Gilbert Hernandez, the legendary graphic artist who created the Love and Rockets comics with his brothers, has released two books with very different topics – Marble Season (Drawn and Quarterly), an affectionate look at childhood in the 1960s, and Julio’s Day (Fantagraphics Books), a gritty take of one man’s 100 years of life.
Marble Season focuses on Huey, his two brothers and neighborhood pals. The book is a series of vignettes of their day-to-day lives – attempting to play marbles, collecting bubble gum cards and dealing with an obnoxious new kid in the neighborhood. Huey’s biggest problem in life? He’s not allowed to read comic books after his brother got a bad report card and his parents put them away.
Marble Season is retro – there’s a helpful guide in the back that explains the pop culture references. It’s a charming book that children and adults will read with amusement.
By contrast, Julio’s Day is a far more ambitious and serious. The book opens with the birth of its main character, Julio Reyes, and follows him and several generations of his family through the century as they experience love, go to war and suffer some terrible illnesses. The books ends with Julio’s final breath. (Note: the book has some graphic images of illness, death and sex. You can read an excerpt of the book on this NPR webpage.)
Hernandez’s ability to capture life in just a few short frames would be the kind of books that would appeal to reluctant readers, especially teenage boys. I was especially intrigued with his drawings. With just a few strokes, he’s able to create a menacing sky or depict the ravages of illness.
Both books are entertaining, but your enjoyment may depend on your mood. Marble Season will make you smile. Julio’s Day will make you think.
Hernandez is known for writing and drawing the Love and Rockets graphic comics with his brothers Jaime and Mario. He has been nominated twice for Best Writer/Artist for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. He grew up in Oxnard, Calif.
Source: I received a review copy of Marble Season. I purchased Julio’s Day.