Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Love and Rockets Volumes 13-15

Love and Rockets month comes to a thrilling conclusion today as I post about the last three volumes in the original run of the series. Enjoy!

Chester Square

This book ranges far and wide with its plot. For the most part it follows Maggie as she wanders about, trying to make sense of all the upheaval and loss in her life. For stretches of the story, she is stranded at a bus station in Chester Square, where she has to contend with lonely guys, a surly prostitute named Ruby, suspicious business owners, and local law enforcement. Alternatively, she also ends up on the road with professional wrestlers, and she muddies the waters of her personal and professional relationships along the way. All the while, she encounters conflict and decisions about who she should be and who she should associate with.

Names are a big deal in this book, and it seems that Maggie goes through many in the course of growing up. Not really a cipher, she is more a lost soul casting about looking for an identity and fulfillment, only to be deterred by bad relationships, tragedies, or just plain poor planning. Her journey feels like some sort of allegory or morality tale, with the elements of a cowboy western, Jack Kirby's Fourth World (a couple of characters look a little too much like Oberon and Highfather to be coincidental), Lee and Ditko's Spider-Man,and a Twilight Zone episode. Maggie is a wanderer in search of meaning, a sort of woman-with-no-name. Or rather, a woman-with-many-names.

Jaime's artful weaving of stories and characters evokes so many emotions and touchstones that this book feels monument, a meaningful highpoint in the Locas narrative and also in comics in general. The ending is a thing of beauty, sweet but not treacly. Jaime would eventually return to this series and these characters, but there is a sense of closure here and a rare moment of happiness after much drama and travail. Reading this book was a rewarding and moving experience for me.

My Rating: A masterpiece. Probably my favorite book from this first series.

Luba Conquers the World

Gilbert has long juggled a huge cast in his Palomar stories, and with this book he pushes his limits even further. Luba's past and present collide here, as she has grown older, settled down some, and moved to the United States. We get to see how life has treated her and also how a large number of the other characters have aged and established their own lives. We see them in America working as entertainers, entrepreneurs, and menial workers. They cover a gamut of sensations and fates.

Add to all these happenings flashbacks to Luba's childhood as well as Maria's (Luba's mother) life, including her involvement with criminals, violence, and her various children. It turns out Luba has two long-lost sisters, Petra and Fritz, who have their own stories and relations to account.

All of these ingredients combine into a huge story motor that has many moving parts. At times, scenes burst forth with emotion, energy, and intrigue. It is easy to get lost in all of these interconnected narratives, but certain themes and images appear again and again. The mysterious nature of family relations are examined, as well as the cycles that generations may follow. The characters frequently try to raise themselves up and strive for the best things in life, but they spend much time in the grime and grit of life. Still, Gilbert exposes the positive that can come from glorying in those places. Wallowing in the mud might be undesirable in the long run, but it is where many people get their starts and there are joys in these visceral experiences.

Life here is depicted as striving to reach for something better, something brighter, something maybe out of reach. Luba's version of conquering the world, like Gilbert's work in general I could contend, is humble, humbling, and amazing.

My Rating:There is so much packed in this volume, and it left me breathless, exhausted, and mostly fulfilled.

Hernandez Satyricon

This volume is a sort of catch-all, collecting various and sundry tales from all three Hernandez brothers. The stories are frenetic, full of crazy energy, and they are frequently profane, playful, and shocking. I can't say anything really stands out as particularly memorable beyond shock value, but the half of this book that contains promotional drawings, calendar panels, alternative covers, and poster art is full of crazy, beautiful ideas and gorgeous imagery.

I think this is more a book for long-standing fans who want to see rarities from the series.

My Rating: Mostly for L&R completists.

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