Friday, October 5, 2012

Music for Mechanics

Music for Mechanics

This volume reprints the first two issues of the original Fantagraphics series. It contains many short stories and has more of a science fiction bent than later stories in the series. It is also noteworthy for two longer works, Gilbert's "BEM" and Jaime's "Mechanics."

"BEM" introduces us to Luba, though not in the way she would come to be seen in the Palomar stories. Here, she is more a super-powered sorceress and revolutionary who summons a great beast to destroy her enemies. The plot is meandering and difficult to pin down, but it tends to be an action tale with some superheroic tendencies. The art tends to appear more Kirby-superhero influenced here than Gilbert's later style.

"Mechanics" is an epic tale of Maggie doing a job in the fictional country of Zimbodia with Rand Race. Here we get introduced to many of the major players and relationships in Jaime's universe. We meet the main cast of characters, including Hopey, Izzy, and Penny Century, who are back home in the states, reading letters from Maggie. Reading this story, and the series of shorter Mechanics tales interspersed in this volume, I was struck by how much is packed  into this sci-fi adventure story. Many of the themes and plots here are still being developed and referenced more thirty years later, though not quite in the same genre.

There is also a Mario Hernandez story, "Somewhere in California..." which is a sci-fi detective tale somewhat in the vein of Blade Runner. He is the brother who most pushed the others to publish their work, and while his style might be called the most rough, it is also full of energy and action.

Among the smaller works from Beto in this volume are "Radio Zero," which introduces us to Errata Stigmata, a character who turns up in several of his memorable stories, and "Music for Monsters," a riff on Kirby monster stories and Jaime's work. The volume ends with "A Little Story," which gives us a brief glimpse into the world of Palomar, the fictional Latin American village where Gilbert would set much of his later work in the first series of Love and Rockets.

Though it seems a bit rough and primordial, this volume shows off the Hernandez Bros. chops well and also introduces us to the sturdiness and longevity of their characters and stories. It is amazing to look back at how many themes, events, and people were conceived here, some seemingly in offhand manner, but that would reappear and loom large in their later works. This volume is almost a comic book Big Bang, a brief, brilliant burst that contains everything that would follow.

My Rating: This volume is a fascinating, dense, and dizzying introduction:

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