One of the primary tenets of the “comics as literature” argument is that comics are simply a medium of communication, and are therefore capable of telling a story or conveying information without being artificially limited to certain genres and maturity levels. An author or publisher need not assume that their audience is an adolescent male who is only interested in power fantasy and violent action. for those tuned into the medium, this couldn’t be more obvious, with books being released all the time that cover a wide range of styles, genres and moods. Even non-fiction is an option, which many people may find counter intuitive. How can you claim to be presenting a true story when you’re drawing the events? How can there be any objectivity in such a presentation? Of course, objectivity doesn’t come any easier from the viewfinder of a camera, or a writer’s pen (or word processor). And non-fiction doesn’t mean objective, impersonal, or unbiased. Are Persepolis or Maus any less true than a prose memoir?
French Canadian cartoonist Guy Delisle has been mining this territory in his output. Shenzhen and Pyongyang are autobiographical memoirs that recount his stay in the titular cities, in comics form. His third book in this vein, Burma Chronicles, is being released by Drawn & Quarterly in September.
I have to admit up front that I’ve never read Delisle’s previous books, but after my experience with Burma Chronicles, they have quickly risen to the top of my “must read” list. In Burma Chronicles, Delisle, his wife Nadege, and their young son Louis travel to Burma under the auspices of Doctors Without Borders, where they live for several months. Delisle recounts his period of adjustment to life in the dictatorial country, coping with everything from linguistic deficiency, culture shock, bureaucratic insanity, sweltering heat, and carpal tunnel. Everything from finding a house, to bribing the local officials, to searching for ink to work on his children’s book brings with it a new series of surprises, sometimes pleasant, sometimes thrilling, sometimes harrowing.
The politics of Burma are unavoidable, and color daily life for the locals and visitors alike. The house they end up staying at is within walking distance of Aung San Suu Kyi,the Nobel prize winner and political prisoner who has been kept under house arrest for over 12 years by the military junta she opposes. Between the daily sight of soldiers surrounding her house, the obvious and widespread censorship in domestic and foreign media, and the counterproductive machinations of the military bureaucracy, the atmosphere of Burma Chronicles is permeated with oppression.
Not everything is dour and cynical though.The family’s interactions with the locals run the full gamut of possibilities, from selfless generosity to annoyance and anger. Through the people they interact with, we get a vivid picture of daily life for Burmese people of all walks of life. Details like their household assistant’s Betel juice stained teeth, or the fat monk who comes by at an inappropriate time for alms, flesh out the social environment of the country.
His artwork is highly stylized, with angular, iconic figures that are nonetheless expressive. His backgrounds and scenery truly shine though, giving a real sense of locale and character to the places he’s presenting. The architectural pretensions of the nouveau riche are contrasted with the practical, rustic sprawl of the outlying areas. A handful of side trips are illustrated as wordless grids of small panels that feature surprisingly evocative drawings of the countryside and it’s ancient temples. There are beautifully detailed panels highlighting everything from the local plant life, to the evolution of a streetside folk art monument.
Burma chronicles is a quick, compelling read, that feel surprisingly deep and rewarding. The casual, personal tone is only occasionally interrupted to present essential background information on the history or culture of the region, but even that is engagingly presented. It’s ultimately a rich picture of a land that is completely foreign, both culturally and politically, through the eyes of a Western visitor. I finished it with a sense of familiarity, as if I’d been there myself, and seen it with my own eyes. It’s refreshing to see more work like this, or Persepolis, or Palestine, being released. An understanding of other cultures, especially ones that are presented antagonistically in much of our social discourse, is essential to a balanced an informed worldview. Comics are an accessible way to present that understanding to a wide audience, and thankfully, there is a small but growing number of authors willing to do that presenting.
