doesn’t end with the job being over; instead, there are robots the crew decides to check out. And then there’s a criminal out to get Race. Or does he just want to escape to outer space. Jaime does this section fast, never slowing to make the panels easy for the reader. Lots of jump cuts between action. It’s particularly jarring for a bit just because Jaime started the strip with such an attention to smooth movement.

After the action with the space criminal is done, there’s a quick sum-up with Maggie, Hopey, and Penny Century. Penny used to date Race, she’s not thrilled. Hopey–who pushed Maggie into the job–is perplexed why she’s keeping it. But Maggie’s excited. Even if she does end up having to take a taxi to work. Because even though there’s been a war involving robots, people still have to commute.

La Chota. Not German.

Then Jaime’s got this strip called La Chota (The Snitch). The story stars Frenchie Firme. Supposedly it’s in German, but thanks to Google translate, it’s confirmed it’s not. It’s a weird little strip. Frenchie Firme’s a blonde bombshell. She’s on the witness stand. The prosector has got a really long head. The judge is a dog. The real translation might ruin it.

Bem comes back with Leonore the Cassandra having a moment. She’s thinking about Castle Radium, the detective, who’s close to finding the Horror. Sorry, Bem. Sorry, the Horror. Because Castle Radium ends up in a fight with a giant gorilla in a mask. Only it’s not a gorilla, it’s a man in a suit. A golem suit, it’s called. Then the strip’s pretty much over. It’s back to Leonore and her unnamed boyfriend for the bookend.

It sort of reads like Beto took his giant monster and Luba on the island story and grafted it to this noir detective in semi-future hunting the evil genius Bem. The grafting works though. It’s weird but it works.

Welcome to Hoppers.

Then Jaime does Barrio Huerta, which is a Hoppers 13 strip. It’s all in Spanish. Thanks to Google translate, it’s clear the strip’s about a death. But it’s only a page. Four panels. Jaime’s going to mood through dramatic comic strip. It’s got great art and great implication. Translating it doesn’t do anything for the strip.

Then another Jaime. A one-page Penny Century strip about her devilish (literally, with horns) male friend, Mr. Costigan. Mr. Costigan is maybe the one who made Rand Race a prosolar mechanic. If not him, another Costigan–H.R. Costigan. Penny wants to be a superhero. Because it turns out superheroes are real. They’re all flying past the window at one point. It’s a beautiful strip–Penny is in an evening gown, Costigan in a tux.

So two one-page Jaime strips and it’s back to Bem. Luba on the island–her toady boy’s name is Peter–they’ve just put on their costumes for the ritual. Got to do a ritual for the monster. Maybe Bem made the monster? The Horror? Luba runs into a bunch of other people who want to do a ritual for the monster’s power too. There’s a lot of comedy, sight gags, giant monsters. Meanwhile, Leonore is missing and her nameless dude is trying to find her.

It’s the end of the world as they know it?

The monster then gets to monologue. Bem did brain surgery to make the monster smarter. Luba isn’t impressed. Beto wraps it up with some giant monster action, which looks great.

The next story is Jaime’s How to Kill A (by Isabel Ruebens). Is it the same Izzy Ruebens who’s credited on Mechan-X earlier? Who knows. But the protagonist, Isabel, is having some writer’s block. She then goes on a strange vision question, presumably to find some inspiration. It’s a gorgeous strip, with Jaime doing a lot of white on black–Isabel writing in the dark–and then the detailed (while still dark) vision quest. It’s very noirish.

Music for Monsters is Beto doing this strange future Old West comic mixing cheesecake and monsters. The setting feels like Mechan-X more than anything else Beto’s done in Bem. It always seems like it could be a Jaime strip. But it’s not. It’s Beto.

Look at all those panels.

And it’s Beto doing a lot of work. Every page of the story has something like fifteen panels. Lots of minute detail as the two leads try to survive hungry monsters, horny monsters, and sexual predatory dudes. It’s Beto showing off how well he can do big action even on a tiny scale. And he makes it work. The small panel size for giant action turns out to be perfect.

Maybe I always think it’s Jaime because one of the girls is wearing a black dress similiar to Penny’s earlier?

The next chapter of Bem establishes Leonore is just fine. She’s run off to San Sassafras, where it’s Fiesta Days. She’s finally going to meet Bem. Also there is the Monster, who moved consciousness into one of the guys on the island. Not the one with Luba.

The relentless Castle Radium.

The chapter brings together the various elements–Luba (eventually), the no longer Monster, Castle Radium, and Leonore. Radium spends most of the strip battling Bem’s associations, trying to find the Horror himself. There’s also a reference to a character maybe mentioned in the first chapter, but only as a pinup girl. It’s a strange detail. We also learn Bem is sort of an immortal evil monster thing. Shapeless if need be. What does it all mean? Only one chapter left to find out.

But first, Locas Tambien. Or, Maggie and Hopey. Without the sci-fi. They go visit Izzy. Izzy Ortiz, not Ruebens. So not from pseudonym to costar. She’s one of Maggie and Hopey’s friends. They’re visiting because Joey, another friend, wants to borrow witchcraft books. Joey’s scared of Izzy’s brother Speedy, who wants to “kick [his] ass in school.” Remember that last part.

Jaime doesn’t shy away from writing a lot of ranting dialogue for Izzy.

Izzy freaks out on everyone with a page long drunken rant about nails and the universe. Maggie blows up, gets them kicked out. It leads to a flashback to Izzy and Maggie being straightedge a few years before when Izzy introduces Maggie to Hopey.

Then it’s back to the present, where they all run into Speedy, leading to the biggest action in the whole strip. Only it’s off page. Hopey and Maggie just talk about it at the finish, when they’re at a punk show. It’s a weird, awesome device. Jaime’s great at focusing the attention. He has this expansive world going on all around, but he can refocus instantly. Panel to panel.

The final chapter of Bem is a visual freakout. Leonore witnesses the showdown between the Monster (still in human form) and Radium. And Luba’s there too.

Castle Radium exits.

Beto’s got some plot twists after the action is over. There’s a noirish moment or two, some great comic strip expressions and pacing. The way he resolves the story–through Leonore telling the still-unnamed boyfriend–is fantastic. The finale is a relief, even though Bem has never been particularly dangerous. I forgot to mention the last chapter had the Monster (in man form) getting drunk and partying.

Beto wins the issue with Bem. It’s not really a competition–as Jaime doesn’t have any long, multi-part narratives–but Bem is one heck of a starter for Love & Rockets. It goes all over, it’s loud, but Beto has it all under control it turns out.

Or maybe it’s just whoever gets to finish the issue. We’ll see what happens in #2.

CREDITS

Story and art, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez; editor, Gary Groth; publisher, Fantagraphics Books.

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