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Love and Rockets #11
posted October 28, 2004


Creators: Mario, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez
Publishing Info: Fantagraphics, $4.50, 29 Pages, 2004
Ordering Numbers: None

The Hernandez Brothers have been so good for so long that it's hard to find any critical entry point through which to dissect exactly what it is they're doing. Love and Rockets #11 is the kind of step-back issue that inevitably arrives whenever a serial or two finds completion - in this case, both the Mario/Gilbert collaboration and the latest Jaime Maggie serial came to their conclusions in the very fine #10. The 11th issue is dominated by new beginnings and various, short interludes, which shows off another way in which particularly Jaime and Gilbert have blended over the years - the mix of Jaime and Gilbert used to be one of tone, post-New Love the contrast has also become one of formal approaches. Mostly through the expansion of Gilbert's creative muse, the newer Love and Rockets has become a destination point for finding all sorts of stories instead of a certain kind done right.

Gilbert's offerings include one of those short pieces where he takes a side character in the post-Palomar universe and basically lays out their life and relationship in a kind of studied, documentary-like manner. Mark Herrera is the motivational speaker who was involved with Fritz, and Gilbert focuses his analysis on what he finds attractive about certain women and how they reciprocate. Lust and affection played out over a series of relationships has been one of Gilbert's main avenues of exploration throughout his comics career, and this is more ground work - there is also a plot-point hint that someone from Herrera's past means him harm - then snapshot. "Intellectual Pursuit" is a nice, jokey one-pager about farts and "Shindeleria Praematurus," with brother Mario, gives Gilbert a chance to play with comics fundamentals through characters that are little more than blobs for whom he lays out a brief but sturdy visual iconography. His "Julio's Day" entries are the best yet in that series, as the accrued weight of so many pages begins to invest the proceedings with a little more feeling than was apparent early on.

Remarkably, the slower Jaime Hernandez gives us three stories as well. The one-pager "Stars Sweet Home" is simply cute, while "Who is Rena Titanon?" is also more adorable than substantial but many of the pictures are so drop-dead gorgeous it's hard to care. There are figures on page 21 marching behind Titanon as she goes to challenge a male wrestler in his home that are worth the entire career output of many cartoonists. "Life Through Whispers" is similarly gorgeous, but with a lot more on its plate. Here Jaime turns to his best male character, Ray Dominguez, with a story that finds its high and low points through a series of visual moments: turned corners, old friends, a face we don't get to see. Ray himself, wearing a dark suit, becomes a kind of visual impediment all his own, a part of the wall at some points and face that pops out of inky blackness at others. Jaime may receive grief for not embracing the more standard opportunities for heft that come with Gilbert's use of literary structures and out-there formalism, but there are worlds to be found in his graceful use of his beautiful and powerful art.

Creators (Mario, Jaime, Gilbert)