For the first time in either a very long time or ever, there are only two stories in the issue. One Beto, one Jaime.
First up is Jaime’s, which has Maggie’s sister Esther visiting her in Texas. Well, it starts with Esther visiting their dad, then going to see Maggie and pals but their dad is off-panel. Also Esther now calls Maggie Perla, even though I’m nearly positive Esther didn’t call Maggie Perla during the Speedy story arc.
It’s a simple enough story–Esther, Maggie, Xo and her husband, and Gina all go out drinking and dancing. They run into Penny and end up back at Chester Square. We learn Penny grew up near Chester Square and Jaime gives her this exceptionally affecting subplot while Gina–now in love with Maggie instead of Xo–confronts the prostitute who beat Maggie up a few issues ago.
It ends with Esther and Maggie finally having a talk about Speedy, making it the first time anyone’s actually had a talk about Speedy dying instead of just talking about possibly talking about Speedy dying. Jaime’s avoided dealing with it for dozens of issues at this point.
Jaime splits the story between Esther, Gina, Maggie, and Penny. Xo and the husband are just scenery or good for some exposition–i.e. some of what’s happened to Esther since her last appearance. Maggie’s still in a really bad place, which Jaime hints at more than explores. He’s delaying again, but it’s fine because the desolate Texas setting looks wonderful with all silhouettes and shadows and Jaime’s detailed buildings (and costumes).
And Esther’s a good supporting player. Far more than Gina, who isn’t any younger than most of the other Locas cast when the strip started but Jaime’s looking at her from Maggie’s older perspective than on Gina’s own age level. It seems like Esther’s coming into the book. We’ll see.
Then Beto introduces some mystical realism into his story, which starts in Palomar and ends in Los Angeles. His whole Farewell, Palomar story isn’t making much sense as a) he hasn’t stopped doing stories about Palomar and its denizens and b) Jesus is still in Palomar. That story was all about Jesus leaving Palomar. Wasn’t it?
Anyway. He splits the story between Luba’s daughters in the States, though it’s mostly through Pipo’s perspective–with Diana showing up for a bit too–and Luba’s daughters in Palomar. The mystical realism comes in when Casimira (I cannot remember who she’s got for a father) goes hunting this evil bird who pecks out the eye of one of her friends.
There’s a real soap element to the story and all the romantic troubles (or at least complications) in the lives of Luba’s daughters and it’s all very open-ended, which isn’t how Beto usually does a story. He usually at least implies a wrap-up. Not here. The biggest change from beginning to end is daughter Dolaris goes from Palomar to the States. And I guess Gato and Jesus are there now too, but they’re still background. They’re less background than some of the other cast members–Carmen and Heraclio for example–but Beto’s definitely made some changes in who he’s telling the stories about.
So I guess maybe he did say Farewell to Palomar a little, but Beto’s Palomar stories have always been a lot more fluid than, well, anything else in Love and Rockets. The soap aspect just makes it feel a little more Jaime than usual… but also not.
Beto’s art is also a little different. There’s a different sense of visual pacing and scope.
While Jaime’s story is good and affecting–the Penny stuff is phenomenal–Beto’s new normal is amazing.