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27Jul/150

Sequential Summer Sale: Top 10

It's no secret that when my life was turned upside down last year by bringing home a tiny, adorable, paper-chewing puppy, that I swiftly made the switch to reading almost all of my comics digitally, and went so far as to rescue/donate my single issues to charity.

Aside from the ease of having my entire library at my fingertips, I've been really impressed by how many comics are available digitally, including indie titles. I first came across Sequential at the Edinburgh Book Festival and since then it's been a regular destination for me when I'm looking for something different.

Right now - and until August 1st - Sequential is celebrating its two year anniversary with a big 50-90% off the print price sale across over 350 titles from the likes of Dark Horse, Fantagraphics, SelfMadeHero, Blank Slate, Avery Hill, Secret Acres, Koyama Press and more.

And okay, I LOVE top ten lists. Not as anything objective, but the chance to see what everyone else is reading that I might be missing out on. So, without further ado, here's my pick of ten titles from the sale to feast your eyes upon.

(NB - each title has a short preview at the Sequential links.)

Sequential Sale

At the Mountains of MadnessAt the Mountains of Madness
INJ Culbard
SelfMadeHero
$5.99 instead of $19.95

The only thing better than settling down with some Lovecraftian tales, is settling down with some Lovecraftian tales adapted by the greatly underrated INJ Culbard. Artist of the beautiful Brass Sun and lovely Wild's End, creator of sci-fi graphic novel Celeste, and master adapter of countless classics, Culbard is the one name guaranteed to get me to pick up a graphic retelling.

It's a genre or niche that is a little hit or miss at times, but Culbard has an uncanny knack of burying deep into the heart of these stories and getting it to pulse across new pages, revealing new secrets in the comics light. At the Mountains of Madness gripped me less in its original form than Lovecraft's weirder tales, but here in icy blues and terrible blacks, it becomes one of my favourites.

Also in the sale are Culbard's other Lovecraft (and Sherlock Holmes) adaptations, as well as Dark Ages.

 

BlacksadBlacksad
Juan Díaz Canales, Juanjo Guarnido
Dark Horse
$4.99 instead of $29.99

Whenever I'm asked for my top 3 comics of all time, this is the collection that I tell everyone to buy up front, less well known than the Vertigo hits of my other top two, but stunningly beautiful. Worth every penny of its original price, this Dark Horse edition collects the first four Blacksad stories from Spanish creators Canales and Guarnido. The series has won a clutch of awards across Europe as well as an Eisner, and is an exquisite example not only of anthropomorphic animal work, but of 1950's American gumshoe noir too.

John Blacksad investigates his cases, falls for dangerous women, and explores issues as relevant today as they ever were. Guarnido's background as a Disney animator is evident in the gorgeous watercolours that bring vibrancy to characters and life to backdrops.

Also in the sale are the next volumes, Blacksad: A Silent Hell and Blacksad: Amarillo

 

Blobby BoysBlobby Boys
Alex Schubert
Koyama Press
$2.99 instead of $10

Deadpan, bold, weird, unique - the Blobby Boys appear weekly on Vice, the clean, clear line-work cleverly disguises the bitterness of the bad boy punks. While there are notable influences at play, what separates Schubert's work from the pack is that it really doesn't look like anything else - the techniques and thinking are all new, resulting in a comic that leaps from the page to lodge, growling, in your brain meats.

As much as I enjoy reading webcomics, Blobby Boys works much better in the curated collections, but it's handy being able to test the waters over at Vice which is perhaps why it has a different audience from your typical underground comix-esque fare. Also for the longest time I thought the dudes were turtles. But maybe they still are.

Also in the sale are various other Koyama Press titles including Seo Kim's Cat Person and Jesse Jacobs' Safari Honeymoon.

 

The Complete Rainbow OrchidThe Complete Rainbow Orchid
Garen Ewing
Egmont
$6.99 instead of $19.99

One of my favourite all-ages adventure titles, this sold incredibly well back in my days as a children's bookseller cunningly converting kids into comic fans. There are touches of Tintin here - how could there not be with that gorgeous ligne claire aesthetic - and the unfolding storyline reveals solid and satisfying mysteries with fantastic authenticity. I can only imagine the mountains of research that went into these three volumes and I honestly never met a reader - child or adult - who didn't get completely sucked into the Rainbow Orchid world.

As well as being able to buy those three volumes separately, there are a bunch of other all-ages titles in the sale including Boo! (a favourite anthology of mine), the Louis books, The Beginner's Guide to Being Outside, and even some Johnny Boo.

