by Jaime Hernandez
I never knew why I wasn’t a bigger fan of Love and Rockets. Jaime Hernandez’s artwork is brilliant — I remember poring over issues back in my SVA days, stunned at the perfection of his lines. And his pages are full of gorgeous eye candy; Maggie Chascarrillo is (to my eyes) the sexiest comics character ever. But somehow I lost track of the story and lost interest in the comic.
Lucky for me a collection came out with all of the stories of Maggie, Hopey, Penny, Izzie, and the rest, in one great big hardcover. I bought it a couple of years ago, but had trouble reading it because of the sheer size of the volume. At the time I lacked a comfy chair for reading, and would read in bed, where this massive tome was just too unwieldy. And when I got me a comfy chair, I’d lost track of the book. Till a couple weeks ago I hunted it down, moved by having read Ghost of Hoppers.
So now I’ve read it. Jaime’s art is still brilliant — crisp lines, large expanses of solid black, complex faces and emotions rendered deftly in a few simple lines. And I’ve got a handle on what was throwing my younger self off. It was the panel transitions. Jaime is very fond of unusual transitions. It’s common for him to skip away from a scene in progress for one panel as a non-sequitur, then shift back to show some time has passed. Or to have dialog flow as if one panel is directly following another, while the images shown indicate that more time has passed. As a young nerd, used to direct storytelling, this sort of thing confused me, but now I can appreciate it. And having years’ worth of stories in a single 780-page collection makes it easier to piece together the character’s motivations than when I was reading it in little bits, months apart.
Also, coming at the story as a young SF reader, Love and Rockets defied my expectations of coherent world-building. Jaime’s stories are set in a world with rockets, superheroes, and monsters, yet these things generally occupy the fringes of the narrative. It’s like a modern third-worlder’s experience of the Internet — he may know it exists, and know one or two people who’ve used it, but it’s not part of his everyday life. If you’ve got the SF reader’s habit of taking background details and trying to work out from them how the story’s world works, Love and Rockets will confound you as much as a Gabriel García Márquez story.
This is probably less of an issue for readers with wider tastes, or who are used to Japanese manga storytelling techniques. Speaking of which…
Ode to Kirihito
by Osamu Tezuka
I just ordered this through Amazon recently. It’s a Tezuka work from the early 1970s, about a doctor trying to find the cause of a disease that gives its victims dog-like faces. (It also generally kills them with respiratory shutdown after a month or so, before any furries out there get too excited.) The beast-like appearance of the disease’s victims brings out the beast-like behavior of normal people confronted with something unusual; there’s plenty of betrayal, slavery, bigotry, rape, murder, and insanity in these 822 pages.
Tezuka’s artwork is at times simple like a child’s cartoon, or stylized like modern art, or toned and realistic like a photo. His layouts are sometimes conventional, sometimes wild and inventive. Shaenon Garrity has a longer review, with page scans, which is what initially drew this book to my attention.