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Friday, April 04, 2008

The Education of Hopey Glass -- There's probably not a more perfect comics reading experience than immersing yourself in a Love and Rockets collection; they're all representative of the very best that comics can aspire to be, and The Education of Hopey Glass stands out as a premier example.

The book collects over a dozen short stories by Jaime Hernandez, stories that originally appeared in the now-complete L&R Vol. 2 (Vol. 3 will be an annual series of graphic novels). The focus in the first half of the book is mostly on Maggie's on-again, off-again lover Hopey, and the second half of the book is given over to the misadventures of Ray as he falls into orbit around Vivian, AKA "The Frogmouth."

Every story in this volume is sublimely rewarding and narratively fulfilling. By now Love and Rockets really is like going home for longtime readers. The characters have, decades after their creation, become as much a part of the reader's life as any friend or family member, with all the hope for their well-being and amusement at their foibles that that suggests. Much is unsaid about Hopey's attractions and aspirations, but by watching her actions, at the eye doctor, at home, at work, learning to drive -- we love her as Maggie does. How could you not?

Ray is more challenging a character than Hopey, because he's not as honest with himself or others as she is. But ultimately he's easy to relate to because his frustrations and desires mirror our own. Both the Ray/Frogmouth and the Hopey stories feature Angel, a sexy, full-figured young woman who is the focus of the best story in the book, a four-pager about her tossing a ball around with her dad and talking about her hopes and the unfair limitations she's facing.

The effect of Love and Rockets, as any individual book or as a decades-long experience, is always a cumulative one. I read these stories when they were serialized in periodical form, and I loved them. Taken together, re-worked into one long story broken up into chapters focusing on the various characters, a different focus reveals itself and I appreciate them even more. Most comics aren't as good the second time you read them, but Love and Rockets stories are always better with repeated exposure -- like spending time with loved ones you cherish and adore. Just exactly like that, in fact.

The Education of Hopey Glass (Love & Rockets)



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