cover image Julio’s Day

Julio’s Day

Gilbert Hernandez. Fantagraphics, $19.99 ISBN 978-1-60699-606-5

Gilbert Hernandez’s work has been kicking around in the pages of Love and Rockets with that of his brother Jaime for three decades now. With more collections of his work becoming available, the walloping punch of Gilbert’s vision is becoming increasingly evident. Julio’s Day is the 100-year story in 100 pages of a 100-year-old man living in a small, mostly Mexican town in the American Southwest, from his first to last breaths, 1900 to 2000. Where some artists would take that expanse as an excuse to go epic, Hernandez keeps a gimlet eye on his story, making every richly textured frame count. The outside world registers only in distant murmurs, wars that take young men and mutilate them, hints of industrialization. The town itself is a tight nest of family and neighbors familiar from Gilbert’s work in the Palomar comics (much of Julio’s story was previously published but never before collected). Lovesick heartbreak and tragedy alternate with magical realist elements like a months-long rainstorm, while dark skies and the horror of death’s oblivion throw a shadow over everything. Through it all slips Julio, a quiet man whom others look past, few guessing his secret. A marvelous and tightly scripted epic whose last page is a heart-stopper. (Mar.)