1 comment | Categories: Artist, Reviews | Permalink
The plight of the poor comic book fan is a lamentable one. New books pop out from companies big and small every week, and magically wing their way to your local comics emporium. They taunt your impecunious self from the shelves, their inviting covers sullied by that capitalist formality known as a “price”. It’s easy to get discouraged. That fistful of dollars you scraped together by eating ramen for a month doesn;t go very far in a world of $3.00+ pamphlets and $20 trades.
And this is how you come to miss out on books that yo’ve been waiting for, getting excited for, even craving. Stop going to the comic shop, and everything ends up passing you by. Books you’ve been following for years start slipping past you, new gems you should be discovering come and go without being noticed.
This is how I ended up missing Suburban Glamour when it was originally published.
See, we here at the Successless Comics Blog are big fans of Phonogram, the music-as-magic Britpop exegesis in comics form by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. Gillen’s story dug deep into the troughs of nostalgia and critical appreciation for one’s past, ably aided by McKelvie’s stark and delicious ligne claire artwork. Throw in a giant helping of Britpop minutiae, and you have a recipe for excellence. The resulting 6-issue series was a sure success on all levels, and I look forward to the ofrthcoming follow-up with baited breath.
But While I waited, I noticed that McKelvie had a solo book due out soon! Not to tortue the Phonogram band metaphor too much, but I wondered if it would be a breakout solo release by a capable collaborator, or a side project doomed to languish in obscurity and mediocrity. I was pretty sure the art would kick ass, either way.
Then I went broke and missed it when it was published. Fortunately, Half Price Books in Capitol Hill came to the resuce this weekend, and I scored a full run for hlaf off the cover price. A little tattered, but here at Successless, we know comics are for reading, not collecting.
I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. The title Suburban Glamour, and the fashionable young characters gracing the hip covers made me think it would continue in Phonogram’s music/fashion/youth culture obsessive tradition, and I was partly right. But there’s a lot more to it than that. Take the word Glamour in the title, for instance. We typically associate the word with style and fashion, but it’s original meaning was more closely related to magic, witchcraft, and enchantment.
The first issue works this wordplay rather nicely, starting out like a teenage melodrama, repletewith hip students mourning the suburban doldrums they’re trapped in, attending parties and ditchng school. The title appears totally appropriate in the mundane, modern sense of the word. Then things get weird, of course.
This is no simple disaffected suburban youth story, but a tale that combines that youthful ennui with the epic fantasy and fairy tales you would be expecting if you paid attention to obscure definitions of words like glamour. Imaginary friends from chilhood return to life, mystical creatures appear in the night, and long lost fairy worlds come crashing into the normal reality of the teenage protagonists, turning their lives predictably upside down. Once concerned with being slipped drugs at a party, and the viability of a career as a rock star, they are now faced with possibly fatal battles and life-altering revelations.
It’s a surprising twist to the first issue, and handled rather well. Afterwards, the story plays out quickly, if a little predictably. The mysterious stranger who seems to know what’s going on turns out to be involved in exactly the way you would expect. The otherworldly and mundane dilemmas dovetail nicely into moments of personal growth that seem a little too tidy at times. Overall, while it lacks the meta-narrative complexity and nuance of Phonogram, Suburban Glamour is a solidly told tale, gorgeously illustrated. The trade is out now, and for only $9.99, it’s well worth picking up, assuming you’re not as broke as some of us *ahem*.
3 comments | Categories: Artists, Reviews, Seattle, Whine, Complaining, & Griping | Permalink
A recent livejournal post by Bryan Lee O’Malley led me to check out the manga series Gantz, by Oku Hiroya, recently. Dark Horse is set to start publishing the series this summer, but the 250+ chapters that have appeared so far in Japan are available as scanlations for the impatient. O’Malley’s description reminded me a little bit of Battle Royale, and it sounded like it was worth checking out.
I spent the next several nights reading multiple chapters per night, intrigued, impressed, horrified, and disappointed at times.
