Love and Rockets Book 24: The Education of Hopey Glass hardcover collection
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Jaime Hernandez
Editor: Gary Groth
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Price: $19.99 US
I’ve always found approaching any Love and Rockets book such as this one a bit intimidating, as I’ve only a passing familiarity with the property and the characters despite its critical acclaim over the years. Whenever I’ve ventured into a corner of the L&R world, I’ve always found it intriguing and entertaining, but my perception — be it accurate or not — is that there’s no series of master volumes of the classic series. Perhaps there is a series of clearly branded trades for sale out there, but I shop at a comic-book store of good enough quality that it would keep that sort of material in stock. Now, the last page in this book lists all of the 24 volumes of the Love and Rockets collections, so I’m guessing I’m dead wrong about availability of the entire series. Nevertheless, I had the perception, and I wonder if the publisher (or retailers, for that matter) could do more to guide newer readers into this property. The glut of positive reviews of The Education of Hopey Glass in the past year inspired me to venture once again into the realm of Love and Rockets, and I’m pleased I did. I’m well aware that there are a lot of references to past stories that I’m missing, but the strength of the characterization and the down-to-earth scenarios that unfold in Jamie Hernandez’s slightly surreal segment of society really drew me in.
Hopey finds herself at a crossroads in her life. She’s trying to transform herself into a responsible adult, taking on a new teacher assistant job that would purport to require of her and convey upon her a newfound kind of respectability. Nevertheless, she continues her other job as a bartender, and that serves as a gateway into a seedier world of self-indulgence. Meanwhile, Ray reconnects with Vivian, a hot-tempered and equally unfocused object of his carnal desire, which leads him to bump into Maggie, friend to all and the object of his heart’s desire.
Hernandez’s script is both accessible and inaccessible all at once. The characters are firmly entrenched in Hernandez’s “Locas” world, the backdrop for much of the creator’s L&R output; they clearly have a lot of history, and newer readers such as myself will only appreciate many references on a purely superficial level. Nevertheless, the characters are so natural, as is the tone of the narration, that one can’t help but feel welcome in their community. I suppose that while the plot and history are exhaustive, overwhelming and somewhat inaccessible, the characters are thoroughly accessible. The characters’ experiences, emotions and flaws are familiar; they give us pause to consider similar circumstances and people in the readers’ own lives.
If the writing weren’t strong enough, the art is just as engaging. Hernandez’s predominantly female cast of characters is depicted as sensuous and voluptuous, and while their sexuality definitely plays a significant role in the storytelling, Hernandez never portrays it for purely gratuitous reasons. Vivian, for example, is often depicted in various stages of undress, but that’s more a symbol of the dichotomy of freedom she feels and the damage that drives her. What I love about Hernandez’s figures is that they represent real-world body types. The impossible ideals we see throughout pop culture, from super-hero comics to medical dramas on TV, aren’t to be found here. Instead, we see real people here, and Hernandez celebrates their natural beauty just as much as People magazine celebrates the artificial beauty of Hollywood. Hernandez’s celebration is simply a more honest and healthy party.
The writer/artist’s exploration of the seedier side of life brings an intensity to the storytelling that almost borders on the fantastic, but it rings true. I’ve walked into a party or two where I felt I didn’t belong, and I’ve encountered weird and eccentric figures I’ve found frightening and fascinating at the same time. Everyone should get a glimpse of that side of society, perhaps to appreciate their own conventional lives a bit more, but also to broaden one’s appreciation of different walks of life.
Hopey is an easily recognizable figure in our own lives. Most of us have not only known people like Hopey but have been people like her. She’s reached that awkward stage in life when one feels the urge toward a more responsible existence but also enjoys the allure of a more carefree, hedonistic lifestyle that the freedom of recent adulthood offers. Hopey fights against society’s plan for her involving routine and respectability, and it’s a fight she might not be able to win given that so many of those around her have turned their backs on conformity.
Of course, Hopey’s journey is guided in part by her past, and more specifically, by her relationship with Maggie. Maggie is a permanent fixture of Love and Rockets, and she’s clearly been established the perfect woman. She’s kind, she’s happy, she’s intelligent and she’s sexy. Maggie has a profound effect on the lives of all those she touches, it would seem. While her influence is apparent in Hopey’s life, Hernandez offers a more pronounced take on the phenomenon when she shifts hears later in the book to focus on Ray and Vivian. Ray’s greatest regret is letting Maggie go, while Vivian so wants to be Maggie (and be with her) that she’s transformed that into jealousy, resentment and self-loathing. Vivian is the anti-Maggie. There’s nothing stable about her, nor is she caring or intelligent. She’s a wreck, but one that’s fascinating to watch. 9/10