Tuesday, May 24, 2011

31 Days of Comics #24

Brain Capers #1
By Mario Hernandez

You can always count on Jaime for the emotional intensity and melancholic wit, and Gilbert will always bring the intensity with outrageous sex and violence, but you never know what you’re going to get from Mario.

This is largely because Mario is the least prolific of Los Bros Hernandez, producing only a few dozens comic pages where his brothers have crafted thousands. He was there at the start of Love and Rockets, and popped up now and again with some slice of Californian weirdness, but creative blockages slowed everything down, and it can’t have helped when your kid brothers start being hailed as two of the greatest cartoonists of the late 20th century.

There were still bits and pieces, and by 1993 Mario had enough material for a comic of his own. There may never have been a Brain Capers #2, but there is a number one.

Mario doesn’t shy away from showing his guilt over his crippling creative inaction, with a cover that features him kidnapped by his own creations, tied up and dragged behind a hot air balloon with an embarrassing lack of difficulty, as his art supplies rain are thrown out around him.

The lack of a chunky body of work means it’s almost impossible to come into something like Brain Capers #1 with no expectations, and the fact that he had the same nature and nurture as the creators of Death of Speedy and Heartbreak Soup is also inescapable.

But taken on its own merits, Mario’s comic is a lot of fun, a little bit disturbing and wonderfully unpredictable.

There are eight stories, and there is nothing like a common theme. There are painful little pieces of autobiography that look like they have been stabbed on to the page, and a crazy sci-fi conspiracy story. There are small true-life stories that are slightly confusing and horribly familiar, mixing it up with the absolutely mental Fake Foreign Funnies.

Some of these stories seem to be crucially missing a point, some of them are meandering messes, but they’re all interesting, have a slightly off-kilter wit and are occasionally very, very funny.

If you don’t know what kind of story Mario is going to write at any given time, you’ll be just as surprised by his art. Some of the stories in Brain Capers have that same wild and flowing line that he displayed in his Love and Rockets stories, but here Mario has a crack at half a dozen different styles in this book, going from real-world detail to simple open cartoons at the flick of a page.

Even though there is still a lot of experimentation in their art, Gilbert and Jaime both established their respective styles more than 15 years ago and their art is unmistakable. But gaze upon any random page of Mario’s work and you might be looking at something all new and all different that he never uses again. You never know what you’re going to get with Mario, and that mystery is immensely enjoyable.

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