Locas II: Maggie, Hopey and Ray
Written & Illustrated by Jamie Hernandez
Published by Fantagraphics
Somehow, some way, Jamie Hernandez is getting better and better. Love & Rockets, since its debut in 1981, blazed a standard for brilliant, personal and engaging comic book storytelling, and Locas, the first gigantic hardcover compilation of Jamie’s “Maggie and Hopey” stories, stands as one of the highlights of my life as a reader. Now, unbelievably, Locas II exceeds the original’s standard.
The high concept remains the same, a continuing series of sketches, short stories and longer narratives chronicling the lives of two Mexican-American women in southern California: Margarita Luisa “Maggie” Chascarrillo and Esperanza Leticia “Hopey” Glass. The former’s a mechanic, the latter in search of a new vocation after a run as a poor bass guitarist for equally poor punk bands. Sometimes they’re lovers, sometimes not. In Locas II, as the subtitle suggests, Maggie’s one-time paramour Ray Dominguez steps forward to assume a leading role as well.
All three of the protagonists finds themselves in similar territory, yet uniquely their own. Their carefree misspent youth behind them, each of the three leads finds her or himself pondering their choices, the place in the world they’ve built for themselves, and fighting against (and to gain) some level of “adultness.” Hopey’s working through a failing relationship and about to take on a new job as, gasp, a teacher (teacher’s assistant!). Trapped in a less-than-rewarding position as a building super, Maggie’s dealing with neurotic tenants and even more neurotic friends. Frequent incursions from despondent childhood friend Izzy and new drama-queen-on-the-block Vivian prevent Maggie from finding any stability outside of her regular phone conversations with old pal Hopey. Ray…, well, he’s hanging out with trouble-seeking Doyle and wrong-crowd Viv. He longs for the comfort of his times with Maggie, but can’t seem to keep from falling in with people who are anything but easy going and low key.
Locas II then tells of three people reaching middle age, reflecting on their youthful misadventures, wondering if they’ve made the right choices, as well as how to deal with “the rest of their lives.” Hernandez’s subtle scripting manages the delicate balance of threading surreal moments, dreams and the threat of violent wannabe gangsters (mostly of whom seem to intersect Viv’s life too regularly) through a quiet, layered and human drama. Never dull thanks to Hernandez’s playful sense of reality and his engaging characters, Locas II dances through mid-life crises.
From sexual shenanigans to turgid professional responsibilities, the characters in Locas II confront their lives with a palpable mixture of disappointment, amazement, humor and love. The complicated relationships between the cast, including Penny Century running from husband H.R. Costigan’s terminal illness and recollections of Izzy and Maggie’s childhoods, are never treated casually. Each short narrative enlightens the dynamic between a set of characters, or with a character’s own self.
Always one of the business’s finest artists, Hernandez’s illustrations haven’t lost as step. His bold, elegant line flows across each page, delineating his vision of the characters and their world. Known for his beautiful women, Hernandez is also a master of nuanced character acting, and all the small details – from the lay of clothes to the interior of cars – are rendered with an eye to reality. And he’s an impeccable storyteller, providing engaging “camera” work and clear, precise panel-to-panel transitions.
Even after thirty years, Jamie Hernandez continues to find things to say about life and love. In Locas II: Maggie, Hopey and Ray, he’s crafted perhaps his most universal work to date, a saga of three people who’ve left behind the postures of their youth to stumble, unsure and hesitant, across the landscape of their adult lives. It’s strange and scary, funny and sweet, confused and enlightening. Locas II is a master as the top of his game, and a true comic book classic.