Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Penny Century is the fourth big paperback collection of stories by Jaime Hernandez, originally published in Love and Rockets volume II and the mini-series Penny Century. Things start off with piledriving ring action in ‘Whoa, Nellie!’, where Maggie’s professional wrestler aunt Vicki Glori has to defend her title. An exhilarating sequence of matches ends up in a tag team battle royale, with some really superb drawing of a range of wrestlers and their styles, in sequences that are wonderfully delineated with great energy. Elsewhere, Maggie and Hopey continue to stretch the elastic boundaries of their relationship to the point where not even they can really tell where the edges are, leading to a new character who’s really an old character from way back when coming into Maggie’s life, while Hopey tries out a variety of jobs and actually seems to be on her way to becoming a settled and responsible adult.
A lot of the stories in this volume feature Beatriz Garcia, aka Penny Century, in some way, and there are two long pieces that delve into detail for the first time about her history. ‘Bay of Threes’ – if you say it really fast, it suddenly makes sense – details her relationship to Maggie, where her nickname came from and just how it was that she came to the attention of horned billionaire H. R. Costigan. ‘Home School’ is a flashback tale, way back to when the Locas were little kids, drawn in Hernandez’ affectionate take on Hank Ketcham’s Dennis the Menace style.
As always, the cumulative effect of these stories is greater than any single episode; the viewpoints continually shift around so a character who is the centre of one story is then peripheral in another take on some of the same events from a different viewpoint, making for a very rich experience. This style of delivering narrative keeps uncovering new pieces of information in stories that you thought you already knew, and this work comes alive with rereading like few other books do. Hernandez continues the standard of consistently great, intricate storytelling with simply amazing artwork that he has maintained for over two decades, and this work is worthy of every accolade going. Anyone interested in the heights comics can reach in the hands of a master should be reading these collections.
Quite a number of strips in this volume are not among those reprinted in the big hardback collection Locas II: Maggie, Hopey and Ray. Several of the stories in this volume are also available in three smaller graphic novels: Whoa Nellie, Dicks and Deedees, and Locas in Love which contains material from Maggie and Hopey Colour Fun in colour.