ADVANCE REVIEW! God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls will go on sale July 2012.
So the new graphic novel from world-class cartoonist Jaime Hernandez of Love and Rockets fame, the man who made his reputation on creating world-class comics about working class Mexican-Americans and their stories, is coming out out in July.
And it's a super-hero graphic novel.
And it's gonna be released by Fantagraphics, of all companies.
And it's good. It's really good.
No, Jaime and his longtime independent-minded publisher haven't suddenly joined the New 52. Instead Jaime has created a weird, charming, often dreamlike graphic novel that explores his very unique, very personal and very fun cavalcade of super-beings.
God and Science is, at first, baffling for the committed Hernandez-phile. What are we to make of this completely bizarre fictional world where the women have powers and babies are carried in belt buckles and the men are barely seen, where Greek mythology and Mort Weisinger's mythology and the mythology of Stan Lee's creative descendents all merge together in a mélange of breathtakingly gorgeous artwork and page layouts and Jaime displays a master's vision for the composition of the comic book page?
Where are the real people, the Hernandez-phile wants to plead. What's with all the capes and outlandish attutudes? Why is the story set in completely different sort of Los Angeles than we are used to from Jaime's other books? Why is the plot of this book so surreal and pointless and why in the Hell should we care about Penny Century's massive temper tantrum anyway?
That's a good question, and a big part of what went through my mind while reading this book. And that's the sort of thing that goes question to the heart of what it means to be a fan and a critic of a certain creator's work.
We like to believe we want our favorite creators to take chances, to follow their muse and go wherever their artistic vision takes them. That's the epitome of the "Fair Trade" cartoonist, the independent minded creator who explores their view of the world in self-driven and self-managed creative works. There are any number of great creators who follow that ethos, not least Jaime's brother Gilbert, who has left his beloved Palomar, scene of some of Gilbert's finest comics, to create such diverse works as the wonderful and intense Sloth for DC/Vertigo, and the spooky sexual exploration Speak of the Devil for Dark Horse. Gilbert has been able to explore his muse while also staying true to himself.
But superheroes, man… superheroes are different. They feel strange, frustrating, oddly political these days. Superheroes represent The Man and the past and a certain corporate hegemony over the creator and the New 52 and Before Watchmen and The Avengers and seem in so many ways to be the opposite of Fair Trade comics.
After all, aren't Fair Trade comics supposed to be indy and quirky and idiosyncratic and personal and uncompromising? How can a super-hero book be all that, even coming from the talented hands of Jaime Hernandez?
I gotta admit, I was kind of going through a bit of exactly that sort of angst, even while reveling in the wonderfully clever plot twists and fantastic dream logic of this story — not to mention Jaime's gorgeous art. I wanted this story to stand on its head at some point, turn postmodern by having the characters emerge from the story at some point, or turn much more ground-level real like so many of Jaime's stories do, or turn out to be a dream — just something, anything that would allow me to enjoy this comic without a strange sort of angst. Jaime really couldn't create a sincere, straight superhero comic, could he? But he did.
Because Jaime is smarter than me, or at least less full of angst and elitism and super-hating. Jaime was able to escape his prejudices and create a superhero comic that is both a lot like other superhero comics and defiantly, totally, different from others.
And it is indeed very indy and quirky and idiosyncratic and personal and uncompromising as any of Jaime's comics.
Just look at those gorgeous pieces of artwork that are included with this review. Marvel in his uncanny placement of blacks, in the amazing way that he composes scenes, in the swanlike grace he gives his characters, in the multitude of tiny little moments and features and facial expressions and compositions and subtle character interactions and just plain wonderful artfulness that this master cartoonist brings to his art. There is a level of craftsmanship in this art that only a master cartoonist can bring to his work, a level that betrays his deep love for this material. The art in this book is Really Fucking Great, and why the hell would I be stupid enough to expect anything else?
Man, I really need to chill out and just enjoy comics, don't I?