Then and now. Youth and experience. We are ageing every day and yet somewhere inside us we are still the young men and women we once were. Aren’t we? Are we?

I have been reading Is This How You See Me? It is the latest collection of strips by Jaime Hernandez documenting the lives of ageing punk chicas Maggie and Hopey, two of the greatest creations in the history of comic books. (Let’s not be coy about it.)

To be honest, it has made me nostalgic. Not so surprising really. That's what the book is about. Then and now. The strips are set over a couple of days in which Maggie and Hopey go home, go back home to Huerta for a punk revival weekend. Memory and history are written into the narrative. Literally, too. Hernandez cuts back and forth between the present and 1979.

Reading it has made me think about how long I have spent in the company of these two fictional women. Not quite since 1979, admittedly. I was still reading Marvel at that point. But from the mid-1980s at least. More than 30 years. In short, we have history.

History is the reason why Love and Rockets, the comic book Hernandez and his brother Gilbert have been working on in various guises since 1981, matters so much. For those of us who have grown up with it, with Maggie and Hopey and the rest of Hernandez’s ever-expanding cast, their lives mirror our own. We have grown older together.

What was fresh back then was the punkiness, the sense of new voices saying new things, things we hadn’t heard in the culture before, never mind comics.

Some three decades on the Latino experience remains all too marginal still, but both Gilbert and Jaime have been following the same course all this time. As a result, their comics are a rich, complex river of narrative, pushing forward and meandering back. Their strips have a weight and a depth to them that is possibly unrivalled in the form.

As a result, if you pick up Is This How You See Me? not having any previous knowledge of these characters you might struggle to plug into its weave and weft of associations and references (although they’re never done self-consciously nor in an elbow-in-the-ribs way)

But that is also the joy of it. This is one of the most sustained narratives in modern fiction. We bring to it our knowledge (greater or lesser) of more than three decades of story, almost 40 years of watching these young women grow up, grow older. We can feel the way the smallest moment in their story can send tremors through all the warp and weft of their fictional histories.

In Is This How You See Me? Maggie flirts with Hopey, and we remember that they were once an item. And we know that this is just what Maggie’s partner Ray fears. And maybe we think of those two pages in Hernandez’s last book The Love Bunglers in which Hernandez distilled 30 years of Maggie and Ray’s lives down into two silent pages of rhyming images, two of the greatest pages of comic book art in the history of the medium. And we wonder, where are we now?

I have to confess that reading The Love Bunglers had felt like such a summation, such an apotheosis that I wondered if everything after it would be unnecessary, a dying fall.

But that’s not how stories work, how people’s lives work. Is This How You See Me? reminds us that life (the real kind or the comic book kind) goes on. We keep messing up, we keep going on.

It’s a book that is full of innocence and experience punk haircuts, middle-aged moshing, old movies, cigarettes and bruised hearts, all sketched out in black and white pen lines that throb with emotion and desire and anger and pain and resignation and acceptance.

We don’t say enough about Hernandez’s mastery of line and space, the rhythmic quality of his pages, the variety of expression he can put into lines and dots and cross hatching. There is an ease to it on the page and yet, like Elmore Leonard’s prose, we glide across it not totally recognising the work that has gone into it. Hernandez is so good we don’t see him sweat.

I was In Pret the other day I saw a woman who was, I guess, in her late thirties, early forties. Her hair was all Denise Mina – silvery and quaffed – and it made me think of Hopey. For a moment I thought I should ask her how Maggie was. Because I want to know. I always want to know.

Is This How You See Me? by Jaime Hernandez is published by Fantagraphics.