The concept of the series is this: an assortment of people who have just died, suddenly find themselves alive again, sitting in an unfurnished apartment overlooking Tokyo. The only other thing in the room is a mysterious black ball, Gantz, which soon starts issuing forth orders. Their mission? To use weapons and combat suits (provided by the ball) to engage in a hunt for aliens in the city. If they survive, they can return to their lives…until the ball decides to bring them back to do it all over again.
The natural first reaction is confusion and disbelief, but the unwilling participants soon find that this game is deadly serious.
Like Battle Royale, Gantz uses the hyper-violent and fantastic narrative framework as a way to explore the moral and ethical choices of the characters. Do you let the other players in the game die to further your own survival? Do you put your life on the line to ensure the survival of others? Do you act out of altruism, self-interest, sadism, or fear? The hunts also come to represent exaggerated versions of the struggles in the “normal” lives of the protagonists. The central character, Kei Kurono, comes to anticipate the hunts as a way to feel a sense of self-worth, recognition, and accomplishment, in contrast to his undistinguished life as a middle school underacheiver. Masaru Kato, Kei’s former schoolmate, fights to protect those around him, the same way he fights to be a guardian for his younger brother.
Apart from the long, nuanced character arcs and copious gory action, there’s a sense of mystery to Gantz that keeps you hooked, at least for a while. Circumstances arise and the characters are forced to accept them and fight before they can try to rationalize or understand their situation. There are questions right from the start. What is Gantz? Why and how does it gather these people, and why and how does it transport them around Tokyo at it’s whim? Are these aliens real, and do they deserve to be killed? Why are the hunters and aliens invisible to the world at large during the hunt? Is there an end to this sadistic game? Answers come slowly, and each one only leads to more questions.
Despite the interesting subtext, Gantz is seinen manga at it’s heart, characterized by flashy battles, gallons of blood, and gratuitous nudity to appeal to its teenage male audience. The stakes of the game keep climbing, and the body count follows suit, as each chapter tries to top the last for outrageous violence. This is Gantz’s downfall, in my opinion. The central mystery takes a backseat, and becomes simply an excuse for increasingly sociopathic outbursts by the nominal protagonists, outbursts that spill over into the “real” Tokyo between hunts, at one point including a cold-blooded massacre of innocent civilians.
At some point, there’s a sense that Hiroya has stretched himself too thin. New elements are introduced to the story seemingly out of nowhere, and only serve to detract from the human focus of the first few story arcs. Psychic powers and vampires show up with no warning, reducing the contrast between the day to day reality and the supernatural scenes. Every chapter tries harder to push the envelope of violence and depravity. What started out as a way of exploring the human conscience becomes a series of brutal bloodlettings.
There could be something interesting to say about the resignation and acceptance of these circumstances by the characters. Gantz could work as a metaphor for war, for the increasing callousness of modern society, for the inundation of ultraviolent media, but in its race to keep the readers adrenaline levels pushed to the limit, it loses the provocative subtext. The latest chapters are adolescent power fantasy (which has been an element all along), with only lip service paid to the idea of right and responsibility.
It’s worth reading, if you’re the type of reader who can stomach over-the-top gory violence, but it’s also worth stopping at some point. Sadly, it looks like some of the most interesting ideas the series originally explored have fallen by the wayside.
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Nate Powell, Sounds of Your Name
Microcosm Publishing, $18.00
My first exposure to Nate Powell was through my 2006 trek to Olympia Comics Festival, where I picked a few issues of his “Walkie Talkie” series. In true post-festival form, I was too busy coming down from the high of meeting so many cool artists and the low of having aching joints that his issues sat unread and neglected for a period of time.
Once I read my way through the stack, I came face-to-face with “Walkie Talkie.” The quality of printing was low, but the talent and writing was high. So impressed was I that I scoured high and low for more of his work. About a year ago I found a copy of Sounds of Your Name and devoured it. In fact, about every three months I find myself in that comic slump where everything feels the same, looks the same, and makes me feel the same. My antidote is reading Nate Powell’s work. And for far too long, I’ve kept this praise to myself.
