I think it’s safe to say we’re all love bunglers in one way or the other; being the frail and flawed creatures that we are, humans need and want love, but of course find ways to screw it up as well.
The Love Bunglers is about that and more, and is one of the most entertaining and honest stories about how we go about our lives, bungling up love.
The Love Bunglers (Fantagraphics Publishing)
The book is all about its lead protagonist, a 40-something woman named Maggie Chascarillo, who is a complicated woman with a complicated backstory. The book opens with her storming home, but quickly flashes back to her childhood where we learn more about her and thus more about why she makes the decisions she does.
This isn’t the first time writer and artist Jaime Hernandez has used Maggie in his comic work and it probably won’t be his last. It doesn’t take long to see how much he loves Maggie in all of her subtle yet revealing mannerisms and facial expressions. The story is a serious one, but he instills a sense of joy and humor you might see in a classic and wholesome comic strip. It gives her character and the story a sense of purity so that when tragic and traumatic things do occur they are even more powerful. It’s as if he’s cast a tone for Maggie that’s so protective and pure that, much like in life, the bad things that do happen are incredibly tragic. In some ways this makes this read feel all the more genuine and powerful.
Love the animated facial expressions!
While a complex read, the story weaves Maggie’s backstory via flashback into her story that’s occurring now. We witness Maggie pretending she isn’t still in love with her ex, that being single is totally okay for her and that her brother’s absence doesn’t bother her. From there we see her ex try to get her back in a sweet yet heartbreakingly obtuse way and her attempting to purchase an auto garage.
To be perfectly clear, there is some content that might rub people the wrong way concerning children. Maggie’s kid brother is involved in something that’s inappropriate for any child to go through and Chascarillo doesn’t shy from showing what happens to him on the page. We also see some young boys naked, but it serves the story in showing their innocence and complicated emotions as they change into men. It’s done with an incredibly deft hand and is in no way raucous or out of line, but it still may offend some.
It gets deep folks
The actions that do occur are powerful and shape how you’ll feel about the book. The fact that they do not involve Maggie does make the story feel like an aside, but they do have major implications for Maggie by story’s end. Which is one of my only complaints with the book, because such an emotionally tragic moment is used for its ending, but not connected very closely to the opening half of the book. In a way its used as a lingering shadow over its characters, but I’m not sure Chascarillo conveys this enough in its opening. When we do flashback to see the events occur it’s horrible and powerful, but it still feels a bit too disconnected from Maggie’s story.
Maggie’s story however is as believable as any and it’s easy to get sucked into it. I kept wondering when, not if, this story would be translated into a TV show, because she’s so real and relatable. The truth is though, this is more of a soap opera of a story than anything a mainstream channel would put on screen. That isn’t to say it’s bad, but it’s a bit too serialized and focused on her day to day life to be worth seeing on screen. But that’s why we have such talented folks like Chascarillo writing and drawing stories like these.
The Love Bunglers is a great look into the life of a woman in her 40’s and how her fate by story’s end was cast years previously in a terrible year of her kid brothers life. This is storytelling and character work done so well you’ll wonder if they are in fact alive and possibly right next door.