Review: Love and Rockets

Not the band.

Heartbreak SoupLove and Rockets, for those unaware, is the name given to a selection of works by Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, dealing primarily with a group of (largely chicano) punks in California and the inhabitants of the fictional Central American village of Palomar, respectively. Though dealing with seemingly disparate topics, both series share much in common: both follow a large selection of constantly developing characters; both constantly throw weird and wonderful elements into the mix – be they superheroes, gods, or short storylines dealing with Lucha Libre; both feature some of the most three-dimensional and well-crafted characters in fiction. The best single description I can think for either series would be ‘counter-culture soap opera’, but this would be to do the series a disservice. Gloriously uplifting at times, incredibly tragic at others; fully aware of the cruelty of human nature, yet ever optimistic – the Love and Rockets tales never lose sight of the humanity of the characters they describe, and are brilliant for it.

The series has been around for some time, having been started in ’81, and continuing through to the present day (with a five year hiatus in-between), and makes for a fairly imposing series for the uninitiated. However, those who have been unsure where to start rejoice! Fantagraphics has begun recompiling the Love and Rockets comics, collecting related stories into single books (rather than following simple chronological order as before). While not comprehensive, this does mean that new readers can now own large chunks of the specific stories that interest them without needing to go considerably out of their way to do so.As such, I must suggest that the discerning reader go out to their local bookstore and request one of these collections: those interested in Gilbert’s pseudo-romantic tales of the inhabitants of Palomar could do far worse than Heartbreak Soup, whereas those more enamoured by Jaime’s eclectic tales of punk mechanics should jump on Maggie the Mechanic. Both are absolute steals at the price – each providing near 300 high-quality pages of beautiful artwork and brilliant tales – and even the most cash-strapped reader should be able to justify the purchase of both books. I would be hard-pressed to choose a favourite, but the romantic in me leans ever-so-slightly more towards the tales of Palomar – whatever the case, the two books should set you up well to better understand what each writer is about, and hopefully will instil a love for the characters and world of Love and Rockets equal to that of me and countless other readers.   

If you’ve not experienced Love and Rockets before (or, for that matter, the comics – ed.), deprive yourself no longer.

Three Dimensions out of Five





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June 2007
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