A young dark haired boy reads a comic as he walks along a street. Later he plays marbles with a young girl, offering advice on how to win, leaving her with a marble from his small bag to practice with. A buddy sits on his front stoop wearing a soldier’s helmet. A bully tries to steal his marbles only to be warned off by an older kid. A hip looking girl listens to a handheld radio. The kid’s brother shares a comic he picked up at the barber shop. This is the world of Gilbert Hernandez’ Marble Season, an apparently autobiographical work set amongst kids and teenagers in the idealised America that a great many US commentators feel has gone forever, if it ever existed at all.
There isn’t a plot, as such, just a set of recurring characters – not a million miles away from Peanuts, if Peanuts allowed in kids who were not strictly speaking kids anymore and didn’t always work towards a punchline. There are revelations, certainly – the tomboy who starts wearing a dress, the tiny boy who hardly speaks but needs the reassurance of placing his hand flat against a wall – but they are small, easily held within two cupped palms and offset constantly by the imaginative world in which our hero finds himself, a world of GI Joes and hand-made Captain America shields – an imaginative world (the slight immigrant subtext seems to suggest) that helps the outsider understand the reality of his new home.
Wistful but unsentimental, funny and charming, Gilbert Hernandez had a reputation that hardly needs any further cementing – but Marble Season is interesting, nevertheless, offering an alternative view of the man already feted for changing the comics landscape with his contributions to Love & Rockets. What’s more, because Love & Rockets is so monumental, which is itself offputting to anyone looking to dip their proverbial toe in the Hernandez waters to see what all the fuss is about, Marble Season is a great first port of call.
Any Cop?: A great piece of work with a beautiful resonance (it gets under your skin and stays there). Thumb’s up from us.