Love and Rockets: Amor y Cohetes and New Stories #1 (Fantagraphics)

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lar-header.jpgLos Bros Hernandez return with two new releases: one their first foray into the annual graphic novel format, the other a collection of odds and sods.

 

Amor y Cohetes (Fantagraphics)

283 pgs. B&W; $16.99

Love and Rockets: New Stories No. 1 (Fantagraphics)

100 pgs. B&W; $14.99

(W / A: Jaime, Gilbert, and Mario Hernandez)

 

There's something strange about aging comic book characters. Messing with the bizarro world stasis predominantly reigning throughout the comic world feels a little weird, and from what I know, it's something that is often stayed away from. Of course, this bleeds into animation as well, and wouldn't we all be a little freaked out if we turned on an episode of the Simpsons and Bart and Lisa were in their late 20s or early 30s (the ages they would be if they existed in the non-drawn world)? Talking about animation is a bit of a digression, but comic ideals are often shared whether the image is stationary or moving. Characters wear the same clothes, live the same lives, and above all, stay the same age, often for the entirety of their existence, right?

The cover to Amor y Cohetes. Click for a larger image.In about the last year, the Hernandez brothers (mostly Jaime and Gilbert, but with bits of Mario along the way) released a seven book retrospective collection of their Love and Rockets work (covering nearly 30 years), ending with Amor y Cohetes, a collection of one-shot stories and short series not necessarily involving the more well-known and frequently revisited characters of the series (Maggie and Hopey are not a focus here). Shortly after the release of this final installment, Love and Rockets: New Stories No. 1 was published.

In Amor y Cohetes (yup, that's Love and Rockets en español), an eclectic array of stories have been compiled, ranging from the beautiful and highly stylized short biography, "Frida", to the Hernandez brothers at their most Charlie Brown, the lighthearted "Our Christmas!!!" The Frida Kahlo story is often a graphic homage to the artist, borrowing scenes from her paintings as a means of storytelling. Also of note are a number of stories devoted to Rocket (or Rocky), a teenager who likes to spend her time planet-hopping and exploring with her robot friend.

For those readers who are not so familiar with Love and Rockets, it's sci-fi. It's also about love, is often teeming with magical realism, and the characters, no matter how far-fetched they can seem, often have very realistic human emotions. One of the general elements the series deserves a hand for are strong female characters -- yes, sometimes they are naked, but to be fair, you'll see more penises than breasts within the pages of these books. In "Never Say Never" from the New Stories book, you'll find a whole cast of coin-eating dicks living on Dick Street (Where else would they live?) as a gambling kangaroo tries to find the right dick to repay for the loan of a coin. No, this is not a new direction the brothers have taken, just one of the interlude stories that often find themselves nestled between the more lasting storylines.

New Stories opens with "The Search for Penny Century". Maggie's still reading comic books, but if you haven't seen her in a while, she's aged like a real person. She's gained a bit of weight over the years and isn't exactly the same punk rock mechanic you'll find in older stories. In recent years, she has become the frequently bathing suit clad manager of an apartment complex.

The cover to the latest Love and Rockets. Click for a larger image.Hopey is nowhere to be found in this book, although she can be found in The Education of Hopey Glass, which was also released this year. It seems the perpetually on-again, off-again romance of Maggie and Hopey is in a decidedly off stage at the moment. Maggie actually is not one the main characters of this new book. Her friend, Angel, who we see reading comic books with Maggie on Maggie's bed, quickly takes the lead in the main series of the book. The comics they've been reading are all older ones and about several groups of female superheroes. It soon becomes evident that one of the superheroes they have been reading about, one Alarma Kraktovilova, is currently residing in Maggie's apartment complex. Although Angel is not a superhero, she has a costume just in case, and soon teams up with Alarma in an effort to stop Penny Century (who you may recall from the Love and Rockets past), who has newly acquired superpowers from an intergalactic rampage over the loss (not death) of her two daughters. Needing help, Angel and Alarma are joined by several other characters, including the Weeper, or Rocky, as she was known in younger days.

Aside from the main story involving the Penny Century fiasco, there are several shorts, two of which are gracefully interwoven after seemingly unrelated starts. There's also a rather charming (very) little fable of why armadillos sleep during the day.

If you've got a bit of time and money, you can get yourself fully caught up on the three-decade span of Love and Rockets. Those holidays are coming up, so maybe you'll luck out and find someone to fill one of your bookshelves with thousands of pages of Los Bros Hernandez comics. | Jaffa Aharonov

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