Every now and then, a comic appears that changes the cultural landscape of the medium. While most readers who stick to the genres most prevalent in the form – superheroes and sci-fi – may not have come across them, their influence is far reaching. Love and Rockets is one such title; relatively underground in comparison to most, but amazingly well respected by the people who create comics.
Locas is a collection of many of the stories that Jaime Hernandez, one of the brothers that created Love and Rockets, originally published in the comic. At over 700 pages and bound in a beautiful hardback edition, it’s a marvellous introduction to the stories for those who haven’t yet sampled it, and a perfect collection for those who are already fans. If you want the unabridged version, this is available too – the first volume (of three) is Maggie the Mechanic.
Locas follows the life of Margaret (Maggie) Chascarrillo and her friend (and sometimes lover) Hopey, from their early teens through to young adulthood. Maggie starts the book as a mechanic, travelling deep into the jungle with her team to retrieve a crashed space rocket. But don’t let the sci-fi angle fool you – after the first hundred pages or so it’s relegated to the side-lines, so we can focus on Maggie’s life and relationships in full. The following 600 hundred pages or so focus on the friendships and love affairs conducted in and around the south Californian town where the characters grew up, interweaving the key players’ lives with all the complexity, joy and heart-ache of real life.
Hernandez is responsible for both writing and drawing throughout, creating a coherent world (at least after the space ships depart) that’s fascinating and believable. With his economical lines, Hernandez renders a stunning array of interesting characters that will keep you wanting more, creating a collection of friends with such unique, strong personalities you’d swear you actually knew them. The plot helps, with a similar economy of story that seems to allow things to happen to Maggie and Hopey in the chaotic manner of real life, without resorting to extremes or leaving the reader with a sense that nothing really happens. The dialogue has the ring and rhythm of natural speech, crowning the feeling that the characters could easily be out there somewhere, living their lives, with Hernandez doing little more than listening, watching and transcribing their world into comic books.
Like all the best culture, Locas speaks directly to the reader, saying what it needs to say and documenting the life and times of its characters without preaching or moralising. The book radiates warmth, like meeting an old friend for a drink and a catch-up. There’s escapism and entertainment to be had for all readers in the pages of Locas, but if you’re somewhere between your late teens and your thirties, like music that’s played live by people with guitars and drums, and appreciate both the joy and the sadness that can be found in life, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by ignoring this.