Friday, 24 December 2010

Review - Love and Rockets: New Stories #1

I bought this when it came out back in 2008 but I’m embarrassed to admit that I have only just read it and only recently bought last year’s Love and Rockets New Stories #2 and this year’s #3. I guess the main reason that I put off reading this for so long is that I got a bit confused about where I was in the lives of Maggie, Hopey, Luba, etc. I mean, I bought every issue of Love and Rockets Vol.2 and have all (or most) of the books collecting that material but I really can’t remember whether or not I read the last half a dozen issues or not – because a lot of the stories were continuing and the comic was published quite infrequently, I usually saved them up until I had a few issues to read in one go – and I may also not have read the last couple of Love and Rockets books I bought. In short, I didn’t read this because I felt like I needed to re-read a lot of Volume 2 in order to catch up and didn’t know where to start. In the end, though, I figured Love and Rockets: New Stories #1 should be a good jumping on point for new readers and a good place for long-time fans like me to get back onboard, so I started here anyway.

The decision to re-launch Love and Rockets was probably a good one. As I said, it was just getting too hard to keep up with all those continuing stories when we were only getting about 15 pages each from Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez (with some input from their brother Mario) three times a year (or less). Love and Rockets: New Stories – Love and Rockets Vol.3 – is now published annually, as a 100-page graphic novel, giving Jaime and Gilbert approximately 50 pages each to play with per issue. However, I’m not sure that either of these great graphic-novelists really took full advantage of the new format in this issue. Jaime used his 50 pages to tell one long story, but it was only the first half of the story, which is concluded in #2. I think I would have found this extremely frustrating if I had read this when it came out and had to wait a whole year to read the second half of the story, and I am already worried that I may end up having the same problem with this incarnation of Love and Rockets that I had with the previous volume, and will be saving issues up until I have completed stories to read. Meanwhile, Gilbert produced seven short strips for this volume, two of which were loosely connected (and apparently also connected to ‘Julio’s Day’, a story from L&R Vol.2 that I haven’t read properly yet), one of which was written by Mario Hernandez (I have never managed to get into any of Mario’s stories, I’m afraid), and none of which made much sense (to me, at least).

Gilbert was once my favourite Hernandez brother – Heartbreak Soup and Human Diastrophism are two of my favourite comic stories and that massive Palomar hardcover is one of my favourite books – but I seem to have slowly lost interest in his work over the years. These days, I tend to enjoy his more surreal, throwaway strips (the sort of strips he did in that New Love comic a few years ago) more than I enjoy his Luba comics, which seem to have way too much sex in them now. It may be that there is no more sex in them now than there was back in the days of L&R Vol.1, and the problem may be that I am just more prudish these days, but ever since Birdland I have found that sex tends to overpower a lot of his stories and I just wish he’d calm it down a bit. But I have even lost interest in the tamer projects he does for the likes of Vertigo, etc., for some reason. His strips in Love and Rockets: New Stories #1 fall into the throwaway / surreal category, rather than the ‘adult’ category, but they are not his best work. ‘Papa’, which is about an old man who suffers a series of misfortunes as he attempts to make a delivery, was my favourite of Gilbert’s strips in this issue but even that was a bit too weird. ‘The New Adventures of Duke and Sammy’, about two old-style entertainers who end up fighting aliens on another planet, was also weird but fun, at least, while the other Gilbert stories here didn’t do much for me at all. I still love the way he draws, though.

Surprisingly, Jaime’s story, ‘Ti-Girls Adventures Number 34’, was an old-fashioned superhero strip which only contained a brief appearance by his most famous character, Maggie. Instead, Maggie’s friend Angel teamed up with a superhero called Alarma, from snooty super-team the Fenomenoms, and then the various members of B-list super-team the Ti-Girls, to take down Penny Century, who had finally achieved her dream of acquiring super-powers and was on the rampage. It was a fun story and Jaime’s artwork was perfect, as usual, but I’m not sure that I needed to see the words ‘to be continued next issue’ on the last page, as I was getting slightly bored well before the end of this instalment and would rather read some of his more down to earth stories.

Really, neither brother delivered the best stories they are capable of in this issue. I’m confident that Jaime, at least, will produce other comics that I fall in love with in future, and I really hope that Gilbert can do the same. I’m glad I finally read this and am glad I bought the next two issues, too, but I am genuinely worried that I might lose interest and fall behind with the series again sometime. I’m a waiting-for-the-trade kind of person these days anyway and much prefer graphic novels to periodical comics. Under normal circumstances, I would just stop buying this series and wait for the trades, but this is perhaps the only comic that I still buy in periodical format – as well as in graphic novel format – mainly out of a sense of loyalty to two truly great creators whose comics have given me so much enjoyment over the years. I will probably continue to buy this series, even if it is just a periodical disguised as a graphic novel, but it would be nice if at least some future issues were self-contained.

Cost: I honestly don’t remember how much I paid for this, or even where I bought it. The cover price is $14.99, which is about £10.00, but both Amazon and the Book Depository have it for under £8.00 at the moment.

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