blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Penny Century (1997) #6


Once again, creator Jaime Hernandez surprises with Penny Century. This issue features the first appearance of Maggie’s husband, T.C. (short for Tony “Top Cat” Chase). However, that appearance comes with a big asterisk. The character doesn’t show up, just his face. Well, his head. See, the issue’s all a dream, and Maggie’s working out some stuff.

She’s conflicted about the divorce, her feelings for Hopey, and still recovering from her traumatic night of driving a few issues back. Even without a corporeal ghoul in her backseat, the experience was still harrowing enough to stick with her. Jaime’s got a few existing Penny threads running through the story—including ones it doesn’t make sense for Maggie to know to dream about—and this issue’s the first time Maggie’s had a story from her perspective since the lonely drive one.

It’s also the first time the reader gets to hear about Maggie’s marriage from her.

There aren’t many details on that front. Maggie thinks about how not many people knew about the marriage (Jaime doesn’t break the fourth wall with a wink, but it’s almost there) and remembers some scant details about her time with T.C., mostly in contrast with Hopey.

Maggie’s dream—and the issue—is about a race. She starts the race by dropping out and going for a walk instead. Her walk leads her to Izzy, dressed as a witch and plowing a yard, not in Hoppers; they have a brief reuniting moment (I don’t think they’ve had a scene together in Penny) before Izzy starts worrying about her next public speaking engagement and shrinks. When she’s worried, she shrinks (for Maggie). It’ll be relevant later since she previously grew for Penny and Hopey.

And not in their dreams. Penny’s wall between dreams and reality is tenuous.

The next stop is a cocktail party where the eclectic, obnoxious high-brow guests make fun of Maggie. Once she’s done with them, Jaime introduces the plot foil—someone’s following Maggie. In the distance, the person’s just a little stick figure, no details; up close, they will be wearing a black bodysuit, their face covered until the reveal.

Wait, there’s also a little imp who usually lives inside Maggie and causes all her mistakes, only in this dream it’s out in the world with her and can directly attack her. Can’t forget the little imp.

Who doesn’t not resemble Hopey.

Hopey and Penny eventually show up in the dream, along with Norma, a new character and mutual friend of the gang who Jaime introduced last issue at the very end.

That tenuous wall between dream and reality comes back into play with Penny talking to Maggie about her current adventures (on the moon, running away from settling her dead husband’s estate) and her previous ones, covered in the comic, but without Maggie around. So either someone told Maggie about them or Penny Century’s reality is both dream and not.

It’s a good, fun, thoughtful story, with Jaime and Maggie working out a bunch. The art’s fantastic; since she’s encountering new things every few panels, sometimes dream-like things, Jaime gets to do one excellent reaction shot after another. Jaime does eight panels a page for the entire story (minus the title splash), and Maggie’s got fantastic expressions in about six of them. There’s also a visual deep cut back to old Love and Rockets; one Beto also did more recently in New Love.

Then the color strip on the back cover has Maggie and Hopey—in L.A. but seemingly in their earlier, punkier days—seeing Mini Rivero on the street and Hopey explaining about her fifties local access show, which Jaime’s been using as a strip. It’s a neat little strip, also bringing in some proverbial Rockets.

So the story’s good—it’s a great dream story, but with the caveats as a dream, it can’t be as tangible—and the art’s fabulous. One more Penny Century to go. As usual, I can’t imagine where Jaime’s going with it, but I’m confident it’ll be good….

I’m going to miss this book.

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