So this is going to be a slightly different reading project, as this story is pretty short in terms of pages. I'll be covering stories from issues of Love and Rockets vol. 1 #21-23.
Please be aware that these comics cover mature themes and are quite adult in nature. There is swearing, nudity, violence and sex.
I realize that I may well end up talking to myself here as this is a comic that many are not familiar with, but it's short, so I figure why not? There might even be just a little bit of interest.
While Jaime Hernandez has created a lot of great stories over the years, in terms of the ones I've read, I feel this is one of the best if not the best.
Love and Rockets #21 - "Vida Loca: The Death Of Speedy Ortiz Part 1"
Published: May 1987
Writer: Jaime Hernandez
Artist: Jaime Hernandez
As we open, we see Eulalio "Speedy" Ortiz asking Maggie Chascarillo when her sister Esther is going to visit again. Maggie doesn't know, telling him he talks to her more than she does. Speedy tells her he hasn't been able to get a hold of her, and Maggie tells him that Esther is 16 and acts it before moving on.
As Maggie drives away, Speedy says that if Esther has another boyfriend he's going to kill someone. One of his buddies, Litos tells him she isn't worth the hassle. As Speedy continues to act out, Litos' friend Ray comments that Speedy must really like this girl. Litos remarks that Speedy is a fiend when it comes to girls.
Switching scenes, we see Maggie with her friend Danita. They've been looking for jobs, but haven't found anything yet. As Maggie drives away, Danita tells her not to be too hard on Speedy. Maggie thinks that she's just trying to save Esther from teen pregnancy, and that she's glad Esther lives 80 miles away. However, when she gets home, she finds Esther waiting there. Esther tells her that she'll be living with Maggie and their aunt Vicki Glori (current women's wrestling champion). Maggie is surprised, but Esther tells her that she convinced their mother, and that Hoppers (Maggie's neighborhood) is much more exciting than Dairytown (I'm not sure exactly which neighborhoods in California these represent). She then leaves, telling Maggie she's looking for Speedy, the reason she's there in the first place. Maggie's really jealous when Esther takes Vicki's car, as Vicki will never lend it to her.
Meanwhile, Speedy is off having sex with another girl, Blanca Rizzo, at the restaurant where she works.
Back with Ray and Litos, Ray is lost in thought about the guys in his neighborhood, how fiercely defensive of their "turf" they seem. Litos asks him if he's thinking of leaving again (Ray had gone to college back East for a bit). Ray tells him that there may not be anything for him there anymore. However, while he's doing so, some of the guys spots some other guys watching them from a car. after they drive away, the guys mention that those guys were from Dairytown. Ray loses his cool and tells them he's sick of all the crap between Hoppers and Dairytown. However, his protests fall on deaf ears as Litos begins to gather the troops.
Back at the restaurant, Speedy leaves as Blanca is called back to her work. One of her coworkers tells her how dangerous that was (they had sex somewhere in the kitchen, perhaps in the walk in cooler). Blanca says she doesn't care, as this was proof that he loves her and not Maggie. Her friend mentions that she wouldn't mind trying out Speedy for herself, and Blanca becomes livid.
Ray is hanging out with a friend, Doyle. He's told Doyle that he finds Maggie attractive, but he's scared to approach her because he thinks that Speedy is her boyfriend. Meanwhile, Esther catches up with Speedy.
Back home Vicki is pissed off and looking for Maggie. Maggie tells her where she is, and Vicki explains that someone has stolen her car. Maggie explains that Esther took it, and Vicki tells her that she has to watch over Esther as she doesn't have the time to do so.
Speedy wants to know if Esther has a boyfriend. She tells him that she did, but she broke up with him.
Over at Izzy's house (Izzy is Speedy's older sister, a published author and a tad...odd) Maggie is complaining about having to baby-sit Esther. Izzy suggests that the real problem is Maggie's attraction to Speedy, and counsels her to just be friends with him. As Maggie leaves, she realizes that Izzy has her nailed. She decides to try to be less jealous.
Returning home, Maggie notices Speedy's car. She enters the house to find Speedy and Esther there. Esther is pissed because Maggie told Vicki that she had taken the car, and Maggie explains that she had to, as Vicki was going to call the police. However, Esther tells her that she did it simply because Maggie didn't want her there. Maggie leaves in a bad mood. Speedy asks Esther why she and Maggie have to fight, and Esther makes some catty comments about her sister before realizing what she's saying.
The next day, Ray runs across Litos and the others drinking. They tell him that they're still drinking from the night before. They tell Ray they went to Dairytown the night before to see what was up and were chased out. They decided to get a couple of cases of beer to celebrate.
Speedy walks up to them in a very good mood. They offer him a beer, and Ray as well. Ray decides to join them.
Back at Maggie's, Esther apologizes to her for being a jerk. Maaggie accepts and Esther suggests they hang out that day. Maggie suggest going to see Izzy. Vicki overhears this and lends them her car.
Back on the street, the guys are deciding whether to get more beer. At this point, it's just Ray, Speedy and Litos. Ray stands up, but has a hard time maintaining his balance. Esther drives up and tells Speedy that she has use of the car while Maggie is visiting Izzy. They drive away together. Ray gets really pissed as he thinks Speedy is two-timing Maggie with her own sister. He begins talking of memories from when they were younger.
Maggie walks up and asks if they've seen Esther. Litos tells her she took Speedy for a ride. Ray--who is quite drunk at this point--starts kvetching about Speedy stepping out on his girlfriend Maggie. Maggie corrects him, telling him that Speedy is not her boyfriend, but Esther's. Ray then apologizes, and Maggie says it's no big deal. She then remarks that the situation is reversed this time around (In previous issues, Maggie was drunk and wandering around and Ray gave her a ride home). Ray then asks her who her boyfriend is, but Maggie won't answer.
