Love and Rockets: New Stories volume 6


By The Hernandez Brothers (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-679-9

It’s nearly Christmas again so it must be year since the last annual instalment of Love and Rockets: New Stories. Yep, there it is and about time too…

With this volume the most iconic, transcendent and formative force of the American independent comics movement enters its 40th year of publication. Love and Rockets was an anthology magazine featuring the slick, intriguing, sci-fi-tinged hi-jinx of punky young things Maggie and Hopey – las Locas – and heart-warming, gut-wrenching soap-opera epics set in a rural Central American paradise called Palomar.

The Hernandez Boys (three guys from Oxnard, California: Jaime, Gilberto and Mario), gifted synthesists all, captivated the comics cognoscenti with incredible stories sampling and referencing a host of influences – everything from Comics, TV cartoons, masked wrestlers and the exotica of American Hispanic pop culture to German Expressionism.

There was also a perpetual backdrop displaying the holy trinity of youth: Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll – also alternative music, hip hop and punk.

The result was dynamite then and the guys have only got better with the passing years. Mario only officially contributed on rare occasions, but Jaime’s slick, enticing visual forays explored friendship and modern love by destroying stereotypes of feminine attraction through his fetching coterie of Gals Gone Wild, whilst Gilberto created a hyper-real landscape and playground of wit and passion created for his extended generational saga Heartbreak Soup: a quicksilver chimera of breadline Latin-American village life with a vibrant, funny and fantastically quotidian cast.

The shadows cast by Palomar still define and inform his latest tales both directly and as imaginative spurs for ostensibly unaffiliated stories.

This masterful anthology of wonders simultaneously runs a string of contiguous story strands, opening with Jaime’s evocative ‘Fuck Summer’ wherein young Tonta Agajanian is losing her battle with boredom. The older, cooler kids don’t want to hang with her or her charming associate Gomez, and for some reason Coach Rivera is chasing her all over town, cutting into her precious vacation time and pushing her to join the swim team…

With no other resort they head to the swimming hole where wild girl Gretchen keeps finding “presents” from a forest spirit.

Gilbert then offers ‘Song of Our Sad Girl’ as Doralis “Killer” Rivera apparently quits her cinema career before heading back to Palomar to visit her distanced family. With flashbacks inter-cutting to the grandmother she’s playing in her new movie Maria M, the story primarily focuses on the starlet’s latest crisis.

She’s fleeing rumours that she’s pregnant and just wants some peace and a normal life. At least that’s what she’s telling herself…

‘Wrench World’ (Jaime again) finds Tonta the recipient of some shocking news: her step-father has been shot and her far-from-normal mother is the prime suspect. Even her older brothers and sisters believe the old bitch did it…

Killer’s star shines in ‘Willow, Weep No More’ (by Beto) as her quest for understanding the family – and especially her grandmother – turns up an old tape of shocking content…

Jaime then begins a series of revelatory vignettes filling in detail and character on Tonta’s extended, unconventional family of half-siblings in ‘Crimen Uno’ before the surly girl and BFF Gomez stalk Coach Rivera to some quirkily engaging ‘Tarzana Adventures’.

Thereafter Tonta’s little sisters need some surly-styled comforting in ‘Urchins’ whilst ‘Crimen Dos’ covers the elders’ discussion of their mother’s other (alleged) victims.

Gilbert’s firm grasp of the Hollywood rumour mill is shown in ‘…Killer’s Dad – Grampa Hector?’ and ‘Killer in the Mix’ sees the busty phenomenon head back to the USA in time for the release of the Directors Cut of Maria M, garnering grief from her friends about keeping the (alleged) baby she may or may not be carrying…

‘Crimen Tres’ continues with Tonta’s family simultaneously reminiscing and planning to get rid of their embarrassing surviving parent, whilst in ‘Pack Mules’ our girl and Gomez steal a car and head off to finally uncover Coach’s big secret…

It’s a doozy – seen in ‘Crestfallen Angel’ – but does break the ice, and, after ‘Crimen Cuatro’, Tonta at last begins to change her opinions…

An incongruous and lewdly fantastic untitled monster yarn from Gilberto segues into Jaime’s ‘Familylimaf’ wherein Tonta’s older sisters invade gym class and expose an unsuspected – an immensely humiliating – connection to Rivera after which ‘Crimen Cinco’ delivers one more shock to the girl and her constantly expanding family, before a reconciliation of sorts materialises in ‘Dogs Follow Dogs’

There are further familial secrets disclosed and generational ties uncovered for Killer in ‘Willow, Weep No More 2’ and ‘Willow, Weep No More 3’ after which Jaime hits the home stretch with ‘Crimen Seis’ – wherein the progeny get a good telling off – and Tonta gives in and joins the swimming squad in ‘Go! Go! Go!’ before ‘Crimen Final’ resolves the courtroom dilemma.

Gilbert ends his stint with a ghostly visitation in ‘And Palomar Again’ and Jaime takes us back to the beginning as Tonta heads back, back, back  to the swimming hole for more telling glimpses of her compelling family life in ‘Rrrregresamos’

Warm-hearted, deceptively heart-wrenching, subtly shocking, challenging, charming and irresistibly addictive, Love and Rockets: New Stories is a grown up comics fan’s dream come true and remains as valid and groundbreaking as its earlier incarnations – the diamond point of the cutting edge of American graphic narrative.
© 2013 Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez. This edition © 2013 Fantagraphics Books. All rights reserved.