In April Gilbert Hernandez released not one but two beautiful new graphic novels, Julio’s Day and Marble Season.
I loved the simplicity of this beautiful book! A meditation on the inevitably cyclical nature of life and of time; how storms rage, the sun shines, and then it all happens again. In Julio’s Day graphic novelist Gilbert Hernandez follows the story of Julio: starting in 1900 with his birth and ending in 2000 with his death. Certain plot nuances just make the story absolutely twisted and still offer an incredibly meaningful narrative that has the potential to make an impact on readers and their thoughts on the particularly deep subject of the meaning of life.
Hernandez– always the ontological explorer– does an excellent job juxtaposing both tragedy and celebration against the experience of contemporary person-hood. Not a few pages in and Julio’s mother shares her wisdom with the young boy:
“I don’t feel so sad when somebody dies, Julio, because they fly away to explore the stars and planets.”
Her calming words on the scary subject of death set the stage for the rest of the story, where readers will encounter Julio and his network of family and friends as they face both good times and bad times.
Julio and other characters will be bullied, will be lonely, will be brave… will just “be”. Hernandez is able to capture not only a multitude of human emotions but his studies are fine-tuned; the writing and illustrating breathe life into these fictional people. Hernandez seeks to explore the origins of a character, finding a way to acknowledge the neuroses that are tied to behaviors- especially in deviant/violent behavior. Freud’s theory of the unconscious deeply affected the 20th century, so it was nice to see this studied.
Julio’s Day is an absolute must read for those interested in the study of ontology— the nature of being— which is hopefully just about everyone!
Pro: This is the kind of book you’ll want to add to your home library. This beautiful hardcover edition comes with the added bonus of a quality forward by writer and scholar Brian Evenson.
Pro: Hernandez is a gifted storyteller. The emotive nature of this book leaps off the page. The imagery is powerful!
Con: You’ve got to slow down and be patient with the story. Allow yourself time to reflect not only on each panel, but on the spaces between the panels, which can be just as telling.
Con: Especially because most of the characters are related, and they are all aging so quickly, it was easy for me to get them confused. But Hernandez does provide a great cast of characters that can always be referenced!
There are similar books (such as Galleano’s “Century of the Wind”) that tell the story of the 20th century through a fictional accounts grounded in historical facts– and Hernandez joins the ranks with this incredible account of Julio and his experience throughout the century. Read this book, and be ready to get emotional (in the best possible way!) !
A very cool story of the experience of young Huey and the escapades he gets into with his brothers and his friends in their neighborhood.
Marble Season is partly based on the authors own life.
Huey’s boyhood love for fun and fiction shine through the pages of this graphic novel. Caught between worlds- of an older brother and a younger brother, Huey adores writing and acting out stories and is always reading comic books. His character is multifaceted, however, and he gets into some trouble both as a boy and as a creative soul. He hits roadblocks and makes some poor decisions– albeit pretty innocently– throughout.
There’s something in this book that induces a sharp nostalgia for a return to the feeling of childhood innocence. It is quite an indulgence to put yourself in that mode and explore the story through that lens.
Pro: Another great hardcover book, with a thorough afterword by Corey K. Creekmur from the University of Iowa and a “detailing of pop culture references” page that Hernandez has constructed.
Pro: Safe for younger or more conservative audiences, as opposed to most other Hernandez works.
Con: This book left a good impression on me, but the subject just wasn’t as interesting to me as I think it will be for others, especially guys!
Con: I’d loved to have seen Hernandez use some color in this book! At least we got the cool covers out of the two books.
Remember, we’re giving away our copies of these two fine graphic novels! Enter here!