Monday, September 14, 2009

Yet another Love and Rockets weekend

A year can be a very, very long time to wait sometimes.

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The math was simple: Upcoming and expensive dental surgery means no luxuries for a while. Have to give up the comics for a few weeks, along with the other stupid little treats. (Still managed a good night out with booze and dancing on Saturday. It cost $1.20.)

But even though it costs $36 an issue these days, Love and Rockets only comes out once a year now and it’s impossible to resist. The second issue of L&R: New Stories is in stores this week and I can’t leave it sitting there. I want to feel like I’m 19 again. I want a dose of god damn comic genius. I want some Love and Rockets.

I get some Love and Rockets.

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Short version: Jamie brings the wham-bang action with a truckload of sad nostalgia and emotional metaphor. Beto is doing that thing he does at the start and end of every L&R format, free-wheeling for a while, letting things go crazy for a bit. Fair play. It doesn’t always immediately reward, but I’m always up for some freewheeling craziness and it does stand the test of time a lot better than some of his other, more plot-driven stuff.

Shorter version: It’s as fucking brilliant as always and is my favourite comic again. Or at least for a few more months.

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Jaime’s fight choreography is ridiculously tight, maintaining a real fluidity while fucking shining with energy. The part where Angel clocks Kalamity with an incredibly solid uppercut is spectacular. Or an earlier fight between the two, with the filing-cabinet back-slam.



I love this shit and after years of over-rendered idiocy reducing fight scenes to nonsense, it’s still a thrill to see a solid draftsman with an eye for movement and impeccable timing produce the best action scenes I’ve seen since… Well, since the second issue of Batman and Robin. Quitely and Hernandez are my rock stars.

It must have worked, because I yelled “Pow!” out loud with Angel’s punch and people looked at me funny.

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So how come my favourite part of the whole book is the bit where Xo and Maggie meet and make that odd little connection? It’s an obvious one that still doesn’t make any sense and that’s what is so great about it. These things should not make any sense, they’re comics.

But it’s something Jaime has done a few times now, introduce a random character that turns out to be not so random. Xo can’t be Maggie’s cousin, there are decades between them, although Xo talks about things from back in the 20th century, and there is some vast, complex cosmological continuity out there in the background.

The back-story never mattered, origins are always the most boring part. Jaime just cuts to the chase and shows the big fight, leaving the background where it belongs, in brief asides and weird meetings.

Shit, now I want to head back into Whoa Nellie and those Xo stories in the last issues of the first volume. L&R always does that.

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On the Beto side, it’s the fifth generation of the same old story for Killer. The multi-generational story-telling is one of the most attractive aspects of his tales and Sad Girl is no different.

Resonances between Killer and her mother, grand-mother and great grand-mother are everywhere, (not to mention the cousins, friends and other members of her extended family) but she still has her own story to tell.

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But I keep coming back to the Jaime, because it’s so beautiful to look at, and still spooky and sad.

Where does Maggie go, right at the end? Is she done with super-heroes, like she was done with the ghost women and black dogs at the end of Ghost of Hoppers? Is it time to move on from her comfortable life managing that apartment block, away from that soothing nostalgia?

She’s 40 now and all grown up.

But there are still comic books that only Maggie can read, or the weird creepy vibe of it all. It’s the return of that supernatural hum that often underpins the Locas stories and can also be found in obscure old superhero comics, in entire companies that vanished over the years, leaving behind pop culture debris that can still be picked apart.

And then she fades away under a light of truth. Wherever she ends up next, she’ll still be Maggie, but she will have grown up, just a little bit more.

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It is a bit sad sometimes, but there is still a lot of light to enjoy. The super-heroines are spunky and sassy and the easy explanation of “the gift” covers a lot of holes.

And Penny is always Penny, reacting to everything in a massively over-the-top manner. If anybody who digs the grungy realism of past Locas stories has been put off by the fantastical super-hero angle of the new comic, they just need to remember that Penny has always flitted about between worlds.

Just as comfortable in world where young men drinking beer against a wall in the Californian sun as she is in the one concerned with ultimate, epic battles between good and evil. She was always the most comic-book character and now she has also faded away. Penny could still pop back up at any moment, but this could also be an end, holding her head high as she moves on out of the world.

Is she done now, content to live a life outside the limelight for the first time in her life?

Could be!

* * *

The shift to the annual format was a welcome revitalization, but it still means that years can go by before we get updates on the best characters in comics.

Okay, so Doyle would vanish for more than a decade and then show up as if it’s 1982 all over again. But with the quarterly schedule, there was always the chance that he could show up at any time. When the Ti-Girls story got started and it became obvious that that was the next two years of Locas stories, it really was a little depressing to know that this was all we were getting out of Jaime for the next two years.

Even if the brilliance of the new story, I’m still desperate to know how Ray D is doing, or whether Viv has got it together, or how Hopey is managing a mature life.

Because – god damn it- I really fucking care about these characters. We drop in and out of their lives and it’s never quite enough. Like my closest friends and family, I don’t need to know much, but I just want to know if they’re all right, if they’re okay.

These are simply great fictional characters, in a great story, in a great comic. I miss them like nothing else, but at least that just makes the inevitable catch-up all the sweeter.

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See you next year!

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