Sounds of Your Name collects comics dating back to 1992, but unlike some retrospective collections you would not be able to figure that out by flipping through the pages. His art has been very consistent in quality and character, without any missteps showing amateur abilities. The fluidity of his lines set a highly emotional tone to his work, with expert shading and facial expressions rounding out the character of his art. When looking at his panels, it is impossible to only see it in the black and white tones that he is actually restricted to.
But the writing - oh boy - this is the good stuff. His words carry great weight, as he uses dialogue in an economic way. There is a sad quality, colored with angst, but it’s done with such quiet tones that it is barely detectable. He makes you pay attention, and once you do the cadence of the voices mixed with the fluidity of his art create a highly dimensional world where you can get lost in, kick your feet up, and let it wash over you.
This, folks, is the stuff that I live for. And thanks to the folks at Top Shelf, I’ll get another Nate Powell fix in September with his new book “Swallow Me Whole.”
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I was pretty excited when I discovered that Tom Kaczynski was going to be one of the new Mome contributors, back in the Spring 2007 issue. I’d picked up a few of his minicomics at APE, and was impressed by his aesthetic, from drawing style to color choices and cover design. Definitely an artist to watch, and his first couple of contributions to that anthology kept me interested. But his most recent piece, 976 sq. ft., really struck a chord with me.
His previous Mome work is steeped in modern anxiety, a theme he’s continued from his work in the free-associative minicomics Transalaska, Transsiberia, and Transatlantis. While those minis featured first person, stream of consciousness ruminations on the nature of modern society and his place in it, specifically through the lens of his upbringing in Communist Poland, his two initial Mome pieces placed those themes into loose narratives that borrow heavily from the psychological thriller genre.
976 sq. ft. is similar, examining the changing face of urban neighborhoods through the obsession of one couple. When I started reading it, I had to flip to the back of the book and check his biography, to see if he was living in Seattle, since it described so well what was happening all over town. Turns out he’s currently in Minneapolis. But his description of the condominium onslaught in a sub-neighborhood of an unnamed city could’ve easily described one of several neighborhoods here in my town. The tiny chunk of non-descript buildings that suddenly becomes a “Neighborhood,” complete with catchy marketing name and accompanying upscale junk mail, the construction site changing the visual and auditory nature of the neighborhood, the growing unease of the current residents. I felt like I was reading about Ballard, Capitol Hill, Fremont. Like the recent mourning over the death of a certain block of E. Pike here in Seattle, 976 sq. ft. uses a single piece of development to underscore the psychological impact of gentrification. It’s a palpable feeling for those of us enduring the rental market in one of the few cities where the housing boom is still going strong, rather than creating foreclosed ghost towns. It’s a great piece that’s timely, and interesting as a story in its own right.
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Webcomics can be a real downer. The pace of putting up a comic on a regular schedule can make the most motivated and ambitious of cartoonists weep, and it usually shows in their work. That being said, there are definite exceptions and they give the format an excitement and originality. I have a couple favorites and it is my comic loving duty to spread the word.
Bellen! by Box Brown (M-W-F)
Yes, it’s a love story. And yes, it can be excessively saccharine. But riding the lows and highs of the strip mirrors the changes in a relationship and this makes it feel very geniune. The tears and pain are balanced with tenderness, which makes this a great read.
The Rack by Kevin Church and Benjamin Birdie (M-Tu-W-F)
You’ve heard of it. The marketing machine that is Kevin has made sure you have. And if you aren’t already, you should also be reading it. The Rack is a smart story with likable characters in a comic store that feels very much like the one you visit every Wednesday. Church and Birdie, who have previously worked on Boom! Studios webcomic Nitrogyclerin, have definitely hit their stride with this comic. And you may even find a kinship with the typecast characters. Lydia tickles my fancy, but probably because I would toss back a few drinks with her and talk shit about all the surrounding patrons and collectively swoon over Phonogram backissues - CAUSE THAT’S HOW WE ROLL.
