Apathy Jack writes:Love and Rockets by Jamie and Gilbert Hernandez
This series is somewhat famous for being a bastion of alternative culture in the eighties and early nineties – especially after a band named themselves after it. Definitive collections have just been released.
The most popular are the works of Jamie Hernandez, chronicling the life of Maggie Chascarillo, a Mexican-American hoodrat living on the proverbial wrong side of the tracks. The early stories are Jamie throwing all of his influences at the page to see what sticks, so, in addition to Maggie walking the streets with her punker friends, she also works for a world-famous mechanic and has adventures with dinosaurs and professional wrestlers. After a while, it (mostly) settles down to Maggie dealing with everyday life. Which (oddly, given my proclivity for wrestlers and dinosaurs) makes it even more compelling. The two “Maggie” collections out so far are Maggie the Mechanic and The girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S.
Despite Maggie’s popularity, I’ve always preferred Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar tales. Set in the fictional Mexican village of that name, Gilbert’s stories travel back and forth across decades telling the stories of the inhabitants. It is simply a soap opera, but it is moving and affecting, and you come to really care for the characters. I still remember being unemployed, sitting in the public library reading Love and Rockets and my clearest memory is of reaching the end of Human Diastrophism – the final major Palomar story – and sitting there stunned. Magical realism isn’t generally my thing, but I still care for all of the characters from Palomar – they’re realer than many of the real people I know. (Disclaimer: I do hang out with some awful caricatures of humanity...) The complete tales of Palomar are currently available in two volumes: Heartbreak Soup and Human Diastrophism, with a volume of Gilbert’s post-Palomar stories to be released at the end of this year. Go read them.