Monday, October 08, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #281: Love and Rockets: New Stories, No. 2 by The Hernandez Brothers

I don't think I mentioned this last week, but it's interesting that the New Stories series credits its creators as "The Hernandez Brothers" rather than the old-style "Los Bros Hernandez."

I don't know if that comes out of a sense that the "Bros" is an affectation more suitable to Young Turks, or if I should be mumbling some bafflegab about assimilation and cultural identity. But it's a shift, and that should be noted.

This second installment of the then-new Love and Rockets came out in 2009, with another hundred pages of comics evenly split between the two brothers. And the title was, obviously, Love and Rockets: New Stories, No. 2.

As with the first volume, it's a sandwich, with long Jaime chapters of "Ti-Girls" to open and close and Gilbert stories in the middle.

I've been saying not-entirely-nice things about the Ti-Girls story repeatedly -- last week with New Stories 1 and a few weeks back with the collected, revised edition of that story in Angels and Magpies -- so maybe I should let that horse die. This book does see the end of that story, and has a lot of pages of superhero action and long expository dialogue; Jaime Hernandez accurately replicates (or maybe satirizes?) all of the things I find most tedious and unrealistic in superhero comics.

Gilbert has two stories in the middle. First up is "Sad Girl," in which a now-teenaged Killer (Dora Rivera, Guadalupe's daughter) gets a small part in a movie and is obsessed with some guy she just broke up with, who we never see in the story. It's a story narrated heavily by Killer and the people around her, almost entirely about how everyone is trying to frame what is happening and how Killer feels about it -- that's interesting.

Less interesting to me is teenage Killer. She was a quirky, individual kid, but now she's just another big-breasted belly-dancing Gilbert hottie obsessed with boys and movie-making -- he already has enough characters like that, to my mind, but I guess, like Hollywood itself, he always needs new young ones in the pipeline.

The longer Gilbert story here is the silent "Hypnotwist," which is about as explicable and clear as any of Gilbert's silent stories. (Which is to say: not very much.) A blonde woman -- not any character we're supposed to recognize, I think -- puts on a coat and leaves her house, and then is presented with sparkly (magic?) shoes. She travels through a surreal world, confronting things that I think are supposed to be emblematic of her life and her choices (alternate future selves, men she might have relationships with, giant flying baby heads). There is sudden random violence, existential danger, and what looks like a happy ending, with the woman reunited with a blind man and working as a stage magician.

Your guess is as good as mine, frankly. It's visually interesting, and I can trace some of the themes, but if this story is supposed to say anything specific or to tell a coherent story, that escaped me.

So this book, all in all, was disappointing -- this time around, as part of my big re-read, as well as the first time I saw it in 2009. But that's the way the world works: your favorite creators will do new things, and try new styles that don't work for you -- and sometimes don't work at all. This is minor Love and Rockets, but it's still worth reading as a link in the chain between the great stuff before and the great stuff after.

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