Posted by: Jeff Lester on September 5, 2008
My timing, as is typical, is atrocious: I’ve been meaning to write a review of this book ever since I bought a copy at SDCC. Since it just hit stores this week, I all but exhort you to dash out and buy a copy: not just because it’s Love & Rockets and it’s the Hernandez Bros., and not even because it’s the Hernandez Bros. at what may be at the start of (yet another) period of sustained excellence, but because both Jaime and Gilbert give you, in their own way, their versions of Final Crisis and Secret Invasion and the comparison and contrast may soothe and intrigue you.
[More exhorting and coercing and hopefully avuncular rib-poking behind the cut.]
Although it starts as a typical Locas story, with Maggie at her apartment complex talking to her pal Angel about a mysterious tenant, “The Search for Penny Century” changes gears very early on, as Angel, finally alone, changes into costume and scales a roof:
Y’see, the core of the first issue of L&R: NS #1 is 50 pages of Jaime Hernandez doing superheroes, and it so openly and easily moves back forth between the silly and the stellar, it reduced me to a piece of gibbering fanboy protoplasm. And isn’t that supposed to be the point of Final Crisis and Secret Invasion? (In fact, although I knew better, I approached Jaime at the table and asked if the story was meant to be a reaction of Marvel and DC’s current addiction to big events. He was, thankfully, entirely gracious about it, and just said that he thought it’d be fun to do something with a lot of energy.)
I could go on to summarize what happens in the story, but I think that does it a degree of disservice. Let’s just say that Jaime, like Grant Morrison, creates a ton of new characters in a short degree of time and yet, for me, does a much a better job of convincing me to care about them. This shouldn’t be particularly surprising, of course: Jaime is, in the very best sense, a cartoonist, and cartooning not only allows for any number of narrative shortcuts, the shortcuts produce a feeling of delight when done correctly.
And this, by the way, is why my timing is so atrocious: If I’d written this review when I’d intended, my comparison of Jaime’s story to Final Crisis would be more in a “huh, isn’t this funny?” kind of way. Coming now on the heels of my review of Superman Beyond #1, the comparison seems more confrontational, and corrective, than I intend. On the other hand, if you want to buy a copy of L&R:NS #1 to apply the reasoning of my Superman Beyond review to it and show why I’m full of shit, I don’t mind at all…as long as you buy a copy of this book.
It’d be a disservice, by the way, to suggest that Jaime’s story is the only reason to pick up L&R:NS #1.
Beto contributes a story about a pair of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis analogues that end up on an alien planet, getting superpowers, battling each other, and killing hundreds of aliens. Again, this neatly lines up with current trends and obsessions in current work-for-hire capes & tights, but it’s also deeply goofy, hugely fun, and any resemblance to current superhero big events is probably entirely unintentional.
It’s a much shorter piece than Jaime’s, as Gilbert’s peripatetic attention span sends him in several different directions at once. There’s cartoon characters engaging in compulsive behavior:
and oblique, evocative non-narratives:
and a fun little story that Mario writes and Beto draws, and a story written and drawn by Beto–that reads a bit like if Vittorio De Sica and Gabriel Garcia Marquez had collaborated–that isn’t particularly fun.
Anyway, this is far afield from my usual “blah, blah, blah” type of review, but I hope it nonetheless convinces you to at least pick up the L&R if you find yourself at the comic store this weekend. I thought the book was a knockout, and this is a great place to jump on-board if you never followed Los Bros before.
(Oh, and super-thanks to Fantagraphics for keeping a very well-tended Flickr stream. This review, quite obviously, would’ve been enormously different without it.)