I reviewed brother Gilbert’s Palomar volume a while back, and I’ve just read this: a 700-page collection of all Jaime’s Maggie-related strips from Love & Rockets. And I’m struggling with what I want to say.

I adore the first third, but I think it declines a lot afterwards. Trouble is, I’m not sure how much that’s an objective view. I think there are clear problems with that: the sheer number of supporting characters, like a whole new cast that Jaime introduces every fifty pages, then drops in favour of another crowd. This doesn’t help build an attachment, which is sad after the stories and characters were so strong and moving up to then (and still intermittently afterwards). His art loses something too: you see a reduction of detail from the beginning story through a greater clarity, the strength of line only catching up a little later, but towards the end we lose a lot of force and weight, and a lot of it looks lazy. Since the peak period for the drawing – and what a peak! Some of the loveliest and most effective comic art ever – covers maybe half the book, starting something like 100 pages in, this doesn’t fully explain my dissatisfaction, which starts much earlier.

Another thing we lose as the strip goes on is the sense of ordinary lives in an extraordinary world. I really liked seeing ordinary lives in poor Latino California, with the odd glimpse of a wider world with robots, dinosaurs, rocket ships and superbeings, and while that is never repudiated as it becomes much more like a straight soap, it does fade more and more into the background.

But mostly it’s down to emotion. Like thousands of other comic fans, I pretty much fell in love with Maggie and Hopey from the moment I started reading this. There they are on the covers together – but inside they separate a third of the way in, and stay apart for over 400 pages. It frustrated me, and I could never entirely believe in the lack of effort at getting in touch again all through this time, and I could never care as much about either alone than I could when they were together (and we see very little of Hopey for big sections of the book). If you didn’t feel this way about them, maybe this won’t trouble you as much, but I’d be surprised if anyone thought that the final third came close to its earlier prime.