Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Is This How You See Me? follows on from the events of The Love Bunglers. Maggie and Hopey’s long, ever-shifting relationship eventually resolved itself into a foundation on which they both built bonds with other people: Maggie with Ray, and Hopey with Sadaf and their son, Mani. Although they are settled into purposeful adulthood, echoes of the old days keep reverberating. A chance to revisit their past comes in the form of a punk rock reunion concert taking place in the old neighbourhood of Hoppers, so Maggie and Hopey take the train back to the site of so many of their memories, to catch up with old friends, wander through old haunts and old loves, and maybe arrive at some definitive answers to some old questions.
Naturally once their bodies are back in Hoppers, their minds and hearts travel ever further back, and in flashbacks to the beginnings of their relationships, Jaime Hernandez’s mastery over depicting the human form is never more acute. He draws Maggie, Hopey, Daffy, Doyle and many others at different ages and moods, with radically changed bodies, haircuts and attitudes, but unmistakably them. The dreamlike qualities of the flashback sequences are partly just because Hernandez draws such gorgeous, high-contract imagery, but also because for the protagonists the stakes were a lot clearer, the highs so much higher and the lows easier to identify.
Chapters of this book are introduced with full-page images of Hopey and others taking selfies with their iPhone cameras. These beautifully presented little vignettes also act as clues about what is happening in this narrative. Maggie, Hopey and Daffy’s trip back into their punk pasts is a complicated dance of insecurities, obsessions, rivalries and ecstatic hedonism. The different styles of their photo portraits are a brilliant shorthand for demonstrating how they feel about themselves, how they appear to others, and how we all curate our lives to present the most exciting aspects of them.
Despite all the activity that unfolds over the 85 pages of this punk weekender, there is a calm, slow detachment, perhaps located in how the story momentum is all backwards towards an idealised past. Is This How You See Me? feels like a footnote to The Love Bunglers, and with so much of it rooted in minutiae from the decades-long history of Locas, the emotional depth charges planted in this book won’t explode for new readers as they will for longtime fans. If you are in the latter group, noticing all the little unspoken easter eggs artfully placed in this narrative will have you absorbed from the first page to the last.