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Love and Death
On this week’s episode of The Comics Alternative, Andy and Derek discuss three exciting new titles. The first is the latest volume of the Hernandez brothers’ Love and Rockets: New Stories (Fantagraphics). It’s alway a fun show when the guys get to discuss works by Jaime and/or Gilbert, and they’re certainly in their element delving into the twists and intricacies of the Hernandez’s narrative worlds. There’s a lot to highlight in this Love and Rockets, but there are two matters that are particularly noteworthy. First, most of Jaime’s contributions revolve around triangle of Maggie, Ray, and Hopey. As the Two Guys point out, readers weren’t sure what to expect after the 2011 volume of the series, when Jaime wrapped up the “Love Bunglers” storyline. That narrative had a feeling of finality, almost as if the saga of Ray and Maggie was coming to some sort of conclusion. (There was a tiny glimpse of the characters in 2012’s Love and Rockets: New Stories, No. 5, but that was more postscript than anything.) But in this most recent volume of the series, we get to see how Maggie and Ray are evolving after the latter’s traumatic accident. What’s more, Hopey is brought back into Jaime’s story world in a significant way, something we haven’t seen in years. The other major observation that the guys make concerns Gilbert’s pieces, mostly concerning Killer in Palomar and her relationship with her aunt Fritz. Much as in the previous volume of Love and Rockets: New Stories, Beto spins an elaborate tale surrounding Fritz, her b-movie career, and her mother Maria (which also links up with Gilbert’s standalone graphic novels, Maria M.), although this time the complication involves Fritz doppelgängers, wannabe actresses who emulate her work. Derek and Andy feel that Gilbert’s work has been rejuvenated with his return to Palomar, and this latest installment further convinces them of that. After a long discussion of Love and Rockets, the guys next turn to two new releases from Graphic Universe, an imprint of the Lerner Publishing Group. The first, Henrik Rehr’s Terrorist: Gavrilo Princip, the Assassin Who Ignited World War I, is a fascinating account of the man, or the men, behind the assassination of Austro-Hungary’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914. While most of the book centers on Princip, his associations, and his evolution from an young student into a virulent Serbian nationalist, Rehr spends a significant amount of page space fleshing out the ill-fated Archduke, showing readers more of the man behind the historical persona. Indeed, one of Rehr’s major accomplishments in Terrorist is presenting his subject matters, Gavrilo Princip and Franz Ferdinand, as complex and truly rounded figures, leading readers to feel conflicted sympathies that challenge traditional textbook accounts of the assassination. Perhaps even more significant, Rehr shows us the many intricacies underlying the ethnic conflicts in the Balkans that plague Europe to this very day. Derek and Andy wrap up their review show with a brief discussion of the other recent Graphic Universe book, Simon Schwartz’s The Other Side of the Wall. This is an autobiographical account of the author’s family as they attempt to emigrate from East Berlin in the 1980s, just a few years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. In his account, Schwartz reveals his parents’ struggles against the loss of jobs, the alienation of family and friends, and the unremitting harassment of the Stasi. Along with Rehr’s more “fictional” Terrorist, Schwartz’s memoir is yet another example of how comics can effectively engage with history.