I mentioned earlier, briefly, that I had picked up the first Fantagraphics collection of Love and Rockets. I finally finished it and thought I’d give it a couple words. As far as my comics-reading tendencies go, I don’t generally like slice-of-life, indie comics. It seems like such a waste of the medium to add crude drawings to your boring stories. I think I had associated Love and Rockets with those types of comics based on their very indie reputation.
I was wrong.
First, Love and Rockets is really comprised of two separate stories intermingled with occasional one-offs. But the primary core is Jaime Hernandez’s Hoppers 13 (or Locas) stories center around two, young Latino women named Hopey and Maggie and their assorted friends. The other half is Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar stories about a fictional town and its busty mayor, Luba. The Fantagraphics trades have separated these two “worlds” out; I’ve picked up the Locas stories exclusively. For its part, Locas isn’t necessarily realism. The world of Hoppers resembles ours, but there are also sci-fi elements that differentiate it (although Jaime has apparently shed these sci-fi tendencies as the years have passed). In Maggie the Mechanic, we’ve got mini-arcs involving Maggie repairing a rocket ship in a dinosaur infested netherworld, the friends getting lost in H.R. Costigan’s (the richest man on the planet who just happens to have horns) 100+ room mansion, and Maggie and Rena Titañon (a world famous female professional wrestler) getting lost in an underground tunnel after a terrorist attack in a billionaire land squabble. But the relationships of the characters are real; they bicker, make up, make love, and change through their experiences. They even age and gain weight. But because this all happens in a not-quite-real world, it never feels lame.
Second, Jaime’s art is amazing. It’s crisp, clean, cartoony, dramatic, and detailed. The girls are beautiful, but in a way that defies comic logic; they look like women, even when Jaime is drawing what are essentially pin-ups. They aren’t irrationally proportioned, overly buxom, or suggestively posed. They look…natural. And since he’s drawing off his punk roots, they’ve got edge too. Even Penny Century, who is supposed to represent that traditional comic female, is always beautifully and realistically presented. I’m particularly fond of the front-on crowd scenes that he often uses to open chapters:
Finally, I’m in love with these characters, and Maggie in particular. They are so tenderly, carefully realized that it doesn’t feel like you are reading a plot; you are hanging out with people as they live life. “Plotty” things happen, but at its core, this is about friendship and love. When the gang thought Maggie was dead, I felt bad for the characters; I don’t do that normally. I think its because Jaime has such a clear vision of who these women are that their interactions are reassuring and comforting. I like seeing them together and I want them to be happy. How freaking ridiculous is that?