Sporadic Sequential
Friday, May 08, 2009
And Now, The Best-Reviewed, Lowest-Selling Book of 2008

A while back I finally read the most controversial book of 2008, Love and Rockets: New Stories #1. (Seriously, wasn't this the book that was at the heart of the Great Bookscan Debate of 2008? And I seem to remember seeing it invoked in the recent kerfuffle over the viability of DM sales.) It's an interesting experiment, releasing about four issues worth of floppies in a single, square-bound collection for fifteen bucks. Something about it reminded me of The Comics Journal itself — it seemed more like an upscale magazine with a sturdier cover than a typical trade paperback. (The ads in the back may have been a big factor in my impression: It's a little odd to see ads for local comic shops in a trade paperback, and the ads look a lot like the ones I remember seeing in TCJ.)

Anyway, enough about the format; what did I think about the actual content? In a way, the book suffers from the typical problem with anthologies: The styles and subject matter that the Hernandez brothers work in are so different that it's a bit jarring to move from stories about superheroines to surreal tales of an old knock-off comedy duo slaughtering an entire alien population. Don't get me wrong, I love both Jaime's and Gilbert's work, but they're odd counterparts for each other. (Part of this might be due to the way I learned to appreciate the Hernandez brothers myself, by reading their respective works in those oversized hardcovers. For me, the works of the Hernandez brothers are separate and distinct.) I assume long-time fans of the brothers will be fine with this eclectic mix, but I wonder how new readers would react to the diverse assortment.

Jaime's entry, a two-part story revolving around a bunch of oddball superheroines, was my favorite in the bunch. A big part of that is his incredible artwork — just check out this amazing sequence where Alarma takes out two robots by using a defunct third as a projectile:

I love everything about those three panels: The simplicity of the composition; the fluid motion of the actors; and the wonderfully expressive body language of Alarma. (I love the way she rights herself in panel two after making a big throw and the "YES!!!" pose in the final panel.)

The concept is also incredibly amusing: It's like a huge riff on what might have happened if superhero comics started their evolutionary path by focusing on more female-centered concerns instead of testosterone-fueled fisticuffs. (Oh, there's still plenty of fighting, but it all has a very different tone from your standard Marvel or DC slugfest. How many "hero vs. hero" misunderstandings can you think of that have been resolved with tears and a group hug?)

Gilbert's contributions are hard to describe, mainly because they are so surreal. They really have to be experienced and interpreted on your own. (I certainly can't begin to tell you what's going on in the dream-like "?") But I did want to share the following panel, mainly because it reminds me of something straight out of a Kazuo Umezu horror manga:

Be sure to check out some of the other reviews linked to on the book's product page. In particular, Jeff Lester and Matt Brady do a good job of spicing up their reviews with plenty of images, so you'll get an even better idea of the incredible artwork that populates this book. And Fantagraphics has set up their own Flickr set of images, so there are even more samples to peruse and whet your appetite!

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