Before starting Love and Rockets #25, I kind of wondered if Penny would ever be back. Jaime’s been bringing back a bunch of the old Locas characters, but no Penny. Sure, her last appearance was problematic as heck and Jaime doesn’t really do the stylized stories she had, but it seemed weird she wasn’t back.
She’s back. In the second story, Hopey and her new sidekick, Texas, end up in the Costigan mansion where Hopey, Maggie, Penny, and Izzy stayed around twenty issues ago. It’s such a different kind of comic. Jaime’s not moody anymore. The art’s great and the comedy’s great, but there’s no moodiness. It’s kind of sad. Jaime’s gotten to be such a good artist with the smaller panels, he doesn’t have those full-page (or half-page) luciously designed panels anymore. There’s no more visual pacing, which is what he did with Locas back at the start. Back when it was Mechanics.
Anyway. Hopey and Texas are broke and hungry and hit up Penny for some room and board. Penny’s living the bored life of a billionaire’s trophy bride. Jaime plays her–and the strip–mostly for laughs. Maggie shows up in a flashback, which is also heavy on the laughs, but does do some character development (or revelation) on early days in the Hopey and Maggie friendship.
It’s a good story. With a great punchline.
However, it comes after the penultimate chapter of Human Diastrophism, Beto’s truly awesome Palomar tale. There’s Luba’s interal struggle with aging, there’s her daughter Maricela being fed up with life in Palomar (particularly under Luba’s roof), a lot with Luba’s daughters actually. And it finally all ties in with Tonantzin and the letters. Amidst it all the monkeys are going crazier and crazier.
Oh, and the serial killer story seemingly gets resolved, although there are still a bunch of unanswered questions.
Beto moves the story at a rapid pace. Panel to panel, he changes from one set of characters to another, then back again, making a pattern. He slows down for big sequences, like the serial killer stuff (as well as the hint of a red herring to be revealed, presumably next issue), but also with how the Tonantzin letters tie in to everything else. He brings subplots to the foreground, sends them to the background; there’s not just Luba’s oldest daughter running away, there’s Luba delivering her other daughters to their fathers, which is this other visible subplot–the characters stand around in the background talking about it–but Beto doesn’t have any time for it. He’s precise with what dialogue the reader gets to “hear,” what thoughts the reader gets to read. It’s exceptionally good stuff.
I can’t help but think a) Human Diastrophism is the best thing Beto’s done so far in Love and Rockets (and it’s definitely the best multi-issue story arc), but also b) there was an utterly lost chapter–Beto meandered through the second or third installment. Only to turn around and create this phenomenal story. I think it was the second chapter.
It’s a great issue. Beto makes the comic. Jaime, especially with the relative silliness of the Hopey and Penny story, is the dessert.