Popular for its bristly, not-altogether-sympathetic depiction of the "slacker" generation, "Hate" stars Buddy Bradley, a rather young curmudgeon. It caught on due to Bagge's highly intelligent character observation and its counterintuitive depiction of Buddy as something of a reactionary. The world of "Hate" had at least one character everyone knew in real life. Sad to say, then, that the first "Hate Annual" makes for such a disappointment, with one notable exception.
First, caveat emptor: You get very little "Hate" for your money. The 64-page annual contains a mere eight pages of a Buddy story, and a pretty forgettable one at that. The remaining selections are more like "Peter's Grab-Bagge:" reprinted odds and ends, some of which can be found for free on the Web. The biggest of these are three spot-illustrated text pieces about Alan Keyes, The Hollies, and the Experience Music Project. They're OK, but I like comics!
Then, at last, at the end you come to an apparently original piece called "Gender-Bending Hyjinx," starring Lovey, a full-figured redhead who goes ga-ga over her friend's "cross-dressing glam-rock boyfriend." She convinces her aesthete boyfriend to go drag, and revolting "hyjinx," involving strap-ons and vomit, ensue. It's classic Bagge: dirty, unapologetic, satiric and extremely funny.
On the other side of the "Hate" coin, "Love and Rockets" returns with a strong first issue. Now would be the time to jump onto this battleship in the small pond of "alty" comix. Speaking from personal experience, it can become very difficult to pick up in the middle of a Hernandez brothers story.
Jaime continues his tales of Maggie Chascarrillo (a cute Latina with astounding mechanical abilities), her friends and the L.A. milieu. Yes, all the characters have appeared in many previous stories, but if you just ignore the minimal references to backstory, you can enjoy Jaime's renowned storytelling and design sense. In fact, you might try to enjoy the mysterious references as imagination-provoking missing puzzle pieces that will eventually reveal themselves.
Gilbert, on the other hand, has begun an entirely new story with no characters from before. "Julio's Day," promises Gilbert, will follow Julio from cradle to grave as he lives his life for the 100 years of the twentieth century. In the first issue Julio arrives in a small, presumably Mexican village, only to be tossed in a ditch by his uncle.
As a bonus, Mario Hernandez, the oldest brother and only occasional contributor, appears as the writer of a new series called "Me for the Unknown." Mario specializes in creating semi-sci-fi tales of corporate conspiracy and the individual's struggle against them. Gilbert's straightforward drawings make the story easier to follow than Mario's ambitious style.
So "Love" beats "Hate" this time around. Pick up "Love and Rockets," volume two, number one for the beginnings of an excellent old series. The "Hate Annual" can be left off the shopping list with no great loss.
"Hate Annual" and "Love and Rockets" can be found at better comic shops, or even third-rate ones, with a bit of luck. There are many collected volumes of both series. I recommend the first three "Hate" collections, and throw up my hands at selecting any of the 18 volumes of Hernandez Bros. work. Any of them will be worth reading. Better to start at the beginning, I guess.