Monday, November 12, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #316: Love and Rockets: New Stories, No. 6 by The Hernandez Brothers

The sixth annual installment of the squarebound Love and Rockets arrived in 2013 with a massive twenty-five stories in its standard hundred pages. Seventeen of those stories were from Jaime, totaling sixty of the pages here -- the first time, I think, that he had more pages in a Love and Rockets issue than his brother Gilbert.

Both brothers are continuing the storylines from the previous volume: Gilbert with Dora "Killer" Rivera, in and out of Palomar and ending her teen-scream-queen movie career, and Jaime with The Frogmouth's teenage half-sister Tonta and her complicated family problems.

So here's what you'll find in Love and Rockets: New Stories, No. 6:

On the Jaime side, Tonta is the viewpoint character most of the time. Also pretty central is Ish, that bouncer/muscle guy from the Cobia Club, who turns out to be the twin of Tonta's sister Vivian (Frogmouth). Frankly, their family gets really complicated in this book, with another, even older sister Vi (Violet?), a step-father (Al Castor) who's just gotten shot by an intruder, and a plot among the older siblings to bring their mother to justice for the presumed murder of their father (Hernan Solis) years before. And whether the dead father from eight to ten years before is the father of all of them -- Tonta, her younger sister Muneca, Vivian, Vi, and Ish -- is not entirely clear.

Frankly, it feels a bit like Jaime was making some of this up as he went along: he had Vivian kicking around the fringes of his cast for a while, decided to focus more on her and give her a wacky kid sister, and then started embellishing. Tonta might be a bit dim and totally self-absorbed, but would she really not know that she has an older brother? That that guy who she keeps seeing in a particular place is the twin brother of the sister she goes there with? That's well beyond normal obliviousness and well into brain damage.

The Tonta-and-her-family here spins through a lot of short chapters, but it's mostly the same story: one strand of what Tonta is doing (hanging out in the wood with Gretchen, another odd character with a Jaime-hottie-in-a-bikini body and an old-lady face; chasing boys badly; semi-stalking her new PE teacher, Angel Rivera) and one strand of the older siblings badly plotting to send their mother to jail for something she probably did do but that we only learn about third-hand through incredibly unreliable narrators. It all fizzles instead of snaps, which I think is Jaime's intention: he wants to show that this family has a lot of useless activity and energy; the older ones might be more directed than Tonta, but they're no smarter or organized.

All the pieces are nice: this is good character stuff, and Jaime is as always great with rapid-fire screwball dialogue. But I'm not really sure there's a there there; this feels like something he's doing to keep Love and Rockets stories going until he finally gets back and crushes our dreams from the end of the last Maggie-and-Ray story. This is still serialized comics, though: we'll have to see what it turns into when it's collected.

Gilbert's side of this book feels like a re-run, from the cover shot of Killer cosplaying her own grandmother to a surreal ultra-violent untitled story to more comics about movies and about long-dead great-grandma Maria (and particularly about the semi-lost single movie starring dead great-grandma Maria). I don't find the teen-Killer stories all that compelling: she's having a less interesting and distinctive Hollywood career than her great-aunt Fritzi did, and even that storyline wasn't all that exciting.

So this was a bit of a doldrums issue, circling things that it didn't reach, puttering around until something more impressive happens. But you get that after thirty years; it's no big deal. There will be more Love and Rockets, and it will all add up to more than this.

No comments:

Post a Comment