Earlier this week I posted on my reading of the latest edition of Love & Rockets: New Stories. Over the past few days I’ve read, or reread, other works of Jaime’s, all in continued preparation on an essay that I’m currently writing. In that piece I’m looking at the way Jaime represents Chicano/a ethnicity and then links that to images of the body. I’m specifically interested in his Locas stories that have appeared after the first volume of Love & Rockets ended in 1996. (I’m wanting to focus on the latter Locas comics, especially given the fact that Maggie’s weight becomes more of a burden to her as the series continues…and I’m also interested in Jaime’s increased focus on Ray Dominguez from the second volume of Love & Rockets on.) The initial post-L&R vol. 1 stories originally appeared in a few different comic-book titles, including Whoa, Nellie! (1996), Penny Century (1997-2000), and the one-shot Hopey and Maggie Color Fun (1997). Jaime continued his ongoing Locas stories with the second volume of Love & Rockets, published between 2001 and 2007. These comics have since been collected in different forms–i.e., as part of the original “Complete Love & Rockets” collections (Whoa, Nellie! , Locas in Love , Dicks and Deedees , Ghost of Hoppers , and The Education of Hopey Glass ), and then later in the omnibus Locas II: Maggie, Hopey & Ray (2009)–but most recently as part of the wonderful, compact, and thoroughly readable “Love & Rockets Library.” The two volumes that include most of the post-L&R vol. 1 stories are Penny Century (2010) and Esperanza (2011), and those are the books I completed earlier this week. I had read these comics before–several times, in fact–but this was the first time I actually sat down to go through all of the later stories in a chronological, ordered way. It’s one thing to read the Locas stories here and there at different times, such as completing Dicks and Deedees and then Ghost of Hoppers, but it’s a very different experience to actually take them all in as a whole. This time around, I got a much better sense of the narrative world that Jaime has mapped out, seeing connections and continuity in ways I hadn’t seen before. I’ve read all of the stories in order before, and more than once, but this was the first time I read them all together in a relatively contained time period. It was a wonderful experience, and it’s given me a more complete feel for the comics. I feel better able to complete that essay I’m working on…most of which is already written. This should give me a sharper edge in my analysis.
And I’m thinking that what may give me an even keener edge is to go back even further, to read Jaime’s Locas stories that compose the original Love & Rockets series. Again, this is something that I’ve done a couple of times before, but I feel that revisiting the material will be beneficial. This will especially be the case in that I haven’t read the first volume of Love & Rockets stories (at least Jaime’s) for quite a long time. I didn’t read the first L&R comics when they originally came out, but I did read all of the collections in the “Complete Love & Rockets“–e.g., Las Mujeres Perdidas (1987) and Wigwam Bam (1994)–so I’m familiar with the general sweep of Jaime’s early work. However, since it’s been a few years since I last read them, I feel I need a refresher course. What’s more, rereading them in a fairly compact time period, as I did with the latter stories, should help in facilitating a sense of narrative cohesion. To this end, I soon plan on reading Maggie the Mechanic, The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S., and Perla La Loca. I love these stories and look forward to experiencing them again. But to be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of the very early Locas stories, the ones where Jaime mixes up the realistic world of Maggie and Hopey with sci-fi stuff, such as dinosaurs, space ships, etc. They’re okay, but to me this was Jaime in the very early stages, getting his footing and establishing a style and voice. That’s not to suggest that he abandoned the more fantastical side of the Locas stories after the very early years. In fact, he’s continued to flirt with sic-fi and fantasy elements, most recently in the Tri-Girl stories in Love & Rockets: New Stories. (And, as one might expect, that superhero-wannabe, Penny Century, is a big part of those comics.) I like that side of Jaime’s work, but his forte is certainly the more realistic side of Maggie and Hopey…even if that realism is tinged with a bit of “magic” (as I mentioned previously, I’m not sure that calling the Hernandez brother’s work “magic realism” does them justice).
Some final thoughts on the latter Locas stories. I like reading about Maggie’s early years, but she becomes a more complete and complicated character after L&R vol. 1. Part of this is due to the fact that she has a weight problem–she does in the earlier stories, but not near as pronounced–and that she has a on-again-off-again relationship with Hopey. Their not being together all of the time adds an edge to their interactions. I also like the way that Jaime continues to revisit Ray Dominguez and to more fully flesh out his character. (Indeed, Ray’s name is part of the subtitle of the Locas II omnibus.) His relationship with Maggie is another factor in her every-growing depth. One of the things I appreciated about the latest issue of Love & Rockets: New Stories was the ending of the Maggie story, “The Love Bunglers”…and not wanting to give any spoilers, I’ll leave it to the reader to find out for her/himself what that ending is. Finally, there’s Vivian Solis, or Frogmouth. She’s perhaps the most colorful figure that Jaime has ever created–and, honestly, the most sexy–and at times I’m not sure what to make of her. Her unpredictability, her mixed-up feelings for Maggie, and her self-destructive tendencies make her an essential part of the most recent Locas stories. In fact, she and her relationships with both Ray and Maggie (as well as Maggie’s relationship with Ray) are a major part of that essay I’m writing.