New Love (1996) #1

New love 1

I was unclear about a couple things when I started New Love. First, I thought it would be Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez splitting like the old days, but it’s just Beto.

Which tracks. Beto was more about the Love than Rockets.

Then I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to remember the main character from the first story from somewhere else. She’s an opera singer who, after leaving the opera, finds herself pulled over in a park by a walking owl creature. They have sex, and the owl creature transforms into a human, and the singer becomes an owl creature. Since I just read Beto’s porno comic, Birdland, it really didn’t come off too weird. Other than not being sure if I should remember the lead character from somewhere else.

It’s a good little strip—not really a story—with Beto doing a lot of stylized, art deco-ish art.

Then there’s an actual three-panel comic strip about Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. It’s funny and dirty and reminds of Beto’s excellent Frida biography from Love and Rockets: Volume One.

The issue’s got two main stories, one Luba Family—focusing on her tweenage niece, Venus (daughter of Petra, who appeared in Birdland and it also threw me)—and one Palomar. Or at least Palomar Extended Universe; it’s never explicitly Palomar, but it’s got the vibe.

Beto structures Venus’s story as a letter to her cousin, recounting an experience involving her mom, Aunt Fritz, a record store, and a gay porno comic. It’s only six pages, but it’s chockfull of dialogue establishing Venus as a protagonist to be reckoned with. She’s got an adoring best friend, Yoshio; they’re too cool for school—the scene with Fritz has them hanging out in a coffee shop, smoking cloves and drinking de-caf.

Eventually, it turns into this really touching story about Venus and Petra, with a lot of humor and profound embarrassment at one’s parent along the way. It’s a good one; no matter what else Beto did in the issue, the Venus story is enough to make New Love #1 a success.

Since it’s Beto, however, the second feature story—which is longer but has a lot less dialogue and a lot more mood—is also excellent. A femme fatale arrives in a rural, Palomar-y town and immediately captivates a local man, who happens to have a hunchback, an overbearing mother, and who communicates with a supernatural force living in a tree.

Beto plots it like a fairy tale, with the unnamed hunchbacked man consulting the force to accomplish various tasks, usually to garner favor with the femme fatale. The lead never speaks. His mom yells at him, the children mock him, the femme fatale’s rude to him—and the spirit talks a lot.

It’s a tidy little fable, very noir-ish, with occasional hints at tenderness. Not as good as the Venus story, but very good comics.

Then there’s a short (but not three-panel) strip crossing Fritz over with the opera singer. It’s got a great punchline.

New Love’s off to a fine start. Of course, it’d be surprising if it weren’t.

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