Whoa, Nellie! (1996) #2

Whoa Nellie2

While I wasn’t “worried” about Whoa, Nellie! last issue, I was concerned creator Jaime Hernandez didn’t have enough story, just the impulse to do a bunch of women’s wrestling art. After this issue, two of three, I’m very sad there’s not a fourth because Jaime gets the story going, and it’s good. He also brings back Maggie from Love and Rockets to support the issue but still acknowledges she’s still a protagonist. I could make a comparison to a television spin-off, but it’d distract from what Jaime actually does with Maggie here.

The issue opens with backstory on Xochitl and Gina (finally). Xochitl was Gina’s babysitter, approximately ten years before Nellie! (and Rockets, because Gina being seventeen or eighteen puts a spin on things from that series too). They were great pals, and burgeoning artist Gina drew the duo as superheroes. Then one day, Xochitl wants to watch Aunt Vicki on the TV, and Gina gets a look at real-life lady superheroes. From there, Gina gets the idea they can be a wrestling team someday and sticks with it through to being a teenager, when they head off to Vicki’s training gym, where they become supporting cast in last big Maggie, well, Perla, story in Love and Rockets: Volume One.

So Jaime gives all the contextualizing he needs to give. They’re a team; they’re lady superheroes; nothing can break them up.

Except their first tag-team fight is a disaster, they get their butts kicked. Xochitl goes home to her family, Gina goes to high school, the mundane instead of the dreamed fantastic.

Maggie (Perla) is visiting Aunt Vicki, who tells her the whole family history of wrestling—which, again, informs Love and Rockets: Volume One to a degree—and how Perla was supposed to be the next great wrestler. That destiny allows Jaime to do a page and a half Maggie daydream a la Rockets; he’s doing character development on the star of his last series, who isn’t a regular in this series. It’s very holistic.

Because Vicki’s also got a character development arc. In fact, even though Gina and Xotichl have the action scenes—the wrestling—they’re not the focus. Vicki and Maggie sort of take over the comic, but all for Xotichl and Gina’s benefit. Maggie being there helps get Vicki to the character development precipice she’ll need to be in. If the comic’s going to be about Vicki’s expectations—or lack thereof—of Xotichl as the family wrestler successor.

Something Xochitl doesn’t know anything about.

It’s not a high drama comic. The wrestling’s pretty intense, but the combination family and vocational ambition drama—the stakes themselves aren’t high (yet), but the potential emotional repercussions for the characters is beaucoup. Jaime does a phenomenal job setting things up. I’ve got no doubt he can pull it off with just one more issue, but I still want more of this comic. It’s a delight. And has depth.

The Gina and Xotichl backstory stuff is phenomenal. Like, Gina’s lady superhero observation riffs on Jaime’s entire oeuvre to this point. It’s really cool how this series echoes back to Rockets. It’s not a spin-off. It’s… well, I guess it’s a Love and Rockets comic book like the cover says.

And, as usual, a darned good one.

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