Should they ever award a Nobel Prize in Literature to a cartoonist, the debate might focus solely on which Los Bros Hernandez deserves it most. Gilbert and Jamie Hernandez are best known for their comic book series Love and Rockets which they created with their brother Mario in the early 1980s. Los Bros Hernandez have been so good for so long readers can almost develop excellence fatigue, while those who are new to the series may be intimidated by the brothers’ large body of work. People often ask where a new reader should begin with Love and Rockets. The correct answer is “anywhere,” but their most recent work offers a great starting point. For longtime fans, these books showcase Gilbert and Jaime at the top of their game and moving their work into new, exciting directions.
God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls by Jaime Hernandez
God and Science is a Silver Age style comic adventure, a dramatic tale of motherhood and grief and a complex story of female friendships and shifting allegiances. The book is so much fun to read, one can be forgiven for not noticing it is also the most sophisticated deconstruction of superhero comics since Alan Moore and Dave Gilbbon’s Watchmen. All Love and Rockets books merit rereading, but God and Science seems likely to offer particular rewards on the second or third read.
Marble Season by Gilbert Hernandez
On its opening page, Hernandez sets the tone of this all-ages comic beautifully. A full page panel shows a young boy named Huey walking down the street, reading a book simply titled “Comics.” The low horizon leaves the wide-open sky to take up most of the frame. The point of view is clearly child level, and here we visit a world where the presence of adults and parents is only acknowledged off panel. A fictionalized account of Gilbert’s own childhood, Marble Season follows Huey and the kids in his neighborhood through pop-culture obsessions, changing friendships, moments of cruelty and wild bursts of imagination. These scenes feel firmly set in the 1960s, but are also representative of the bizarre, universal space of childhood.
Julio’s Day by Gilbert Hernandez
In 100 concise pages, Hernandez uses a series of vignettes to tell the story of Julio’s 100 year life, while also telling the story of the 20th Century. Julio’s Day displays an epic scope told through a narrow focus on Julio, his family and his small village. Fans of Hernandez’s Palomar stories will find many familiar themes: a small-town setting, mutigenerational familial ties, the effects of war, forbidden love, birth, death, heartbreak, friendship and betrayal. However, in Julio’s Day, Hernandez has condensed and streamlined his storytelling in ways that feel new, even for a cartoonist whose work has always been fresh and challenging.