Page 45 Review by Tom
The latest collection of the best comic ever concerns the motivations behind Maggie, Penny, Izzy, Ray, and Hopey; what drives them and their rebellions against family and peer expectations.
The titular Penny is the most extreme example of escaping expectations; she is the personification of escapism, of fantasy. Penny creates this fantastic world in guilt-free pursuit of her goal to become a superheroine. And although she can't fly through the air or stop a speeding bullet, as Penny approaches the big four-oh she certainly defies gravity! Penny isn't out to save the world in any way, nor does she proclaim to be responsible with whatever power she holds; her dreams of superheroics are driven by a need to escape. Marrying horned billionaire H.R. Costigan and bleeding him dry in search of the secret formula or accident to grant her powers gives her just this, although Penny settles for eccentric sexual antics and elaborate man-traps even Millionaire Playboy Bruce Wayne couldn't escape from (and why would he, unless Robin really is more his type?). Despite being restrained by Maggie & Hopey's 'reality', it doesn't stop her from filling in her origin story with ludicrous claims like her mother was born January 1st 1900, giving birth to Penny at 61. Is Penny's peculiar moniker derived from miss-hearing the nickname Hopey gave her or to do with her mother's longevity?
As the reader we are shown this fantasy peppered with truths, casually revealing Penny's many mysteries, at long last fleshing out this strange accumulation of 2-dimensional comicbook stereotypes. Throughout the series Penny's adult life is contrasted against young Negra Costigan, her step-daughter from Costigan's previous marriage. This brooding crazy girl, rich beyond her comprehension as the one true heir to the Costigan fortune, continuously runs away to hang out with wannabe gangster friends in her old hood. The final Story 'Bay Of Threes' reveals Penny's previous life in Texas as Beatriz Garcia: how H.R. Costigan's interest in this intense girl, ruling the roost in the playground and escaping into comics and fantasy away from her wannabe gangster friends, eventually allows her to escape into a fantasy.
This to me was one of the best LOVE & ROCKETS stories I've read. Beatriz is this queen bitch, with a reserved and quietly brutal front protecting innocence at heart, the kind of girl you remember most from school. Jaime's clearly writing from experience here, and many parallels could be drawn between his formative years (detailed in THE ART OF JAIMIE HERNANDEZ SECRETS OF LIFE AND DEATH) escaping into comics and that of Beatriz reading comics, ferociously absorbing these ideas that later helped to launch Jaime's career and Beatriz's dreams. In fact the post-LOVE AND ROCKETS series collected here are some of the strongest in his career because of the mix of influences, styles and their personal nature.
Referencing Charles Schulz's PEANUTS and Hank Ketcham's DENNIS THE MENACE, 'Home School' is a keen departure in style, yet this story of a young Izzy looking after a toddler Maggie is unmistakably Jaimie, setting up the insecurity Maggie feels later in life and building on the urban myths that obsess Izzy while forming this unshakable bond between the cousins. All told in the same breezy economy of line which made the Schulz and Ketcham comic strips iconic. A favourite story of Mark's, 'Everybody Loves Me Baby', recaptures Maggie and Hopey's early years in Hoppers. I remember him becoming incredibly excited when this story was originally collected as it finally revealed all about Maggie's marriage. As is often the way with Jaime's comics, what could be an inaccessible barrage of conflicting storylines in another's hands becomes an absorbing read with masterfully weaved stories creating a rich history for these characters, each new story building upon their past and their present, making every one of these collections perfect jumping on points. To prove it, the first LOVE AND ROCKETS I ever read were the issues of the second series that came out immediately after this, and almost ten years on they're still some of my favourite comics.