Sunday, June 19, 2011

Reading The Art of Jaime Hernandez

I've always admired the work of Los Bros Hernandez, even if I've never been an avid follower of their Love & Rockets comic book series. By the time I started noticing the brothers' work, the series seemed daunting to jump into. They would occasionally do one-shot stories but, more often than not, each story was another chapter in the continuing lives and adventures of Maggie the Mechanic or Gilbert's fictional world of Palomar. My main intersection with the brothers has been through works done for other publishers than Fantagraphics such as Gilbert's Vertigo work or Jaime's Mister X issues.

So when I saw The Art of Jaime Hernandez by Todd Hignite at my local library, I had to grab it. Not only am I a fan of the artwork but I love to read about cultural history and this book covers a stream of the comic book narrative that I was, more or less, unfamiliar with.

At times, the book bordered on hagiography (look it up) but, overall, I think Hignite put together a really nice package to showcase one of the luminaries in the field. And, while Hignite does an admirable job of covering Jaime's story from childhood to present day, where the book really shines is in the wonderful photographs and artwork that have been included in this volume. Everything from the childhood photographs of Jaime and his family to the rare and unused artwork and concepts are a real treat and make this book an indispensable, and highly entertaining, resource. Lastly, the oversize nature of the book lends itself well to the material. Not only did much of it first get presented in magazine format through Love & Rockets, but it gives readers a nice sized page to read, or just to admire Jaime's exquisite linework. Instead of squinting at word balloons, or struggling to see detail, Abrams Books makes it effortless to enjoy these pages.

I'm going to leave you with my favourite image from the book. It's a panel from an unused page where the character Hopey is writing a letter to her friend, Maggie, while she is on tour with her band. She's telling Maggie about all of their misadventures and the panels are arranged vignette-like, giving tiny glimpses of the events she's describing.

What I love the most about this image is the way the line effortlessly leads you through the panel. Hopey's posture is evocative and implies movement despite it being a very static image. This is sequential storytelling at its best. Plus, the image just rocks on a purely aesthetic level.

Anyway, if you have a chance I definitely recommend the book to anyone who loves art looking for a day or two of reading, and a bunch of eye candy.

I think I'm going to really dive in and read some Love & Rockets. It's about time I did.



*Hernandez image blatantly lifted from the Criterion website.

No comments: