Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Perla La Loca is the third hefty collection of stories by Jaime Hernandez, originally published in Love and Rockets. It opens with ‘Wigwam Bam’, a critically acclaimed, definite high-point in Hernandez’s ongoing Maggie stories and his last word on post-punk culture as Maggie and Hopey wander around Los Angeles, sometimes together but mostly far apart. Stability seems hard to come by for most of the cast of Locas in this story. Doyle is homeless after a fight with his girlfriend Lily, Ray is locked out of his apartment because he can’t pay the rent, Penny floats around from place to place, as always. Hopey ends up staying in the strange home of old-school celebrity comedienne Nan Tucker and becomes immersed in another weird subculture, which also leads to her revealing some of her very mysterious past for the first time. Maggie see-saws between a tiny Texas burb called Chester Square, acquires some new enemies and flees to Camp Vicki where “trespassers will be bulldogged”. She isn’t any better off between her aunt Vicki who thinks she should become a pro wrestler and avoiding Gina, prospective Texas champion, who has a crush on her. It’s endlessly funny, sad, complicated and compulsive reading that doesn’t go anywhere that you think it’s going.
Although there is a very large cast of characters in these stories with more being added all the time, their personalities are so well defined that you aren’t lost for long, even if it sometimes takes a while to remember where you saw them before. The other stories in this book flow right out of ‘Wigwam Bam’ seamlessly so that it seems like one long sequence of events, which in a way it is, until the final story ‘Bob Richardson’ wraps up quite a few plotlines and ongoing misunderstandings. Rena Titanon returns, there are fights and weddings and at the end of it all… a dreamlike resolution.
Jaime Hernandez has total command of every aspect of comics narrative; his gorgeous drawings, densely plotted stories full of subtle slips and clues hidden right under your nose, his masterful storytelling continually shifts the ground under your feet as you follow these characters backwards and forwards through time as well as space. Hardly a page of this collection is less than essential, brilliant reading, and at 288 pages on crisp white paper, it’s an absolute steal at the price. If you need any more reasons to pick this up, Perla La Loca also includes several short stories not collected in the big Locas hardback volume.
Two of the stories in this volume were previously available as separate smaller graphic novels: Wigwam Bam, and Chester Square.