This book is great. Unlike the other books in this series of Love And Rockets collections, this collects two graphic novels that pair perfectly with each other, rather than a series of short stories of varying quality. Jaime’s work is weird for me in that what is presented as the book’s central relationship is something I have very little interest in. Here that given vector is absent, and that defines the book, two characters pursuing their own agendas while those around them feel like things are wrong and won’t be made right until they meet again. I disagree completely, and find the beginning, before they separate, and the very end, where they are reunited, to be the weakest parts of the book. Sometimes I feel like the only reason you are being given to care about the characters in these comics is because other characters do, and the whole thing can feel like being at a party where you are witnessing conversations between people you don’t know as they talk about other people you don’t know, feeling stuck while you wait for a friend to arrive.
The thing about Love And Rockets, both Jaime’s work and that of his brother Gilbert, is that what makes their narratives weird and unique is a very real thing in terms of life as lived. This comic, drawn over the course of four years, seems to take place over the course of, maybe, a few months. Over the course of the thirty years the book has been coming out, the characters have aged that much. Life advances, and the characters get older, but there is so much elision, so much being skipped over as unimportant at any given moment that gets fleshed out in flashback later, and this allows the whole of the work to include so much weirdness and so many disparate parts- from wrestling and science-fiction at some points to sexuality and class at others. Characters get introduced to have their stories told, and then are gone, probably for good. It can make a collection like the preceding volume, The Girl From H.O.P.P.E.R.S., feel exhausting to read it all in one go, like eating a series of rich desserts made of other people’s stupid fucking drama, Here there is more focus on overarching structure than you’ll get, really, anywhere else in Jaime’s body of work.
The way these comics are built means you can sort of enter anywhere, and you’ll catch up eventually. It also means that you can read it in serialization for years at a time, stop reading it when you can’t afford it or it doesn’t feel worth it, and then come back to it, and read a new installment that knocks you on your ass as you feel like “Oh man, I’ve been reading this comic for longer than I’ve been friends with any of the people I see on a regular basis.” This is sort of true of superhero comics as well, only the emphasis on small stuff, the moments of epiphany that define short stories, are so different from the ritual of repetition that drives a fight scene between old adversaries. But in a frustration of literary form, the moments that defines these comics tends not to come at the end of a story, but just incidentally, in quiet moments, while some of the best drawings are the title pages.