Page 45 Review by Stephen
Poor, poor, wonderful Maggie
"You should know by now that if you've spent one fleeting moment with her, it can last with you forever."
I think Maggie may be the most thoroughly realised character in comics. So much has happened to her over the years, yet Jaime appears to have no trouble in unearthing more history still, while moving her stoically endured, arduous journey forward.
Moreover she remains a beautiful, graceful woman in what I imagine to be her mid-to-late forties. It's a soft, vulnerable and everyday beauty. Her hair is more conservative now but it still billows in any breeze, and there is a slight bulge under the chin, yet she carries it all off far more effortlessly than she imagines she does.
I love her comfortable party shirt which Hernandez checks without any account as to its folds, just like our Mark used to.
She has no shortage of suitors - here Reno and Ray - but it never quite works out for her. Indeed she is oblivious to Reno's repeated references to his very first kiss which came from Maggie and which has stayed blazed into his brain forever.
The opening dream sequence is a perfect piece of psychology. In it Maggie finds herself lying face up and naked on a waxy leaf as broad as her outstretched body, exposed to the sun thousands of feet above an endless ocean. Initially her expression is blissful until she becomes conscious of her precarious situation and vertigo kicks in. She tries to hug the leaf with her back, too fearful at first to risk a fall by finding the better purchase which being on her front would afford her. Gradually she gains enough courage to ease herself onto her stomach and that's all she can manage for a while.
"Then I figure I must have had the courage to get myself up there, so I should be able to get down. Slowly, I move my way backwards to the stem. At least on the stem I feel like I have something to hold onto."
She wraps her legs as well as her arms round the stem.
"The stem feels spongy, yet sturdy so I start to feel more confident as I inch my way down. Even if it takes a lifetime to reach bottom, at least I won't fall to my death."
Of course, the further she slides down, the broader the stem, until its radius is wider than her outstretched arms
So, 'The Love Bunglers' itself takes place in the present with Maggie making a play to get back into the mechanics business and Ray wondering if he wants to get back into the Maggie business while Reno watches protectively over her. Unsettlingly there is also a stranger whose interest in Maggie borders on stalking.
Within the main body, however, lie two gut-punching flashbacks to a period in Maggie's childhood when her difficult mother moved the family from Hoppers to Cadezza in order to be nearer to Maggie's father whom they were only seeing one weekend a fortnight. Cadezza is where her Dad works. Maggie imparts her gloom at his upheaval by letter to Letty, the friend she left back in Hoppers.
We don't actually see Letty, though we will in the second flashback seen from Letty's point of view entitled 'Return For Me' when Maggie has indeed returned to Hoppers, becomes a mechanics prodigy, and Letty is trying to rekindle their friendship - an effort frustrated by Maggie's mother. It ends with an unfinished sentence and one of the most arresting final panels in comics which rendered me speechless for hours.
This is as nothing however, to what happened in Cadezza; specifically events which Maggie remains ignorant of even to this day. When reviewing that sequence which originally appeared in LOVE AND ROCKETS: NEW STORIES #3 our Tom very wisely eschewed giving you any details at all.
"Suffice to say" he wrote, "that once you have got to the end, you'll go back looking for - and finding - the subtle connections Jaime weaves into the panels. It's in the body language of the characters, and in their facial expressions
You just need to look at how he has his characters interacting, how he subtly directs the reader's eye using the direction the characters are looking in."
Also, I would suggest, what one is wearing and how he is wearing it.
"Any aspiring comic creator would do well just to study his panel composition [and] how he foreshadows events without hitting the reader over the head with it. There's a great example with Maggie's little brother Calvin watching a marching band with the baton-twirling leader, then a full seven pages later playing on his own at being the baton-twirler before a fairly significant event happens; and the baton still has a leading role to play."
Wow. I spot a scrying pool of prescience and at least two major understatements there.
So that's THE LOVE BUNGLERS - almost certainly my favourite LOVE AND ROCKETS material of all time - which you can buy as a separate hardcover and is as good an introduction as anything else. To considering a body of work this vast "daunting" is entirely understandable. Entirely! But it is as accessible and completely self-contained as, say, Gilbert Hernandez's MARBLE SEASON which was an original graphic novel rather than a collected edition.
In addition, this collection includes 'Gods and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls' (Jaime's unique, ever so quirky take on the superhero genre of yore which, TBH, isn't my thing) but also, far more interestingly, his 2006 New York Times serials 'La Maggie La Loca' / 'Gold Diggers of 1969' in which Maggie is, respectively, independent, approaching forty and in single digits, living under the rule of her somewhat ill-tempered pregnant mum. The latter is a straightforward black and white comic, each page told in two tiers of three panels each and not a million miles from Charles Schulz in aspect. The latter's pages are told in three tiers with narration introducing each silent panel, and tone which I think was originally colour. It has all the trappings of an exotic mystery adventure story - with nocturnal excursions on a sequestered island inhabited by a former acquaintance who in some circles is regarded as a peerless superstar, and reached only through covert clues and assignations - all grounded by the calm and colloquial recollections of a comparatively mundane Maggie.
As if Maggie, or Maggie's life, could ever be mundane! Oh, the many worlds which Maggie has inhabited...