As much as I love the Hernandez Brothers, I'm sad to report that I don't feel the same urgency anymore when I see a new Love and Rockets title on the shelf. I think the serialized, pamphlet-based publication of Love & Rockets in the 80s and 90s gave the Hernandez Brothers' work some much-needed urgency, and lately their newest work has struck me as a little...well, boring.
But I hope the newest work by Gilbert Hernandez marks the beginning of a whole new era for the brothers, because Julio's Day is incredible. In one hundred pages, Hernandez illustrates the whole hundred-year life of a background L&R character—a perpetual bachelor who lives with his mother—and frames the whole life as a single day. It's ambitious, it revels in its formal constraints, and it's a meaningful, moving story.
Hernandez takes the life of a sad, quiet man—born in 1900, Julio struggles with his homosexuality for his whole life, keeping his proclivities hidden from almost everyone—and enhances his voice by defining the community that surrounds him. Julio's whole family, dark secrets and all, are introduced with great economy and a surprising amount of empathy. This is obviously a work by Hernandez—there are genre tropes pushing in at the seams of the story, in the form of a science fiction parasite that murders in a quick, ghastly fashion—but there's a clarity and a scope that feels new. Even if you've never read a Love & Rockets book, I'd encourage you to check out Julio's Day. It's funny, scary, sad, maddening, weird, and special; you've never seen a life portrayed in a comic book quite like this one.