22 December 2021

Alan Moore: Love & Rockets by Jaime Hernandez

Love & Rockets #24 (1987)
Original cover art by Jaime Hernandez

(from the introduction to Love & Rockets: Mechanics #1 by Jaime Hernandez, 1985)
The worst thing about being a mature and discerning comic enthusiast who's fiercely committed to the elevation of aesthetic standards within the medium is that you have to hide all your copies of Herbie and Atomic Mouse when your friends call round. Much as you might be dedicated to sweeping radical change in the field of graphic narrative, there still remains a sloppy and nostalgic longing for the way Lee Elais drew the Black Cat or the precise feel and smell of a Giant-Sized Li'l Archie Special, and the difficulty of reconciling a thirst for the magnificent with an appetite for the inane is something that makes hypocrites out of the best of us. We all want progress, but we don't want to watch while the bulldozers of cultural advancement roll forwards over the crushed remains of Betty, Veronica and the Fighting American.

That's why Mechanics, along with the rest of the work that the Brothers Hernandez have been perpetrating within the pages of Love & Rockets, comes as such a bloody relief. There's enough style, content, and persistent narrative ingenuity to satisfy the most wild-eyed and slavering progressive, but somehow it's been accomplished without sacrificing and of the sheer silly-arsed vitality that gives the medium so much of its appeal. In Mechanics, Jaime Hernandez seems to have somehow synthesised a complete and satisfying comic-book world out of all the things that, for whatever reason, he loves about comics.

There's a sense that the world inhabited by Maggie and her friends exists in the backstreets of the regular funny book universe. You know that if you took the crosstown bus from Barrio Hoppers 13 you'd find Riverdale High School, sheltering out in the more sedate residential districts uptown. You know that somewhere far away there's a Metropolis where the super-people are punching each other through buildings, even though the sound of conflict seldom filters down to street level. All the familiar icons dotting the comics landscape are filtered through a unique and lucid personal vision, providing a rich, evocative backdrop for the meticulously observed and vividly human characters to perform against, and the mix is as perfect as it is consistent.

Relentlessly charming despite its hard cutting edge, Mechanics is a comic strip for the future with a keen grasp of what was valuable about the strips of the past. If there's a more exhilarating or compelling book on the market at the moment, I haven't heard about it.

Fantagraphics: How to Read Love & Rockets

No comments:

Post a Comment