Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tears from Heaven

Tears from Heaven

This fourth volume of the Complete Love and Rockets contains a number of interesting stories, continuing the pattern of the brothers building their fictional worlds. It is fascinating for me to re-read this volume and see how much gets telegraphed from this book.

Most of Jaime's Locas stories are rather plain, slice of life entries here. "Locas" and "Locos" do little more than show us scenes from the lives of various characters, and although they are well done in the vein of showing us mundane scenes, they do not pack much dramatic punch. Still the brief mentions of goings-on of Izzy do contain the germs of the heart-rending story that will headline volume 9's "Flies on the Ceiling." I also enjoyed the two stories that shed further light on Penny Century and her romance with gazillionaire H.R. Costigan, but they are lighter pieces of comedy.

I feel the strongest Jaime stories here are the ones about Rocky and her robot Fumble. Seemingly a one-off character from earlier volumes, here we see more about her childhood, family, and aspirations. She also meets Cheetah Torpeda, a robotic space-heroine, and the two go on adventures in another dimension. In some ways this story is a crazy sci-fi romp, but there is a tinge of sadness, too. This story is an elegy of sorts, as when it ends on a seeming cliffhanger, it is one that will not be resolved. It seems a goodbye note to these types of tales as from here on out Jaime will focus almost exclusively on his Locas cast of characters.

On the Gilbert side of things, he also returns to an earlier character, Errata Stigmata, telling the tale of her origins with input from his brother Mario. Her life is a series of surreal, tragic, and fantastic events, including love affairs, adultery, murder, religious fanaticism, art, and schooling. It is quite dizzying to see how much gets packed into such a small space. This is some of the best compressed story-telling in comics, and although I won't say it is the most affecting story, it is full of emotion.

Similar punches of emotion and power ring throughout Gilbert's Palomar stories in this volume. Not only do the brash personalities of Guadalupe and Tonantzin come through in their separate tales, the rest of the cast is more firmly established as well. Gilbert's work ranges from the soap operatic, "it goes-to-11" tone of "Ecce Homo" to the more subdued, yet no less impactful "The Reticent Heart," which tells of an unlikely and consequential love affair.

Rereading these volumes, it occurs to me more why I historically gravitated towards Gilbert's work over Jaime's. It seemed to me more mature and moving, and looking back over these books now I see that maybe it came to a point much earlier than Jaime's. Or perhaps he defined his characters and events more clearly early on. This is not to say that his stories are inferior or unworthy, they are just less thought out it seems to me.

Still now I see how much Jaime was more subtly creating his world and fleshing it out his characters. I feel like I am watching him feel his way through the creative process, and in the later books I'd say he catches up to his brother in spades. Jaime's work to me seems like skilled boxing, with stretches of artifice that lull people until he delivers swift, powerful emotional blows to the face. Today I would never say his work is inferior to his brother's. I just think he took a little longer to tell his stories the way he wanted. Plus, his artwork has always been consistently top notch.

My Rating: This book is a mixed bag of stories ranging from good to excellent.

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