This issue of Love and Rockets is a weird one. Beto’s single story is a Errata Stigmata, who hasn’t had her own story in ages. Mario even gets a credit on her story, his first credit in ages. But before that strange, profoundly disturbing entry, Jaime’s finale for the current Mechanics arc.
Jaime has twelve pages to wrap up Maggie and Rena being thought dead and definitely lost on the bigger than it looks island. And the Race, Dot, and Maggie triangle. And Hopey thinking Maggie’s dead. And some other things.
Instead of wrapping up the story, Jaime ignores most of it. Race and Dot have a story mostly separate from the love triangle, kind of a “pro solar mechanic and reporter in political danger zone” action-comedy. Hopey was shipped off to her mom last issue and Jaime doesn’t do anything with that subplot. He just brings Hopey home with some comedic exposition and no reaction shot to Maggie’s being alive before the finale.
Rena and Maggie do get a nice plot, but Jaime’s focus on Rena overshadows everything else. She’s the key to the story, something Jaime only started embracing in the last two issues. It does reduce Maggie’s part in their trying escape; at least she’s got that love triangle.
Jaime skips it to go for a finish without resolution. There’s some drama, but none for Maggie.
Penny actually gets more to do that Hopey and it’s just her and Costigan having what ends up a cute scene.
Jaime’s going for lackluster on the narrative payoff. It’s an intentional move. It doesn’t come off as well as the story deserves. It feels forced and contrived.
Gorgeous art though. Twice the amount of pages–Jaime is at twelve here–and he probably would’ve had enough space to plot it better.
And then Errata from Beto. Tears from Heaven: The life and times of Errata Stigmata. It’s an origin story. A completely and utterly horrifying origin story.
Before this story, Errata stories have had various settings. The first story has her in some cyberpunk totalitarist future where practically the entire speaking cast is female (and queer). And Errata seems perfectly at home. Then there’s one where Beto’s basically doing a three page comedy strip with Errata and a boyfriend. Perfectly at home there. She gets mentioned as a comic book in one of the Music with Monsters strips and she cameoed in Beto’s Palomar party last issue.
But Tears from Heaven is something else entirely. It’s this nightmarish backstory about orphaned Errata being exploited by her guardians–her aunt and uncle–once her stigmata develops. Except before the stigmata develops, there’s a lot of psychological abuse, often directly sexually related or implied. Or just hinted enough to make the stomach queasy. It’s a twelve page story, so not short, but it’s astounding how unpleasant Beto can make things.
And Errata basically doesn’t talk. She’s this tragic kid. It’s a combination of heartbreaking (while empathizing with Errata) and utterly revolting (while reading the comic). In some ways Beto frontloads the revolting, with the finale being a nice despondent heartbreaker.
It’s a lot.
Mario gets an “additional material” credit so who knows.
The last story is a three page Rocky and Fumble. They’re run away from home again, this time going out to sea on a rowboat, in search of an unexplored island.
It’s a nice strip–short–and well-illustrated. It doesn’t quite provide the emotional relief needed after Errata but it comes pretty close. Another page would’ve done it. Jaime tends to experiment with truncation in Rocky and Fumble when it comes to reveals; in Mechanics, he’s a lot more visual about it. Rocky and Fumble is more comic strip transitions. Jump cuts.
Jaime seems rushed with the three pages, both writing and art. But it’s still a charming three pages.