Izzy walks past some Dairytown graffiti and comments to herself that it's time to put up the bulletproof window screens.
My rating: 9/10
I love this story--even if it is essentially Romeo and Juliet for modern times. The characters are well-defined, the plotting is spot on, and there's just so much crammed into 13 pages.
One of the things that Hernandez does in this story--something that really brings home the insular nature of the story despite the largeness of the world around them--is highlighting various characters that aren't currently involved in the scene in cut-aways from the scene. For instance, as Ray and the others are dinking, we see a quick shot of Blanca Rizzo walking down the street. There's plenty of this, and it works really well.
Of course, Jaime Hernandez is one of the top artists in the field currently, and his artwork excels. He does a fabulous job of drawing people and making them look real, but at the same time exaggerating them when the moment calls for it.
If there's anything wrong with this, it's simply that perhaps not having an understanding of who these characters are and how they relate to one another could potentially make things confusing initially, but I think it's handled well and it's easy to get up to speed, especially given Hernandez' artwork.
I always lose track in Jaime's stories because I'm drooling over the art. I'll get to the end and say, "Wait! There was a story?" And go back and read it again.
I think both Hernandez brothers are tremendous artists. Jaime's linework is sharper and stronger, and his use of space is outstanding. That being said, I think Gilbert is the better writer of the two, although Jaime's no slouch.
"I realize that I may well end up talking to myself here as this is a comic that many are not familiar with..."
Naw, I'm with you. When L&R relaunched lasty year I bought a volume of the early stories (which I had never before read). Unfortunately, I went on vacation about 3/4 through and never came back to it. Maybe this discussion will spark my interest again.
Oh, Gilbert's definitely the better writer, but his artwork leaves me cold. Jaime's not a strong writer, but artwork has a huge Dan DeCarlo influence, which warms my heart, and is simply outstanding in every way. IMHO, of course.
Love and Rockets #22 - "Vida Loca: The Death Of Speedy Ortiz Part 2"
Published: August 987
Writer: Jaime Hernandez
Artist: Jaime Hernandez
Ray is working up the courage to ask Maggie out when he's interrupted by Litos and his crew. As it turns out, they're headed into town to have a good time.
As Maggie waves at the departing car, she's nearly hit by her sister Esther who is driving fast and very emotional. Speedy then wanders by in a very bad mood.
The scene shifts to the car that Ray is in. The idea that evening is to cruise girls, but a couple of the guys would also like to throw down with some guys from Dairytown.
Over at the restaurant where Blanca works, two waitresses are gossiping, and one suggests to the other that Speedy is not Blanca's girlfriend. Blanca overhears and makes plans to mess up the skank that Speedy is running around with.
Speedy is talking with Maggie about Esther, complaining that all they do now is fight. He tells Maggie he can't seem to talk to Esther the way he can with her. Maggie realizes that if she spends any more time with Speedy she'll end up as one of his conquests.
Downtown, Ray and Litos and the others are wandering around. Litos is busy flirting with girls, but the others--aside from Ray--are more interested in playing games with the Dairytown Vatos. They call Litos when they see a car they recognize, and tell him that these guys messed up their walls. Litos then walks over to the car to talk with them. One of Litos' friends mentions that he brought a gun this evening. Ray tells him to not use it as there are more cops than girls there, but then Litos returns. He dismisses the guys in the car as children, then has to duck as those children toss a case of empty beer bottles at him. As they drive away, they tell them to tell Speedy to leave Esther alone.
Maggie excuses herself from talking with Speedy. Speedy is then approached by Rojo, Esther's boyfriend from Dairytown. Rojo accuses Speedy of seeing his woman, and Speedy replies that she told him that she broke up with her boyfriend because he's a jerk. Rojo then tells him that he doesn't want any trouble, but he may nto be able to hold back his boys. At this point, one of Rojo's boys punches Speedy in the face after Speedy uses a few choice words about guys from Dairytown. They leave, and Maggie, who has seent he whole altercation, attempts to comfort Speedy, but he's too angry and wants retribution. She goes to a public restroom to clean herself up but is watched by Blanca, who thinks she might be the one that Speedy is two-timing her with.
Back downtown, Litos has decided that he needs to get his own back on the kids from Dairytown.
Maggie returns home to find Rojo there along with one of his boys. He tells her he's waiting for Esther. Maggie's not having it after seeing what happened to Speedy and tells them to leave. Vicki then enters the house and she's more than willing to fight these two guys. Rojo decides this is more trouble than it's worth and decides to leave. As they leave, Esther comes downstairs ready to leave with them, but turns back around when she sees Maggie and Vicki.
Back downtown, Litos and his boys are back from getting their revenge. Litos bursts out laughing when he thinks about how quickly his boys ran after they did whatever they did. They return to Hoppers.
Rojo is telling his friend that perhaps they should just leave all of this alone, as it's much more trouble than it's worth. They get run off the road by Speedy.
The next morning, Speedy wakes up, still in his car. He tries to call Esther, but Vicki won't let him speak to her--or Maggie either. He then goes to the restaurant where Blanca works. Blanca isn't there, so he decides to put the moves on her friend Chivita instead. She's terrified of what Blanca would do to her, and so she rejects Speedy and throws him out. A friend runs up to him to tell him what happened the night before, but Speedy doesn't want to hear it.
My rating: 9/10
I don't know that there's a whole lot to say that I haven't already said. I think this part of the story does an excellent job of showing events spiraling out of control for various and sundry reasons--yet all of those reasons are believable, if seemingly silly.
I love Jaime's stuff, but I don't know if I'll be able to follow along. I own the e-book of Book 1: Maggie the Mechanic, but the Speedy story is in Book 2: The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S.
No worries Mark. There's only one more installment to go anyway.