Monday, October 29, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #302: Love and Rockets: New Stories, No. 5 by The Hernandez Brothers

This book sat on my shelves for six years since it was published in 2012. Somewhere around the time of my 2011 flood, I decided it would be a good idea to re-read Love and Rockets from the beginning, and for some reason -- I can't explain my own thinking sometimes -- that meant that I would stop reading the current stuff until I could "catch up" from the beginning.

I'm not saying it was a good plan.

This year, with "I Love (And Rockets) Mondays," I finally did get to that big re-read, and almost twenty weeks into it, I've finally gotten back to 2012. That's a lot of delay for what turned out to be another quiet, transitional issue, but, finally, I'm here to tell you about Love and Rockets: New Stories, No. 5.

There are eight stories in this volume, four each from Jaime and Gilbert -- both are working with material related to the stories in previous New Stories volumes, but at a bit of a distance. There's still exactly a hundred pages of comics this time, but 60 of those pages are from Gilbert and 40 from Jaime.

Gilbert's stories still mix fiction and metafiction and focus on Killer, who is visiting Palomar for the first two stories -- driven by family stories, and loving the atmosphere there -- and then back in LA for the two shorter stories at the end. The long second story, "Proof That the Devil Loves You," mixes a pretentious Fritz horror B-movie, full of long-winded speeches, with Killer's visit to Palomar what seems to be several years after that movie was made, with various odd parallels.

(I still don't quite get why Gilbert spends so much time making fake bad movies in comics form, but it's clearly an idiosyncratic art form he is passionate about.)

Jaime steps back from the events of "The Love Bunglers" in the last two issues and introduces a new viewpoint character, Tonta, who is the half-sister of human wrecking ball Vivian "the Frogmouth." We don't know that at first when we meet her in the story titled after her name, but then she and the Frogmouth get caught up with "Crime Raiders International Mobsters and Executioners" -- or, well, a local rich guy and minor gangster who owns the local country club. Mel Spropp is having an affair with Viv, or maybe is planning to -- what actually happens here is that his goons keep coming over, stash a gun at her place, and Spropp keeps calling her only to hang up. As usual, Vivian is the center of endless drama for no good reason, and Tonta, our goofball viewpoint character, is just along for the ride.

There's also a short story here, "Uh...Oh Yeah" which may be from Ray's point of view, and may be set after "The Love Bunglers," though it's not clear on either front. Otherwise, Jaime's half of New Stories 5 is all the Tonta and Viv show. Tonta is drawn in a slightly goofy style: I'm not sure if she's just supposed to be ugly (to go along with being naive and a bit stupid) or if her old-lady face means something else. She's just a weird character.

Again, these are mostly smaller stories, minus that weird metafictional mix in the Gilbert "Devil" story, that do a little more character work and move the timeline a little further forward. And whether that;'s a good thing or not I guess depends on how you see New Stories. If it's a periodical, just in a different format, than that's what you'd expect: not every issue will be major. But if you think it's something different and important because it's in book form, then it might be disappointing.

As with everything in life, it's all how you look at it.

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