The first issue of Erin Nations’ anthology series Gumballs impressed me with its comedy, geometric artwork, and poignant coverage of the author’s personal experiences as a transgender man. The second issue, published by Top Shelf Productions, is similar to the first in content and structure. Does it keep up the good momentum established by its predecessor?
Art-wise, Nations continues to deliver with his unique and effective style. The highly geometric nature of the characters’ bodies continues to charm, as does the color palette. The light colors help to keep the tone fun and prevent the more serious moments from making the issue less of a feel-good read. The facial expressions throughout are also great; moments of sadness, confusion, and joy are all well-conveyed.
My favorite portions of this issue are the ones in which Nations relays moments from his own life. At one point he describes the physical changes he experienced when he started taking testosterone, and those pages are fantastic. Nations excels at creating poignancy through close attention paid to specific moments; life is an ongoing, everyday experience with both highs and lows, and Gumballs successfully navigates all that entails. I also enjoyed some of the portions of the issue that were devoted to other characters. One recurring feature of the series is one-page character profiles that read like “About Me” statements on dating websites. Nations successfully duplicates such real life profiles’ mixtures of humor, forthrightness, and awkwardness.
I don’t have very many qualms about this issue. As with #1, and just about any other anthology, there are sections that are less moving or funny than others. Sometimes those very specific details and moments I mentioned earlier aren’t particularly moving or revealing. For example, one page consists of the contents of a character’s fanny pack, and they aren’t very illuminating. As a result, one could say that Gumballs gets a little too realistic at times–some details are better off left out. Nonetheless, this issue doesn’t come up very often, and it’s never too big of a deal when it does. I also kind of wish that the series’ disparate parts had a bit more connective tissue linking them, but again, this is a relatively minor qualm.
Overall, Gumballs #2 is better than the series’ debut issue, which was already good. The art continues to charm, and even feels a little more polished this time around. The colors are especially pleasing to look at, and Nations’ artistic handling of personal life events is great. My only cons with this issue are just that certain segments are funnier than others, and occasionally some of the specific details included don’t do much to progress the plot or generate emotional resonance. Nonetheless, this is a great issue and I’m looking forward to reading the next one.