SMILE (A Dental Drama) by Raina Telgemeier (W)
I love Raina. And if you don’t share the same sentiment you are cold, cruel, insensitive creature that barely deserves to breathe. She’s sweet and talented and smart and…dentally impaired? The diary format allows her to tell the tale of prepubescent woe brought on by braces and not feeling like the others. It has lost a bit of luster with consecutive weeks of guest strips, and with The Big News she will most likely leave this one to die a slow, painful death. It is too bad.
Girls with Slingshots by Danielle Corsetto (M-Tu-W-Th-F)
There is a little bit of everything for every reader: romance, sexuality, machismo, drunken louts, mid-twenties angst, and even a talking cactus. The art is good and the humor is better. It’s been nice watching this strip gain momentum, as Danielle has cast off the schlepping of wage earner status and has set up a PayPal donation bucket to assist her readership support the story they love.
Cat and Girl by Dorothy Gambrell (Tu-Th-F)
Everyone loves this webcomic. I’m not even sure why I feel compelled to list it here. It’s a given that everyone reads this, along with Diesel Sweeties and Penny Arcade, right? If not, shoot me an email and I will categorically interrogate you on how you could have survived this long in the world with your overwhelming lameness.
DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Diary by Erika Moen (Tu)
Not only is she a super awesome Pacific Northwest cartoonist that we’ve been able to make paper stars with at Stumptown, but she’s also a fascinating artist. Her style is thick and lucid and beautiful. Plus she can write a story, which is more elusive than it should be. I wish she would post more, but I’d take quality over quantity any day.
1 comment | Categories: Linkdump, Reviews | Permalink
Dear Scott Pilgrim,
I remember what I was doing when I was 23. There are some parallels, despite our many differences: I too was drinking cheap beer, working some lame job, poorly flirting with cute boys, and trying to milk the last of my carefree days. That is about it, and this is where our stories diverge. I was regularly showering. I wasn’t mooching off a roommate, inadvertently stringing a hapless high school girl along, trying to date someone out of my league, or living my life as if it were a video game.
And thank goodness. When recounting your tale, I am aware by how much cooler you are than I was/am. I mean, afterall, you are noble in fighting your out-of-league girlfriend’s exes, playing much better bass to local crowds in a band, and surrounded by cute girls with fashionable haircuts. And you do this all while being charming enough for your roommate to pay your way. This is pretty damn cool.
And your coolness even elevates higher than the regard I held you in before. In your latest tale (Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together) I get to see some evolution. You got a job! You turned down advances from a former high school crush! You told the pitifull high school girl there was no chance while not crushing her to bits! You saved the day, all while fighting a half-ninja and keeping your cool despite her romantic adventures with your lady (that you weren’t even privy to witness)!
I’m happy to witness your growth, even if its tale was delayed because Amazon is run by fucktards and your scribe wasn’t directly mailing out to his rabid fanbase. All in all, good show Scott P. Let’s hope you pop back up on the radar soon.
Love (without the mush),
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Remember that gigantic Love and Rockets project that I came up with? You know, the one where I go book by book and break down important points? I didn’t forget about it, but times were hectic with the holidays. Anyway, now I am back on track and ready to bring you the second installment.
Sopa de Gran Pena: Gilbert’s Palomar storyline develops, with the introduction of characters in the setting of this impoverished, complicated town colored by jealousy and insecurities and some of the strongest female characters in comics. Here we see death, pregnancy, sexuality, poverty, and love all rolled into one giant mess with Chelo’s burden being one of titanic proportions: how can one woman keep these people intact while preserving herself?
Love and Rockets: A film noir colored hero dream sequence courtesy of Penny Century and Jaime’s art. Beautiful, beautiful stuff.
