Penny Century #3
by Jaime Hernandez
by Gilbert Hernandez
Important Note: Before any of you comic novices read on and say something to the effect of, "There's a comic named after the band Love and Rockets? How cheesey!" just realize this- the comic Love and Rockets was around when those three Bowie wannabees ripped them off and were still in Bauhaus (the first time).
L&R fans got real nervous following the printing of Love and Rockets' 50th and final issue. Most of its die hard fans had grown up a great deal with characters inhabiting both the barrio of Hoppers and Mexican village of Palomar and find them more likable and accessible than the people we find in real life... Not really, but L&R did do a killer job of creating two distinct worlds which reflected the wondrous and ill-represented underbelly of American life- Punk rock, homosexuality, Mexican-Americans, as well as portraying dividing and uniting romantic, familial, friendly relationships with a sprinkling of Jaime's flair for Sci-fi and a dash `Beto's reverence of mystic symbolism. Thankfully, the end of Love and Rockets was in the oversized 8.5" X 10.75" format alone. The characters which ran around the world of Los Bros. Hernandez are today still alive, kicking, and better than ever.
Following L&R, it seemed both `Beto and Jaime made an effort to make a departure from their Love and Rockets past. Jaime delivered a three issue homage to Women's Wrestling titled Whoa Nellie! and `Beto penned his often puzzling anthology of short, parables and stories- New Love. Both titles stressed the value of being more self-contained than either of their often confusing L&R storylines. (Love and Rockets plots and twists demanded a loyal, patient, and intellectual reader vs. the more lucrative, atypical, compulsive comic book reader/buyer.) Although, as close to the fine line between perfection and imperfection you want a comic to be, both titles failed to fill the chasm left by the characters which developed Los Bros' reputation.
Penny Century and Luba are returns to at least the spirit of the title which marked Fantagraphics entry into the publishing industry over fifteen years ago. However, while Love and Rockets was entrenched and dependent on its format/s, both Penny Century and Luba are a lot more unaplogetically experimental, and further proof that the middle-aged artists are still growing and still helping to expand the medium. For instance, Penny Century #3 is a "Locas" story about Izzy and Maggie, but as children in the late sixties. It's completely drawn in the "Charles Schultz" style Jaime only flirted with in "Baby `Lias" subplots of L&R. Luba offers more stories of Luba's descendants and relatives, but definitely in a less sentimental, more perverted post-Birdland light.
Closing this review, I can only say what any "Big Boy" who still reads comic books can say: Many things happening in independent comics these days are just as, or more exiting and meaningful than most things cranked out in both the "art" or "literary" worlds, or by the "entertainment" industry. Fantagraphics, 7563 Lake City Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115
--Charles D.J. Deppner