Ever since Love and Rockets by Jaime & Gilbert Hernandez switched to the annual New Stories format, every issue has come out around September… until now. September 2014 came and went, with no Love and Rockets. Well we finally have a new issue, with Fantagraphics releasing New Stories #7 this month. Was it worth the wait? Yep!
Love and Rockets: New Stories #7 features a Jaime Hernandez cover. That is such a typical Maggie Chascarillo image. Ever since she started to become curvy in her 20s, Maggie has often stressed over her appearance, worrying that she was fat. Jaime has always been brilliant at investing his characters with personality & emotion, and his illustration of Maggie speaks volumes.
The cover ties in very well with the interior stories. Maggie and her long-time best friend Hopey Glass are meeting up for the first time in a number of years. Back in the day the two were inseparable, and on several occasions they tried to have a romantic relationship. But inevitably those attempts would implode, and leave both of them hurt & angry.
Maggie has been in a relationship with Ray Dominguez for the last several years, helping him recover from a severe brain injury. Hopey married her girlfriend Sadaf, and the two of them had a child together. Even though Maggie and Hopey have been on their separate paths for some time, now that they’ve met up for a reunion of their friends in Hoppers inevitably the old attraction between the two begins to simmer beneath the surface.
When Love and Rockets started out over 30 years ago, Maggie and Hopey were teens, which would make them now both in their late 40s, I should guess. Jaime does excellent work is this issue showing how the two of them react to at the various changes to each other’s lives, and to their old home town. Maggie and Hopey both begin to realize that sometimes you can’t go home again, both literally and figuratively.
Jaime peeks in on Ray from time to time. It’s a measure of how much Jaime is able to make his readers care about his characters that I was genuinely relieved to see Ray on the mend from his injuries. Likewise, the anxiety that Ray feels is palpable. As much as he knows that he and Maggie love each other, he also recognizes the feelings that Maggie and Hopey have. It is understandable that he is genuinely worried he could lose Maggie.
We also check back in with Tonta. Her and her dysfunctional siblings are still dealing with the fallout of her mother going on trial for killing her husband. Even though their mother was acquitted, the rest of the family realizes that she actually did do it, and are struggling with how to cope with this. Tonta’s sister Violet is very ineffectually trying to shield Tonta from it. Fed up with the drama at home, Tonta keeps running away to hang out with her friends.
Finally, Jaime gives us an all-too-brief update on Angel Rivera, who is both Maggie’s friend and Tonta’s former high school coach. Hopefully we will see more of Angel in the next installment. She is a fun character, and I want to find out how her current difficulties resolve themselves.
In his half of New Stories #7, Gilbert Hernandez once again looks at the various members of his extended cast, taking a multi-generational journey through the decades. Gilbert, like Jaime, touches upon the passing of time, of how people and places change.
Anchoring the story in the present day is Killer. Through her latest trip to Palomar, we see how that community has both stayed the same and change. On the one hand, there is the now-adult Theo, still gathering buckets of slugs to sell in the village, much as he did many years past with the late Tonantzín. Theo even alludes to her, and seeing Killer in his company you are struck by the similarities between the two.
On the other, cell phones and iPads are now commonplace in Palomar, a place that only a decade or so in the past didn’t even have telephone land lines. Witnessing one of the town’s teens watching a movie on a handheld device, Killer wistfully observes “My grandma used to have a movie theater here. Now you all watch movies that way.” This she states while holding hammer in hand, standing in a manner very much like her grandmother Luba.
It is interesting that the character of Killer sees Gilbert moving his stories forward towards the future, chronicling the latest generation. Yet aspects of Killer invariably evoke Luba, Gilbert’s iconic protagonist from Love and Rockets series one. Killer appears to embody one of the central themes of Gilbert’s writing, the idea that while time inevitably marches on the events of the past will still continue to influence the present.
Inspired by her great-grandmother Maria and her great-aunt Fritz, Killer is still doing work as an actress, although for her it is just a hobby, something that is fun. She really just wants to lead an ordinary life. Consequently, Killer is very alarmed when, much like Fritz before her, she finds that she has gained a few extremely obsessive fans.
I wonder if Gilbert was influenced by his own experiences as an acclaimed comic book creator. Obviously something like 99.9% of Love and Rockets fans are relatively sane, reasonable, well-adjusted people who understand & respect boundaries. But then there’s that 0.1% you have to watch out for, the ones who probably lurk about eBay trying to find an auction for one of Gilbert’s half-eaten sandwiches that someone retrieved from the garbage at the San Diego Comic Con!
In my review of New Stories #6 I wrote “I never had too much sympathy for Maria in the past. But thinking it over, I realize that Maria was a flawed woman who led a difficult life, and who did change over time.” Gilbert returns to his examination of Maria, examining her gradual development over time via a series of moments set through the years entitled “Daughters and Mothers and Daughters.”
As we see Maria with Fritz, first when she was an infant and then a teenager, it is apparent that her Maria really did love her. Maria made many mistakes, including when it came to how she raised Fritz. But underneath it all, for all her stumbles, Maria did at least try with Fritz and Petra to be the mother she never was to Luba.
There is a brief scene, some years in the past, where we see Luba’s daughter Doralis, after moving to the United States, discovered Maria. Doralis asks “Grandma, why don’t you want me to tell anybody in the family about you? My mama and my sisters and brother would love to know that I found you.” With resignation, Maria responds “No, Doralis. I’m happy that you and I happened upon each other, but… no… it’s too late Doralis. Promise me you won’t tell anybody that we’ve met.”
This is a sad moment. Maria genuinely believes that she can never repair the damage between her and Luba, make up for the hurt she caused by abandoning her daughter as an infant, and that the past is best left in the past.
Gilbert also devotes part of the issue to one of his movies-within-the-comic-book. “The Magic Voyage of Aladdin” is one of Fritz’s B-movies, this one co-starring Mila, one of the women who married motivational speaker / con artist Mark Herrera after Fritz divorced him. As always, I’m left wondering if there is some sort of hidden meaning and subtle subtext to Gilbert’s “movies” or if he’s just having fun sending up genre conventions. Perhaps it’s a bit of both.
(For the full details of Fritz’s relationship with Mark, and Mark’s subsequent other disastrous marriages, I recommend picking up the High Soft Lisp trade paperback published by Fantagraphics in 2010.)
Interestingly, Jaime follows Gilbert’s lead with his own movie-within-the-comic-book. “Princess Animus” is a pulpy, sexy space opera that turns out to be the movie that Maggie and Hopey have been attempting to catch a screening of in the early pages of the issue.
Once again clocking in at 100 pages, the latest edition of Love and Rockets: New Stories has a wealth of material from both of the Hernandez brothers. Jaime and Gilbert continue to develop their large casts of characters and unfold numerous plotlines in an intriguing manner. And the artwork from both of them is gorgeous.