The PopCult Bookshelf

This week the PopCult Bookshelf looks at two recent releases by Los Bros Hernandez, the two genius storytellers who have brought us Love and Rockets since 1981. These books have been on the top of my “must-read” stack for months, so I must apologize for just getting around to these now.

ff4b476228f814a1e13a86e5fa4c4788Maria M., Book One
by Gilbert Hernandez
Fantagraphics Books
ISBN-13: 978-1606997192

This is the fourth in Gilbrt Hernandez’ series of graphic novel “adaptations” of the fictional B-movies in which his character Rosabella “Fritz” Martinez stars in stories published in Love and Rockets. Maria M. Book One is a departure in that it’s the first of two parts and it’s an adaptation of a movie that, in Love and Rockets, was based on a “true” story that was presented in the classic Poison River storyline.

Maria M. is the story of the character who was the mother of Fritz, who then starred in the movie of her mother’s life, and that movie is adapted here.

Anybody order a big plate of meta?

66f2db8fe7687ba3d7cb86efd01e5107To quote the book sleeve, “Maria’s life consorting with the underworld makes for a sordid tale of sex, drugs, violence and power that fits right in with Fritz’s other film credits.”

This is Gilbert working in his adult fun mode. It’s a cleverly dumbed-down retelling of one of his most striking works, transformed into a Roger Cormanesque grindhouse movie.

With his storytelling skills at their peak, Hernandez continues to turn out incredible work. Here, he weaves a “true crime” story with loads of violence and intrigue, and plenty of nudity. The character, Fritz, is amply bosomed, and there’s ample opportunity to see that bosom unencumbered by clothing in this book. Maria M. Book One is not for kids, but it is great, gritty fun from a master comic book auteur.

Maria panels

78a217797028a0fbab9d76bf8c464a18The Love Bunglers
by Jaime Hernandez
Fantagraphics Books
ISBN-13: 978-1606997291

The Love Bunglers collects Jaime Hernadez’ “Maggie” stories from the first four volumes of the new, annual version of Love and Rockets.

This is basically the latest in the story of Maggie Chascarillo. Jaime has been chronicaling her life in comics for more than thirty years now, and he’s had her age nearly in real time. Since the beginning of Love and Rockets, Jaime has turned his focus away from the science fiction elements of the story and toward a very real-world look at Maggie, who’s gone from a sexy young rocket mechanic to a slightly heavy-set, middle-aged woman who’s still looking for a direction for her life.

1bungler3In The Love Bunglers, Maggie continues her story with Ray. I’ll quote from the book’s blurb, because I don’t want to give away too much, “The suppression of family history is the initial thread that ties together The Love Bunglers, featuring Hernandez’s longtime Love and Rockets heroine Maggie. Because these secrets can’t be dealt with openly, their lingering effect is even more powerful. But Maggie’s ability to navigate and find meaning in her life — despite losing her culture, her brother, her profession, and her friends — is what’s made her a compelling character. After a lifetime of losses, Maggie finds, in the second half, her longtime off and on lover, Ray Dominguez. In taking us through lives, deaths, and near-fatalities, The Love Bunglers encapsulates Maggie’s emotional history as it moves from resignation to memories of loss, to sudden violence (a theme in this story), and eventually to love and contentment. Much like John Updike in his four Rabbit novels, Jaime Hernandez has been following his longtime character Maggie around for several decades, all of which has seemed to be building towards this book in particular.”

Many people are calling this the best work of Jaime Hernandez’ career, and I can’t really dispute that. He’s treading the same ground as the TV show, Louie here. Very real, very awkward, complicated relationships. Fans of Love and Rockets won’t want to pass this up.

Maggie and Ray's life-long relationship, encapsulated in two wordless pages

Maggie and Ray’s life-long relationship, encapsulated in two wordless pages