While Dark Horse Comics might be known for more bigger, and darker, comics lines like Hellboy and Sin City and the new Aliens/Predator/AVP/Prometheus tie-ins, it meanwhile has continued to publish odd and intriguing foreign and alternative American comics. One new release is Loverboys, by underground comics fav Gilbert Hernandez, of Love & Rockets fame.
And, much as I respect everyone involved, including Hernandez, Dark Horse, and book editor Dianz Schutz, I just do not like Loverboys very much, though I’m willing to believe that I just don’t ‘get’ it, and/or that the things I don’t like are the very things that I suspect long-time Hernandez fans love.
The story takes place in the small southern California town of Lagrimas (‘tears’ en español) and follows, mostly, the character of Rocky, at twenty-something white guy, as he gets involved with an older divorcée, Mrs. Paz, who actually was a substitute teacher of his when he was younger. Yes, and if that sounds taboo and scandalous, Rocky meanwhile has also become involved with his older-woman boss, Ms. Katya, who’s name kind of (not coincidentally?) sounds like a dominatrix.
And then there’s Rocky’s young teen sister, Daniela running around pretending, or not, to want to blow up the Lagrimas. Why? Because she doesn’t want to go to school. Though the real reason may be because she and Rocky’s father died and their mother ran off with Mr. Paz.
Starting to sound implausible? I agree. After a while, I realized that Loverboys, isn’t supposed to be ‘realistic’, though it took a few pages in, when in otherwise Archie-ish kind of artwork, we get at full-length glimpse of Mrs. Paz and….my god, her boobs are ginormous. And then Rocky’s boss is shown almost jumping his bones, and for some reason she, at work, wearing short-short booty shorts.
So then I have to just read Loverboys as some kind of boy/young man’s fantasy. I mean, sure, I had fantasies of having sex with some of my teachers, and my female bosses at that age. I get it. It’s sexy. And I don’t have a problem, at all, with Mrs. Paz and Ms. Katya being highly sexed, and highly sexual aggressive. I’m all for that. But it’s how Hernandez portrays them otherwise. Ms. Katya is obviously the more flatter character (sorry, no double entendre: her boobs are pretty big and perky too) and, despite being the owner of her own (relatively unexplained) business, behaves like a teenage girl. And a nymphomaniac. I just cannot believe that the owner of a business would sleep with her employee. Or, I’m sure that has happened in real life, but from what we see here, she’s bordering on stupid in how she goes about it.
Mr. Paz is a more complicated character, not least because she’s sleeping with, and maybe falling in love with, Rocky, whose mom ran off with her husband. No, there’s more: when she’s babysitting Daniela while Rocky is off on a weeks-long business trip with Katya (!), the two play Truth or Dare, and on a dare, Paz kisses an ugly young man, who has previously catcalled her in public. As an excuse, later, she says she was drunk. Which…I don’t even know where to start criticizing that, but in any case, it’s just not believable.
Which, fantasies aren’t supposed to be, right? That’s why they’re fantasies? But if Hernandez is going to pretend to have some kind of story—rather than some excuse for a story in order to draw some hot comic porn (which he doesn’t)—he’s got to have some believable characters.
Unless Loverboys is a bait-and-switch? And that, once we ‘get’ that this is more of a young man’s fantasy world (?) then we just become interested in seeing that world, without judgment? Maybe? But is that just a lame excuse?
There could be a tender, though still transgressive, story here, about a young man and an older woman, but there are just too many….zany elements included that keep me from entering into the story fully. Likewise, there are too many zany elements in the art that keep me from appreciating it. Though again, I think this is pretty standard Hernandez stuff. Fans of Love & Rockets will like Loverboys, though it’s $20 for a small hardcover book. I can’t recommend it for newcomers, though maybe get it from the library and see what you think?
But at least it’s different. At least Dark Horse is willing to take a chance with stuff like this, that’s neither superhero-y nor graphic memoir. And, there is a trace of weird darkness that surprises and intrigues me, that has nothing to do with zany. I guess Hernandez’s stuff has been labeled ‘magic realism’, like, say, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and other South American authors. But, a little magic isn’t an excuse to have unbelievable characters. Or ginormous boobs and booty shorts.