The AV Club: Marble Season is a “beautiful book”

New comics releases include shaky starts for 2 new runs and a coming-of-age tale from Gilbert Hernandez

The AV Club Comics Panel    |     Noel Murray    |    April 23, 2013

In his recent graphic novel Julio’s Day, Gilbert Hernandez condenses 100 years of a man’s life to 100 pages, giving as much weight to what he leaves out of the story as what he chooses to include. Hernandez’s new book, Marble Season (D&Q), does much the same, but on a different scale. Based on Hernandez’s own memories of growing up in the 1960s, Marble Season consists of 120 pages of loosely connected anecdotes about playing with action figures, reading superhero comics, collecting Mars Attacks cards, and getting into trouble. Like a lot of Hernandez’s comics over the past decade, Marble Season doesn’t feel particularly planned out. It’s more like Hernandez just sat down in front of a blank page and started drawing whatever he could recall about being a boy, without worrying too much about whether it amounted to a story, per se. Yet toward the end of the book, a narrative of sorts does emerge, exploring how kids grow up, lose some of their sense of the fantastic, and develop more self-consciousness.

The characters in Marble Season range in ages from pre-verbal to teenager. Missing from the picture? The adults, who exist off-panel as authority figures and cautionary examples. Like Peanuts, the world of Marble Season is one that parents have made, but that their children inhabit and organize, looking to one another first for cues on how to behave and what to value. Marble Season is by no means a heavy book. Its most dramatic moment comes when the main character, Huey, learns how to steal from a vending machine, then fears that he’s been found out. To these kids, though, everything is huge: a disagreement over which TV shows are cool, a friend moving away, a punishment, and, of course, puberty. Hernandez gets into his characters’ heads, making the trivial seem incredibly profound, while coaxing the reader toward the moment that Huey realizes that he’s reached the highest state of childhood enlightenment—the moment when he understands that his time at this age is almost up. It’s a beautiful finish to a beautiful book. (...)

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