The Trials Of Middle Age In Love And Rockets #6

by Koom Kankesan

The regular cover of the new issue of Love and Rockets features Luba (who I’m guessing is in her late sixties now, although on the cover she looks much older) and her lover Domingo, a younger man. They walk down the street smiling, Luba carrying her trademark hammer. Although what she’d be doing with that hammer at this stage is anyone’s guess. The only comic character who’s carried a hammer longer than she has is Thor. The following three panels demonstrate the ease with which Gilbert runs backwards and forwards through characters’ lives:

Luba is one of Gilbert Hernandez’s most recognizable characters and probably (Luba might be named after a goddess of fertility – I’m not sure) the thing that distinguishes Luba even more than her hammer are her breasts. Over the years, Gilbert has extended the cast of Luba’s family and in this story we see some of her children such as Guadalupe and Doralis having grown up, and we see Luba’s half-sisters Petra and Fritz and their children. Some of them have large breasts, some do not, some have other prominent body parts; they all seem part of a fetishized continuum that is hard to keep track of.

It doesn’t help that Gilbert seems to get more esoteric as he continues. His subject matter trails off into further reaches that are pulpy, magical realist, or just plain weird. Characters still hold conversations with each other that seem to suggest that their whole lives are one unending session on the therapist’s couch, and stories aren’t really crafted with an eye to plot or even scenes as they’re normally understood with a set-up & payoff. I’m not sure what to make of Luba and Domingo philosophizing about marriage, for example, as they glide from having sex to walking out the door. I’m not sure of what to make of the fact that at Luba’s advanced age, Gilbert has drawn her breasts even larger than before.

In the old stories, Gilbert’s characters raged and fought. Their lives moved in turns that were both heartbreaking and melodramatic. Remember ‘Heartbreak Soup?’ You could call the newer stories ‘Gonzo Gazpacho.’

His brother Jaime picks up the threads he’s been weaving over the last few issues. We have Hopey (now hopelessly middle-aged, you may remember) having returned from her class reunion in Hoppers with Maggie. Hopey is ensconced in her middle-aged life with partner Sadaf and son Mani. They try and take Mani to the baseball diamond but there are other kids there who won’t let the insecure Mani play. Hopey swears and curses at them in typical Hopey fashion. It’s amazing how, despite the middle aged change in her appearance, you recognize Hopey’s movements and mannerisms as unmistakably Hopey’s.

There is another storyline Jaime is continuing – a sci-fi one he titles ‘Animus’ in this chapter. It involves various space characters, sort of Kirby-esque, mostly female, and it’s a lot of fun. You can see that Jaime is enjoying compiling this yarn because the art just sings – it’s mostly action oriented, although quite beautiful both in composition and storytelling – and it probably speaks to the comics he loved as a kid.

Reading Jaime’s vignettes in issue form, you mostly notice that he focuses on small studies of character. They seem slight because very little happens. The arcs get collected and seem to amount to something more profound – we are told that the Maggie and Hopey school reunion arc will be released in the Spring of 2019 as a collection with the suggestive title ‘Is This How You See Me?’

My favourite bit in this new issue is a chapter that looks at Frank Lopez, another hapless but endearing Jaime character, a youth that exists in Tonta’s circle. At one time, there was something between Tonta and Frank Lopez but now, she won’t give him the time of day. In fact, no one gives Frank Lopez the time of day except his uncle and aunt. He is a short Latino youth and has something of the dreamer about him as he gets into fights he can’t win, moons over women he can never attain, and curses other people for the way they treat him, though he is too good-natured to ever hold it against them. Like Maggie and Ray and Angel and Tonta, Frank Lopez promises to be a character full of pathos and humanity we can get behind, though things most assuredly will not go his way. Even the way everybody calls him ‘Frank Lopez’ and never ‘Frank’ marks him as an endearing character!
Love and Rockets #6 is in shops now!

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