Sunday, October 9, 2011

Love and Rockets: “There ain’t no deposit money”

There is so much love (and rockets) on the final page of Jaime Hernandez’s The Love Bunglers, so much genuine loving emotion between Maggie and Ray, built up on years of pain and tragedy and guilt, that it’s the perfect enduing for these characters, and I would have no problems if their story ended right here.

I love these people in the stories more than any other characters in all of fiction, and I wouldn’t mind if I never see them again, if it can climax with a final declaration of love and end on a tearful and heartfelt kiss.

That’s how good The Love Bunglers is.

Once again, there is the terrible guilt that I‘m not saying enough about Beto whenever I get a new Love and Rockets, but that’s the way it goes. King Vampire and And Then Reality Kicks In are terrific little comics with the usual hidden depths, but they don’t have the emotional catharsis of Jaime’s work, they don’t have decades of storytelling building and building to tiny little moments of transcendent wonder.

And once again, this is no review. This is love.

The art is as beautiful as always, evocative of time and place, and Jaime still draws the best body language and facial expressions in the medium, telling entire stories in a frown or wink.

It can be as mundane as the long and lonely path that leads to a crappy meal in a crappy diner –

 - or the easy confidence of somebody who is finally comfortable in her own uneasy skin.

All over, the art is as beautiful as ever, and it’s so easy to get lost in Jaime’s gorgeous profiles, or his effortless command of geography, or simple panels of people looking at each other.

Jaime’s panel structure is also still incredibly rigid, but that just keeps all that energy and vigour bottled up there on the page, released with every new visit. There is more artistic enjoyment in his flowing line than can be found in dozens of other comics. It’s just gorgeous.

While it’s no surprise that Jaime Hernandez is still producing magnificent and beautiful comics, it is also still incredible to see how big his storytelling balls are, man.

Much of The Love Bunglers takes place at the same leisurely pace Jaime’s stories have had for the past few years, but after a startling piece of violence that throws the future up in the air, the story bounces forward two years, and after three pages, takes another similar leap forward in time, showing how things worked out for Maggie and Ray.

(And Hopey – there was another big emotional kick to see little Hopey all settled down and reasonably successful. The fact that this little hellion has grown up enough and can lend Maggie the money to start up her business is astonishing, but not as astonishing as the fact that I felt genuinely proud for her that she had got this far. She’s still got that same awesome haircut she had as a 16-year-old, but Hopey is All Grown Up.)

Those last seven pages are dense with information and revelation, but it doesn’t overwhelm the story. The abrupt leaps in time allow for drastic changes that seem so natural, like things were always going to end this way.

And the comfort in that is so warm and toasty. The past is still spiky and tragic, but it all worked out in the end.

Oh man, that bit when I realised what was happening in that montage was the most emotionally moving moment I’ve read in a comic book since, well, the last Love and Rockets.

Letty’s story is also an unexpected treat – telling a tale that answers questioned first asked decades ago, while providing details that are absolutely essential to the ongoing narrative.

With a continuation of all that painfully unnecessary guilt and shame from Browntown in #3, Return For Me also shows that everyone leaves Maggie, no matter how much they intend to stay. Poor Letty’s last thoughts are that she will always be there for Maggie, and you can bet her family, and Speedy, and Hopey and Ray and Calvin and all those others made the same promise, only to leave Maggie behind.

Dig it: Jaime Hernandez is now telling stories that cast a whole new light on 30 years worth of comics. That’s an astonishing feat.

I really, really hate Coronation Street, (mainly because I wasn’t allowed to watch the Incredible Hulk on the other channel when I was a kid), but it makes so many other people so happy that I never want it to go away.

It is also hard to hate something that has evolved from a bog-standard soap opera into something else. It’s still rubbish on an everyday basis, but when you consider it as the continuous biography of an ordinary man named Ken Barlow, it’s something extraordinary.

Ken – as played by William Roache – has had his daily life dissected by an audience of millions since 1960. That’s 51 years ago. Ken has grown from a pimply little dork to an affable old man. He has the world record for being the longest-running character in a televised soap opera, and Ken’s wikipedia page is more than 10,000 words long.

He has been a teacher, journalist, waiter, newspaper editor, writer, male escort and trolley pusher, and has been married four times, fathering numerous offspring. He’s the most boring man on the most boring show of all time, but over fifty years, it adds up. What a life!

Jamie’s Locas stories are just like that, but instead of being the most boring thing ever, the story of Maggie, Hopey, Izzy, Ray, Doyle and Angel has been fascinating, moving, exhilarating, sad, silly, beautiful and utterly human. To see characters grow and develop over decades of terrific stories is one of the great pleasures of these comics. All the young punks have grown up, but that doesn’t make them any less interesting.

(And yes, it’s particularly ironic that this latest Love and Rockets - which pays off on situations set up 20 years ago and shows the growth and maturing of ripe characterisation - came out right at the point that DC is putting out All New All Different versions of the same old characters, giving them another tedious reboot because people can’t handle the idea that Superman isn’t 29-years-old any more - but let’s not go there right now….)

So if it did end? If Jaime went off and did Wolverine comics for the rest of his career, or spent the remainder of his life sitting on a mountain painting landscapes? It would certainly be painful, but to leave the characters where they stand isn’t a bad way to finish it.

The artist himself has even expressed in interviews some trepidation about where the story could go from here, but he undoubtedly has more stories he could tell. Angel’s story is just beginning, Izzy is undoubtedly off doing something peculiar, and it’s always nice to see what Doyle is up to.

But for Maggie and Ray and Hopey – this isn’t a bad place to leave them. You never really stop growing up, but if you can mature enough to get to a point where you’re actually happy with yourself and the way things turned out, then…

What else is there?

Just love, baby.



Charlie Hancock said...

L&R New Stories 3 & 4 absolutely blew me away. I also would be happy & satisfied if the Locas saga ended here, but I sure hope Jaime keeps telling these stories!

TNTComics said...

Jaime has been a HUGE influence on my artwork and while I love his storytelling, but I think Beto's stories are just a bit better.

Corey Creekmur said...

I had the great pleasure of hosting Jaime and Gilbert last week at a conference at the University of Iowa, and he told me amazing things about this issue (which you appreciate as fully as I do): he said it wrote itself, with him simply doing the drawing, and that he wrote this in case he was hit by a bus the next day. He said he plans to go on, but wanted to be able not to ... really amazing. I'm glad the world is starting to recognize that he is, 30 years in, at the top of his game.

Anonymous said...

I must be missing something. Having never read an issue, I just am not getting the vibe from these excerpted panels. What am I missin?