Spurred by the recent Previews episode from CGS, here are some thoughts on one of my all-time favorite comic series: Love & Rockets.
Los Bros Hernandez--Jaime, Gilbert, along with Mario, at times--have crafted some of the most poignant, affecting, brilliant, and beautiful comics over their thirty-plus year careers. I didn't finally read L&R until the first giant omnibus came out, roughly ten years ago, collecting (to that point) Gilbert's Palomar stories. They. Are. Awesome. And, I would argue, the best way to introduce yourself to L&R. More soap operatic, telling the stories of myriad characters in the small, Mexican town of Palomar, Gilbert's early work in this series is more assured than his brother, Jaime's, whose earliest issues suffer a bit from strange anachronisms and a tendency to be wordy with his dialogue.
Which isn't to say the early Locas stories from Jaime are not enjoyable. He quickly finds his footing and launches into one of the most real friendships in all of comics, and, it could be argued, one of the best in all of literature. Hopey and Maggie fall in and out of love, struggle through hardships together, and apart, while continually moving forward, seeking answers about life and what it all means. (and if that sounds like hyperbole, there certainly is a pinch of that included, but, for the most part, I'd argue my description stands up)
The real strength of this series comes from its longevity. Jaime and Gilbert have taken each of their collections of characters and allowed them to grow old, to have families, to lose friends and loved ones, discover new friends, have adventures, feel pain and sorrow, and love and joy, and experience lives that feel genuine, feel real, feel lived in. And their age has not diluted their storytelling abilities on bit. One of the most heartfelt and heartbreaking moments came a few years ago, in Jaime's "Browntown," which was built on the stories that had come before. It was an amazing piece of comic storytelling and comic art, that could not have been done without the accumulation of stories, over the prior decades, that came before. It was an exclamation point, driven into readers' (or, at least, my own) heart(s), and it's one of those handful of comics stories that has stuck with me, since I read it.
But it's not just their storytelling. Jaime & Gilbert are two of the best cartoonists working today, and two of the best ever, in my opinion. Their ability to evoke emotion and replicate body language utilizing an economy of line is beyond impressive. This, to me, is some of the most beautiful artwork I've seen in comics. Really incredible.
Now, I know it can be daunting to start a book that has this much history (see: Cerebus). But Fantagraphics has a page that can help you find where to start reading, here.
And the collections they've done for Gilbert & Jaime's work are great--a good size, with a healthy collection of stories, at a good price. Well worth picking up, here. Or on Amazon or at In Stock Trades. Or, if you want, see if your local library can request them for you through their Interlibrary Loan department, which allows libraries to borrow items from other libraries, across the country.
These are, seriously, some of the best comics ever made. Do yourself the favor of seeking them out and reading them. Now.