cover image Gumballs


Erin Nations. Top Shelf, $19.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-60309-431-3

Nations’ first book-length anthology, collecting Gumballs #1–#4 plus 30 pages of new material, is whimsical and timely, though uneven. Much of Nations’ material is autobiographical, detailing his upbringing as the middle of three triplets, the tedium of work at a grocery store, and his journey through gender confirmation as a trans man. But the collection also contains several unrelated threads, such as vignettes from idiosyncratic or off-putting dating profiles, and the fictional saga of Tobias, a gay high school outcast. Blocky and bold, Nations’ novel, expressive character designs and depictions of his own character shift subtly over the course of his transition. But some of the diary comics meander, and Tobias’s struggle, while charming, feels out of place amid weightier personal comics. The collection is at its most resonant when Nations grapples with issues like his unwanted, troubling accumulation of male privilege, or the everyday perils of social anxiety and depression. While the far-ranging scope distracts from the central story line, Nations presents a much-needed perspective on modern American life with a nifty art style. [em](June) [/em]