This latest graphic novel from Jaime Hernandez returns to his ultimate Love and Rockets creation, Maggie Chascarillo, and the second love of her life, Ray Dominguez. Maggie and Ray never really got going, with Maggie’s feelings for Hopey seeming to stand in the way of her chance of ever settling down and finding any kind of stability.
Now we see Maggie in her forties. Her character is entirely intact, perhaps a little matured with the years, but still as flirty, as scared of commitment and as lost in love as ever. Ray is running a life-drawing class and trying to sell art on the side. He too has had a string of relationships, often with his models, and often these relationships are more about aesthetics and desire than love.
The two cross paths again in this book, running parallel lives for a while, but bouncing off each other’s advances, failing to get their emotions in tune with each other, despite seemingly wanting the same thing. As we travel through this frustrating love wrangle, which makes you want to pick them both up and give them a good shake, Hernandez provides flashbacks to Maggie’s youth. While these initially seem random and unfocused, Hernandez is actually moulding his story, building his layers, placing all the pieces he needs for his stunning finale.
Hernandez plays our emotions like a virtuoso concert pianist, as Maggie and Ray’s confused feelings ebb and flow, pulling and pushing in different directions. Life’s currents don’t always pull two people in the same directions, even when it seems like they ought to be together, and the gravitational forces that pull families into orbits around each other can just as easily slingshot them out again.
To this end it feels more like a Gilbert Hernandez story than a Jaime. It’s about family, not friends; about how they form and how they break apart; about however much we think we’re in control of our lives, the natural chaos that surrounds us is doing its best to ensure that some things just happen and others just don’t. Jaime’s skill as a storyteller comes from his ability to harness the chaos of humanity and craft it into a fiction that remains real and tangible, which is perhaps the only opportunity we have for creating true happy endings.