New Love (1996) #5

Nl5

I’m trying not to be too hard on this issue of New Love, but it definitely seems like the one where creator Gilbert Hernandez ran out of momentum, if not enthusiasm. It’s strange because last issue had a teaser for the stories in this one, then these strips are kind of blah. There are some good ideas; Beto just doesn’t have full strips for them or a cohesive theme.

Other than non sequiturs, including the narration of a story not matching the visual content and general non sequitur usage in the strip to move things along.

The first story is a recounting of the La Llorona legend. It’s pretty good but slight. There’s some good art—lots of moody black panels; not really any style cohesion either. There doesn’t need to be, of course. Though it would make up for the lack of a character arc for the gruesome protagonist. I guess the Heaven scene’s funny from a specific point of view.

Then comes the first of the three ”Heroin” strips. If they’re about heroin, they’re disconnected heroin dreams. The first one is a sci-fi swashbuckler romance set to text about a guy who repulses the object of his affection. Beto writes it pretty well—demanding attention—and even if it’s bewildering, it’s intentionally so, and very well-drawn.

The second “Heroin” strip, which comes later but let’s get through them all, is a one-pager. It’s Beto detailing a guy doing a physical comedy gag. It’s, you know, totally fine, and if it came in another issue, there might be more to get excited about. But in this one, it just lends to the slapdash nature of the book.

Not the third “Heroin” strip, which is the best story in the comic. It’s a dystopian future thing where a woman gets interested in the mutant children living in the ruins of the old city. There’s a lot of drama, a lot of humanity, and absolutely no exposition establishing the setting. It’s real good. Even if the finale’s a little rushed.

The issue’s got a very sci-fi vibe to it—it’s the most Rockets, literally, New Love has felt–including a story about a superhero unintentionally spoiling a little kid’s birthday. It’s got a peculiar, unrelated title. There’s some nice art, including what appears to be a Superman: The Movie reference. Overall it’s disjointed and hurried; nice art, but overall disjointed and hurried describes the whole issue.

Finally, there’s a “Letters from Venus” entry. It starts with Venus explaining to her cousin—the framing device is Venus writing letters to her cousin—this story doesn’t really matter. Way to flex.

It’s about a time Venus went to a nude resort with mom Petra, aunt Fritz, and grandma Maria. Maria hasn’t been in New Love before, but she was in Love and Rockets a bunch. It’s not really her story, though. If anyone’s, it’s Venus and Fritz’s; they show the most agency. Beto has some good dialogue, and he enjoys drawing nudity. He just doesn’t have much of a story, something the strip even acknowledges with one of the segues.

I guess if you’re going to have a middling issue, best to save it for five of six. So instead of focusing on the tepid strips here, you remember all the good ones.

It’s not even bad, just not near the usual standards. I’m sure Beto’ll turn it out for the finale.