Book Review: Bumperhead

BUMPERcover300

 

Gilbert Hernandez, 128 Pages, Drawn & Quarterly, drawnandquarterly.com, $21.95.

 

Coming off Marble Season, his critically-acclaimed meditation on the wide-eyed optimism of childhood, Gilbert Hernandez (Love & Rockets) follows up with this work on the teenage condition.

Bobby is a teenage slacker growing up in the ‘70s who basically wanders through life narrating what happens, but never ever offering any reflection on the events.Like most teenagers, Bobby is completely in the moment. Nothing matters except the right now. A kid with great promise basically descends into a disaffected numbness and can’t come back from it. This is particularly evident after a significant death in his family and his surprising non-reaction.

The brilliance of Hernandez’s work here comes in his ability to draw out the fact that Bobby is still emotional and affected by his surroundings and life events, as much as he tries to stay cool and keep up the facade of a disaffected teenager. In doing this, Hernandez also shows how self-destructive the teenage rebel identity can be as an emotional prison, especially if, like Bobby, it’s difficult to emerge from it after passing the appropriate age for such an attitude.

The drawing style here is basic and simple, but there’s a ton going on under the surface. As a child of Mexican immigrant parents, no one knows better than Hernandez how such a scenario can affect a kid. It’s easy to focus on Bobby’s disaffected nature as his Achilles’ heel, but Hernandez is smart enough to highlight Bobby’s parents as a contributing factor.All in all, this book serves as an elevated companion to Marble Season, but is sufficiently accessible and distinct to stand on its own.(Aaron Broverman)

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