Monday, November 21, 2011

Love and Rockets: New Stories, vol. 1 and 2

Love and Rockets: New Stories #1 cover, by Jaime Hdz., featuring Penny Century in superhero costume.
 I'll start by clarifying that this is my first time reading anything by Los Bros. Hdz., and by confessing that I thought I was buying a trade collecting classic stuff... and that the awesome portrayal of female anatomy was 60% of my reasons to buy it. I had these two trades lost in my "someday" stack of comics, and they were there for almost two years. Three weeks ago I decided it as time to attack the stack, and last week was the turn of Love and Rockets: New Stories, vol. 1 and 2.
My verdict: Pure awesomeness.

"Cover" of Ti-Girls Adventures Number 34.
From left to right: Espectra, Boot Angel, Weeper, Alarma and Golden Girl.
The main and most impressive story is four part story titled "Ti-Girls Adventures Number 34". From what I gather, some of the characters in it have been around for a while, like Maggie and Penny Century; however the story is perfectly self-contained, so no worries there. Background is not needed to enjoy this story, but then, if you still want it, Vanja's Splinter's Reviews provides a good reference. According to him, to his disappointment, this is the first Love and Rockets story focusing on superheroes. I, however, as a new fan of Hdz. Bros., still enjoyed it a lot. Since 90% o what I read is superheroes, it might actually work as a good transition to their indie world.

As anyone who ever heard of Love and Rockets  or the Hdz. Bros.  might expect, it might be a superhero story, but its not mainstream at all. Firstly, it's all female, often Chicano women, and secondly, it feels like a combination of retro silver age stuff (like DC: The New Frontier, The Spirit (2006), Batman: The Animated Series, The Golden Age, or The Silver Age) with really grounded, down to earth indie stuff (Clerks, Ghost World). It's almost a treaty of what the female role could have been in the male dominated world of the silver age comics. Love and Rockets is written and drawn by Jaime Hernandez, a male author, and it features hot females with incredible bodies, but it has a strong female sensitivity. I suspect that Love and Rockets is, in general, very appealing to female market.

Boot Angel

"Ti-Girls Adventures Number 34" is the surreal story of three or four generations of all-female superteams trying to fix the mess left by the capricious Penny Century, a woman who finally gets the superpowers he had wanted her entire life. The lead character is Boot Angel, a short, stocky latina trying to establish herself as a superhero, and she's a sort of introduction device for the audience, like Henry Hill in Goodfellas. Her idol is Alarma, a prestigious superheroine that goes through what seems a parody of the angry 90s revamps; she contrasts with the more experienced, grounded and mature Espectra, a Ti-Girl watching over Boot Angel and her as they try to save/defeat Penny Century and her daughters. Alarma belongs to a very notorious team know as the Fenomenons and Espectra to the generations-old Ti-Girls. The stories of both all-female superhero teams, along with a third one composed of really young girls are tied through a common back-story. There are a lot of themes and at least 3 overlapping storylines.

The art is a character on its own. It celebrates pop culture and female beauty just like Roy Lichtenstein's stuff, the closest instance of which I can think.  For a comic book geek Jaime Hernandez sure knows a lot of female anatomy; each character has her own body and face type and they are all gorgeous- in their way, even the chubby or old ones. The Fenomenons, and Alarma specially, look like Barbie dolls; Penny Century looks like a pin up girl, and Boot Angel looks like a chubby, yet well proportioned, common girl. I've always thought that, unlike male supervillains, comic book superheroes often lack this type of body diversity (Bruce Timm does a great job fixing it, though). I also enjoyed the prodigious character design. The whole thing looks like silver age material, only the silver age never looked this good. The composition of every panel is great, specially considering Jaime only uses black and white without shades; however, there page composition might be slightly lacking. I still like the way he used around 7 panels every page, though.
To me, those were $30 USD well spent. Those two books are among the first things I'd give to someone wanting an introduction to comics and superheroes. And I were Dan DiDio, I'd beg Jaime to do something for DC. Maybe Wonder Woman. I'd love to see what he could do with Sue Dibny's wardrobe or Ralph's stretching body.

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