Sunday, October 17, 2010

Love & Rockets: New Stories # 3

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Love & Rockets: New Stories # 3 (Fantagraphics, 2010).

This is the living definition of "more like it." The previous two editions of the annual Love & Rockets book have been supremely competent but left me very cold and frustrated. That is to say, they were very good comics, but not the comics that I, maybe selfishly, wanted to read.

This time out, Gilbert Hernandez is still telling stories of his almost nothing of a character, the big-boobed "Killer." I still don't think anything of her, but at least the opening chapter of the book, a violent and graphic take on a '50s sci-fi melodrama, is a pretty surprising story. At some point, I'll have to reread the Killer installments of these three editions, because I have the feeling that I'm missing something that I'm supposed to be seeing about this otherwise dull character.

But Jaime Hernandez definitely comes to the rescue for the first new Maggie story in far too long. "Browntown," and the remarkable framing story that surrounds it, is a really harrowing look back at Maggie's childhood, and the abuse that her younger brother silently suffered. Good Jaime Hernandez comics are always just about the most satisfying books that money can buy, and I was so impressed with how the pleasure of seeing contemporary Maggie again for the first time in far too long gave way to the satisfaction of seeing another building block in her curious history, and then everything turned unpleasant in a way that was equally bleak and fascinating. Watching Jaime fit everything together the way he does is breathtaking. Recommended for adult readers.

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