Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Jaime Hernandez knows comic art

I finished reading the latest edition of Love & Rockets: New Stories last week and, as always, was amazed. Gilbert and Jaime are masters of the medium. Beautiful art, simple yet poignant narratives, characters that have evolved as their creators have grown, and stories that build on one another, though it may not be evident until years down the road. I didn't come to the L&R universe until the first oversized collection from Fantagraphics, Palomar, and after that, I was all in.

I was very anxious to receive this book, as Jaime's offerings in this third annual issue were being touted as possibly the best work of his career. Though I've read most of his L&R work, I am not as familiar with it as I would like, so I can't say one way or the other. But I can say that "Browntown," which is the centerpiece here, and "The Love Bunglers" parts one and two are incredibly moving tales. Jaime eases you into the narrative, showcasing fairly simple situations from the Chascarillo family's history. And then, he punches you in the gut with the core of his narrative, which ripples out across all of the stories involving Maggie, in particular, and Hopey by default. "Browntown" is a story that will make you uncomfortable, will make you angry, and will make you cry, all in the course of thirty pages. Jaime really is at the top of his game.

And, as a small sample, here's a detail from one of the story's pages, which showcases how effortlessly Jaime seems able to convey emotion through his artwork. In this 3-panel tier we see young Maggie come to a horrific realization. With little dialogue or its proper context, I expect you can tell what has happened.

And in the details of the first and third panels below, you can see how Jaime so perfectly captures the emotions we wear on our faces every day. Just a few lines, and a slight modification to Maggie’s mouth and eyes, and we feel what she feels.


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