by Chris Randle
I was originally planning to write about the sequence below for Back to the World’s idiosyncratic year-end lists. Their chronic lateness is partly a joke about the mania for publishing 50 Best Albums declarations ever earlier on the calendar, but mine became so delayed that it didn’t seem funny anymore, certainly not when my comrades Carl and Margaux got it done. Then the Eisners, the best-known award in comics (which puts them roughly on a par with untelevised Junos), passed over what might be the greatest story Jaime Hernandez has ever drawn. So I got a new angle.
A multi-part serial concluded in Love and Rockets: New Stories #4, “The Love Bunglers” felt not just like a culmination of that thirty-years-and-counting series but a extraordinary moment for comics in general. (Of course, at this point, how can one talk about the medium at all without eventually mentioning Love and Rockets?) It focuses on three central characters of the younger Bro Hernandez: his long-running ex-punk protagonist Maggie, her friend and occasional lover Hopey, and her more frequent but never quite devoted lover Ray. Hopey is partnered with a kid by now, but Maggie and Ray remain compelling fuckups, failing to amass the money for a garage business or breaking up with a life model in exhaustion. Then events begin to draw them back together, and something terrifying happens to Ray, and this doubled spread appears:
When I first saw it in person, my eyes irised outwards, as if attempting to take in the entire image, all those mirrored fragments. That was hopeless. They show two eventful lives alternately intersecting with and sliding past each other, the spaces between panels alluding to countless unseen moments of rupture and disaster. Grazed knees, reddened cheeks, bloodied breast. “The Love Bunglers” doesn’t suggest that Maggie and Ray were fated to end up together; only that, standing in the wreckage, they realize how their dents and snags have come to interlock. Turn the page. Hernandez signs the last one with a heart.