Hypnotwist / Scarlet By Starlight review – Love & Rockets returns in an expanded edition

Hitting shelves this month is a new collection of Gilbert Hernadez comics from the world of Love and Rockets including the Eisner Award winning Hypnotwist and Scarlet By Starlight featuring new expanded content for both stories. In Hypnotwist, Hernandez’s B-movie star Fritz plays a character who doesn’t seem to be going anywhere – until she puts on a pair of glittery pumps. Her wanderings become increasingly surreal as she confronts motherhood, alcoholism, a sinister smiley face, cruelty, and her worst fate. “Killer” cameos! Scarlet by Starlight is a B movie that’s Star Trek meets Heart of Darkness. “Scientists,” or colonizers, are doing research, surrounded by “primitive” fauna they affectionately nickname or treat like pests. Fritz plays Scarlet, a peaceful, catlike humanoid with a mate and children. When she becomes infatuated with one of the scientists, the fragile web of relationships explodes into violence and death, calling into question who the “advanced, civilized” creatures really are.

It’s easy to see why these two stories have been so revered by Love and Rockets fans. Both showcase the themes and story direction that Hernandez has been exploring in recent years. He clearly has an affinity for B-cinema and pulp drama, and Hypnotwist revels in these genres. This particular collection doesn’t contain the other short stories that explore Fritz’s life as she was making these movies, with the expanded scenes focusing on the movies themselves. Hernandez opts for a more experimental style which often borders on David Lynch levels of surrealness and makes it hard for the reader to predict what is going to happen.

As both stories are about B-movies Fritz is starring in, there isn’t much exploration of the family dynamic with that has largely dominated Hernandez’s stories, which allows him to completely immerse himself in the tropes that make up B-cinema. The fact that he is able to get so much of this story without using any words make it all the more impressive, as the character Fritz plays goes on a journey that – whilst surreal, also delves into some pretty deep topics. Scarlet by Starlight on the other hand is a B-Movie plain and simple; and is a ton of fun as a result.

Love and Rockets completists will definitely want this in their collection. In addition, anyone who revels in B-cinema will find much to enjoy.

Hypnotwist / Scarlet By Starlight is out 23 February 2021 from Fantagraphics
(9781683962045, h/b, £21.99)

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