By Leroy Douresseaux
September 10, 2007 - 21:27
MAGGIE THE MECHANIC
Earlier this year, Fantagraphics Books re-launched their Love and Rockets book collections as a series of compact, mass-market volumes that also have a low cover price ($14.95). Fantagraphics released Heartbreak Soup, which collects the early L&R comics of Gilbert Hernandez. The Seattle-based publisher also released Maggie the Mechanic, reprinting the early work of Jaime Hernandez, the other half of L&R’s star duo, Los Bros.
Maggie the Mechanic collects Jaime’s comics from the first four years of Love and Rockets (Vol. 1 – the magazine-sized version). This includes stories that appeared in Love and Rockets #1 – “Mechan-X” and “Locas Tambien” – and stories published all the way to Love and Rockets #13 (which has an issue date of September 1985). These are the stories that introduced Jaime’s signature characters, Maggie & Hopey.
Much of the book is dominated by two story arcs or groupings. “Mechanics” depicts Maggie’s adventures as a prosolar mechanic and her travels with the celebrity prosolar mechanic, Rand Race. The other group of stories, “Locas,” follows Maggie and Hopey’s trials and tribulations in and around the fictional California locale, “Hoppers.” The Locas tales are set in the milieu of the late 70’s/early 80’s Los Angeles area punk scene/subculture.
THE LOWDOWN: The stories contained in Maggie the Mechanic have been analyzed for years (and perhaps to death), so I won’t take that route in discussing this book. What is still worthy of discussion is that in these stories the reader gets to see the development, over a four or five year period, of an artist who is now considered a master of black and white comic book art.
I haven’t been shy about calling Jaime Hernandez the best comic book artist working in North America. Reading Maggie the Mechanic, one can see that in the span of Love and Rockets’ first two years that Jaime steadily grasping the components of art (subject matter, form, and content) as a skilled mature artist. Early on, it is clear that he is exceedingly talented, but his approach to visually telling stories was still that of accomplished amateur or gifted, but raw young professional – as seen in “Mechan-X” and in the early “Mechanics” stories. When he began drawing “100 Rooms” (my personal all-time favorite L&R tale), he had a better understanding of economy, harmony, and balance in composing both entire pages and individual panels.
By the 1985 “Locas” stories, Jaime had mastered the use of line, shape, value, and texture in a way that cartoonists whose work is published in black and white must. It was then that he began moving as an artist to the summit – standing next to comic book artists such as Alex Toth and newspaper cartoonists like Hank Ketcham. These are the artists who exist at a rarified height, working in black and white and creating elegant line work and meticulous compositions that are as beautiful as color comics (if not more).
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: In terms of cost and content, Maggie the Mechanic is clearly the best way for Love & Rockets fans, old and recent, to revisit the early Jaime Hernandez. In fact, there is no better way for new readers to start on the road to enjoying, at least, one half of Los Bros.
Shop for Mechanics at the Amazon aStore.