Jaime Hernandez – “every line a wedding of classicism and cool*”

Published On April 12, 2010 | By Richard Bruton | Animation, Comics, Reviews

The Art Of Jaime Hernandez: The Secrets Of Life And Death

By Todd Hignite, designed by Jordan Crane

Abrams Comic Arts

(* quote on the title of this piece from Alan Moore)

This is one of those pointless reviews I do every so often. Pointless simply because The Secrets Of Life And Death is a book that anyone who loves Jamie Hernandez’ work will already have down as something they really, really want and need. And nothing I say could change your mind. And nothing I’m going to say should change your mind because The Secrets Of Life And Death is every bit as impressive as the beautiful cover would lead you to believe.

And those of you who know nothing about Jaime Hernandez will get far more out of this review by looking at the gorgeous artwork on show here, buying all of Jaime’s collected works and then, once you’re a convert, coming back for the art book.

Simply put: This is a stunning hardcover collection of art from Jamie Hernandez; impressively substantial, expertly designed, expertly written, a beautiful addition to any bookshelf. I could almost leave it at that and throw in some of the images in question. This really is a book that sells itself.

(Oh, it most definitely is. The original artwork for “It’s Not That Big A Deal” splash page (detail), Love & Rockets #44, 1994. From The Art Of Jaime Hernandez, published by Abrams Comicarts, Artwork © 2010 Jaime Hernandez)

The Secrets Of Life And Death contains a treasure trove of material; new sketches, childhood drawings, reference material, photographs, and most importantly page after gorgeous page of Jaime Hernandez art of all kinds; published, unpublished, long forgotten and work that’s become almost iconic in modern comics.

It all starts off with a complete, colour, 25 page Jamie 2006 New York Times strip, freshly expanded and with additional story pages. And that’s just the Preface, serving as a beautiful introduction to what we’re about to receive.

(The classic cover to Love and Rockets #1, 1982. From The Art Of Jaime Hernandez, published by Abrams Comicarts, Artwork © 2010 Jaime Hernandez)

A mention about the design; it’s credited to Jordan Crane and he’s done such a fantastic job, making almost every page a visual, aesthetic delight – in fact, he should really have received cover billing. Every single double page spread has something beautiful to look at and Crane presents the artwork in it’s best possible light. The one possible criticism of the book is that Crane has insisted, only occasionally, in cropping some of the artwork. It’s a minor, but slightly niggling fault in a great book.

Added to the artwork, there’s also a very good and very comprehensive critical biography of Jamie Hernandez, expertly written by Hignite. But, thanks to Crane’s design work,  there’s never too much text on any one page to distract from the real reason the book exists.

(Another classic Jaime cover – from The Death Of Speedy collection, 1987. From The Art Of Jaime Hernandez, published by Abrams Comicarts, Artwork © 2010 Jaime Hernandez)

For those of you wondering what all the fuss is about, Hignite’s words should more than convince you of the importance of Jaime Hernandez, who, in partnership with his brother Gilbert (and occasionally elder brother Mario) created something that almost single-handedly redefined what was possible in the comic medium. From it’s debut in 1981, Love & Rockets magazine showcased Jaime’s stories chronicling the lives and loves of memorably real characters, so fully formed that they practically jumped off the page. His artwork, all gorgeous lines, sumptuous blacks and a modern, realistic yet ever so sensual look was great to begin with, but every issue of Love & Rockets saw Jaime refine and perfect his art to a point where less was so much more. Jaime Hernandez can say more with a few simple lines and brush-strokes than many artists could say in pages.

But by now, even if you’ve never heard of Jaime hernandez before, you’ll already know this, just from the few pages and panels accompanying this review.

(Original artwork to Chester Square, Love and Rockets Book 13 cover, 1996. From The Art Of Jaime Hernandez, published by Abrams Comicarts, Artwork © 2010 Jaime Hernandez)

Jamie Hernandez is an artist truly deserving of a monograph and here, with The Secrets Of Life And Death, Todd Hignite and Jordan Crane have created something truly worthy of sitting alongside Jaime’s Locas volumes. (Now all we need is the complimentary monograph on brother Gilbert). Everything about The Secrets Of Life And Death is of the highest quality, as befits the subject, right down reassuringly heavyweight paperstock.

And this impressively weighty book, beautifully designed, expertly written and packed with the artwork of a genuine modern comic master has one final thing in it’s favour; the price.

It’s ridiculously cheap for what it is – a RRP of £25 is silly enough, but the FPI webstore currently has it at £16.75 (that’s practically insulting to the artist). And for those of you still to experience the genius and wonder of Jaime Hernandez – here are his books.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

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