Maggie vs. Manniak: Maggie has the heart of a super heroine - she wants to right the wrongs of the world, she’s adorably naive in her belief that things do change, she has the pride and courage to carry her through battle, and she even looks good in spandex. Here we are reminded that despite the human tragedy and sensitivity of our beloved Locas characters, this is still a comic. Thank goodness, cause it was starting to get heavy in here….
Music for Monsters III: Another sci-fi story by Gilberto nudges it’s way into the collection. Armed with a beautiful thin lined style, this smart adventure piece shows some of Los Bros Hernandez’s influences.
Hey Hopey: At long last, Hopey’s lesbianism is addressed, even if it is in a jested accusation from her brother. I’ll take what I can get. While I’m glad her sexual preference isn’t made into a huge political debate because it would detract from the universality of the dramas Jaime’s characters, I think it’s an important element to her character.
Untitled: Gilbert shows off a real talent for the short story comic in this book, with a strange but endearing one-page story featuring a very sad fellow being forced to do something he does not want to do.
100 Rooms: Arguably one of the most interesting exploration of Locas‘ characters taking place in the mansion of Penny Century’s boyfriend/lover/sinister power-hungry billionaire H.R. Costigan. Featuring a kidnapping, topless sunbathing, a costume ball, clashing of egos, and a mental breakdown, there is certainly something to entice all readers.
Twitch City: Showing more artisitic versatility than he is ever given credit for, Gilbert presents a futuristic society fraught with sinister characters, cruelty, and paranoia. Another great short story.
Toyo’s Request: Revisiting some characters from the Mechanics storyline, Rena Titañon fulfills a dying request. Ever the protector, she lets people presume what they need to while fighting off enemies in a way only a female wrestling champion could.
Locas Tambien: Functioning as a quick check-in with Hopey and Maggie, we find that there is a food and work shortage that is compounded by love confusion and ambiguity. You know, the usual.
Somewhere in California: Mario’s contribution is a wonderfully drawn story of a pornographer, terrorists, and kidnapping. How I feel about this story summarizes how I feel about Mario’s work in general: all kinds of good stuff wrapped up in a questionably constructed way. Maybe Mario is over my head, but it’s frustrating to not understand where the story is going until the end, then having to go and re-read it so you can enjoy the story.
Out O’ Space: Rocky and Fumble play stick-the-flag-in-the-unclaimed-planet until a menacing, lonely rock beast stops them. Wonderfully drawn with a “cute” sensibility makes this a nice conclusion to this book.
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Unemployment is actually sort of good for some things, but one thing it definitely is not good for is keeping up a comic collecting habit. I’ve found myself on the receiving end of the downsizing stick recently, and have had to rein in my buying habits of late. Not having any disposable income really makes you think twice about what you absolutely need to pick up. And besides, it’s not like I don’t have a stack of unread stuff sitting here still.
This week’s new installment of Love and Rockets was certainly a solid investment, mostly due to Jaime’s contribution. His story this issue focuses on Ray and Vivian, two characters who don’t seem to know what they want out of each other, yet find themselves practically attached at the hip. There’s a scene early on, while Ray accompanies Vivian and her friend on some auditions, where Jaime’s skill at depicting body language is at its understated best, with a lineup of hopeful ingenues revealing their attitudes with nothing but posture. He lets their attitudes shift and change, telling a separate little story behind Ray’s introspective musings. There are so many great light comedic moments in this story, that the harrowing end to the installment hits a little harder through contrast. The quiet epilogue sheds a little more light on both of these characters, especially Vivian, who we get to see in sort of a new light. Quality from beginning to end, and yet another in the long list of reasons why he’s a master of his craft.
