Saturday, January 31, 2009

Love And Rockets #2

Let’s read Love And Rockets #2.

A huge chunk of the first issue was taken up by Gilbert’s BEM; this time it’s Jaime’s Mechanics taking a turn in the spotlight. It’s changed its name from Mechan-X, but it’s still got the sci-fi elements. Maggie, Race and co. have been sent to deepest, darkest Zymbodia to salvage a rocketship that crashed into a dinosaur. The dinosaur is still alive and has become holy to a local tribe, which is a nice, oddball touch.

Penny Century the Half-Naked Adventurer and former wrestler/globe-trotting hero Rena Titanon arrive on the scene a bit randomly to add drama. The story’s narrated by Maggie in the form of letters she writes to Hopey, which fits the hiccups in Jaime’s writing style – sometimes the clumsiness is Maggie’s and sometimes it’s Jaime’s.

There’s a nice moment where it cuts back to Hopey and her punk friends all crammed into a car and reading the letters in fascination, before returning to Maggie having the dullest day of her life, stinking hot and homesick. While there are moments of fascination in the story, there are also stretches of dull. In the issue’s introduction Gary Groth wanks on about this story being one of the few true claims to an American ‘graphic novel’, but that’s because he’s the wankiest wanker who ever wanked a wank. It has its moments, but they could happily be condensed down into something less needlessly rambling and scattershot. It does a good job at making the reader empathise with Maggie’s hopelessness and boredom, but it does that by making me hopeless and bored.

As usual, the pictures are pretty.

Mario, the third Hernandez brother, makes his first proper appearance in the next two stories. His later work is deliciously surreal, but here (helped out by Gilbert) the weirdness seems uninspired and the wordiness of the dialogue is deadening. There’s rarely a moment where the art is trusted to speak for itself and the effect is soporific, a drone that lulls me into a fugue state.

Gilbert’s short Music For Monsters closes out the issue and snaps me awake, in stark contrast to what’s gone before. The opening quote, summarised: “Bang woke up and decided to do something about the state of science fiction. After all, she had to live in it.” What Bang and Gilbert do to sci-fi is repurpose its trappings to tell a gleefully nonsensical story about aliens and snowmen that shows off his cartoonier side to its fullest. It’s a great strip and its punchiness feels so different to the rest of the issue it’s hard to believe I’m still reading the same comic.

Once again there are moments of greatness and signs of future potential in Love And Rockets, but it’s a hard slog to get to them. Next week: More slogging.

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