I don’t know if I’d put it on the same masterful level, but Nextwave: Agents of Hate has established its own high standard to live up to each month. It takes a true fuck-it-all attitude to take a concept that’s already been run into the ground, and just keep pushing it until it breaks and splinters and becomes a parody of a parody, before taking on a life of its own and one-upping the original targets of its satire. I’m about as surprised as I could possibly be that Marvel is publishing one of my favorite regular series at the moment. The only thing that even comes close to this book is the late X-Statix, and possibly its recent spin-off, Dead Girl. They all share an irreverence in tone, but also, and more importantly, the understanding that satire is not an excuse to forget about actual drama. You can be as post-modern, self-referential and gimmicky as you want, but if you don’t ultimately take your story seriously on its own terms, you’ll probably fail. Nextwave succeeds not by undermining the tropes of superhero adventure, but by reveling in them shamelessly and unapologetically, with full awareness of their absurdity. It doesn’t try to dress itself up as relevant, redeeming, or realistic, and there’s something refreshing about that.
It’s the end of the year, and lots of people are making lists to mark the occasion. We probably won’t. But we may post some sort of wrap-up overview thing, in an informal, unranked, off-the-cuff sort of way. You have been warned.
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A LONG-WINDED BUT IMPORTANT INTRODUCTION
We all know how important Love and Rockets has been to the medium. As a relatively young comic reader, it’s the body of work that has been the most consistently revered during my lifetime. Ranging from literary to masturbatory, each of us have our own personal reasons for loving the creations of Los Bros Hernandez. As a Mexican-American female, my bias is obvious: strong female characters, smashing Chicano stereotypes, stunning artwork, and impressive writing. In short, these were my comics. I was proud and touched and empowered and inspired from the first reading. I immediately went and procured the gigantic, muscle-building collections Palomar and Locas. But I felt like I was missing something. So I’m going back and reading the individual collected books. If I had a resource that would’ve broken down each volume into bite-sized morsels, I may have read these first, rather than jump feet first into the giant collected versions. So my project is a chronicling of what I feel is important in each book, some pivotal panels, and a quick rundown of what may have been omitted in the collected version.
MUSIC FOR MECHANICS
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Mechanics: aka Mechan-x, Mechanicos. What is most important in this story is the maturation of Maggie from a star-struck mechanic assistant of Rand Race’s to a traveled, tough woman who survives a near-death illness, family drama, political upheaval, homesickness, and romantic frustration. Maggie becomes one of the fiercest females in the Hernandez Bros universe: she’s hot-headed, she’s insecure, she’s lustful, she’s vulnerable, she is impulsive, and she doesn’t take shit from anyone.
Locas: Here we see more of the ever-dynamic and complicated relationship between Hopey and Maggie, as well as how pivotal Izzy is to their friendship. Paramour undertones aside, Hopey and Maggie have the most realistic, adult relationships in comics: they fight, they love, they protect, they doubt, and they change.
How to Kill a: In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful stories Jaime has drawn. The story, credited to Isabel Ruebens, is a glimpse into the strange and dark world that she inhabits. It’s insular, it’s weird, and it’s destructive. We learn later why.
BEM: A sci-fi story Gilbert abandons after this collection. An important character we are introduced to is the larger-than-life Luba. She is that character that you cannot keep your eyes off of: she possesses a natural ability to lead and direct, she’s brave to the point of danger, and she sacrifices many things to be held in high regard. She will later become a central character in Palomar.
Barrio Huerta: A single paged introduction to Hoppers (aka Huerta), where Locas takes place.
Penny Century, You’re Fired: The quintessential fantasy woman comes to life and reveals more about herself than her perfect figure: insecurities, stubbornness, insatiable desire for adventure.
Radio Zero, Music for Monsters, and
Somewhere in California: A few collaborative sci-fi stories between Mario and Gilbert (though Somewhere… is mostly a Mario piece). I don’t think any of these stories are particularly notable, except for Mario’s involvement. Maybe that makes me a jerk.
A Little Story: The first glimpse of Palomar and the introduction of Pipo. As a child, Pipo is unaware of how strange it is for the traditional town of Palomar to see a little girl to play rough, not care what others think, and throw caution to the wind. In her innocence Pipo is not aware of how her defiance of gender constraints as a child will change the landscape of Palomar forever.