 

Dotter of her Father's EyesDotter of her Father's Eyes
Mary Talbot, Bryan Talbot
Dark Horse
$4.99 instead of $14.99

This perfect graphic novel is Mary Talbot's debut in the world of comics, elegantly unravelling the largely untold story of Lucia, the daughter of James Joyce, alongside her own memoirs as the daughter of an eminent Joycean scholar. The thwarted life of the energetic and creative Lucia, undone by gender expectations and societal restrictions is utterly heartbreaking and rendered in astonishing beauty by Bryan Talbot, while Mary's own story deftly points both to how times have changed for women and how, sadly, in many ways they have not.

There are numerous men bestowed the honour of godfather of British comics but truly none deserve it more than Bryan Talbot, a creator who has done more to push the boundaries of sequential art within our shores than any other, and who continues to do so to this day. There are single pages here alone that are masterclasses in perfect comic storytelling, and the near seamless and at times playfully chafing collaboration between wife and husband results in an incredible work of art.

Also in the sale are Mary Talbot's Sally Heathcote, Suffragette, and an extensive backlist of Bryan Talbot titles including Grandville, Alice in Sunderland, and The Adventures of Luther Arkwright.

 

Locas Book 1: Maggie the MechanicLocas Book 1: Maggie the Mechanic
Jaime Hernandez
Fantagraphics
$6.99 instead of $18.99

As a newcomer to the extensive Love & Rockets title, it can be confusing to know where to start. Well, be confused no more because this is the perfect collection to begin with, focusing on Maggie, Hopey and Penny. Maggie and Hopey are best friends and sometimes-couple, and Maggie is just the most brilliant character in the L&R world.

These early stories are very different in tone to later comics, with a real punk sci-fi edge that I cannot resist. 272 pages of crisp black and white artwork zeroes in on the fictional Latino suburb of Hoppers, where the two teens interact with wannabe superhero Penny, and Rena, a former pro-wrestling star. So many women, so much love, so much great characterisation, and all with a refreshingly improvisational approach.

There are 15 Love & Rockets collections in the sale.

 

PinocchioPinocchio
Winshluss
Knockabout
$5.99 instead of $27.99

I remember when I first opened this book how completely blown away I was with the sheer weight of the book. Pinocchio is gorgeous, but boy is it expensive and (physically) heavy to read! While the book is a delightful art object in its own right, a digital edition makes it that more accessible which can only be a good thing - the winner of Best Album at Angoulême in 2009 is a masterpiece in restyling a classic tale into something larger with its own message to impart.

Comedic, tragic, dark, light - Winshluss infuses his Pinocchio with a vintage newspaper strip style and macabre politics. His robot, at once both more realistic and fantastical than the wooden original, is rendered in countless styles across 184 gorgeous, wordless pages. Underground comix, Disney, 18th century illustration; Winshluss handles all with aplomb.

Also in the sale is In God We Trust.

 

Sshhhh!Sshhhh!
Jason
Fantagraphics
$4.99 instead of $12.95

From the moment I saw my first page of my first Jason comic, I knew I'd found my favourite cartoonist. Years later and that holds as true as ever, with If You Steal coming in September (preview), so I was delighted to see the majority of his backlist included in this sale. If you haven't read any Jason comics please do so now!

This was that first comic of his I picked up, a collection of wordless short stories that perfectly illustrates the principle of amplification through simplification - ie, that a comic that looks so simple and sparse on the surface contains within a complex and emotional read precisely because the characters are so easy to relate to, and particularly in this case where all is communicated in silence.

Jason's anthropomorphic animal characters often tell stories that are darkly bleak and yet above all his books are utterly heartwarming. Black and white emptiness, simple transitions, and unexpected directions create works that demand to be read again and again. A very special talent in comics today.

Also in the sale are a huge number of other Jason titles including I Killed Adolf Hitler, The Last Musketeer, and Why Are You Doing This?

 

Sin TituloSin Titulo
Cameron Stewart
Dark Horse
$4.99 instead of $19.99

I've written before about this dark, neo-noir semi-autobiographical mystery thriller concerned with dreams, family, and memory, originally serialised online complete with the frustration of pages simply not loading quickly enough to keep up the immersive experience that this comic deserves.

Perfectly designed for digital reading thanks to the perfectionist design of Stewart, this is a genuine "must read" title for any and all comic fans. Go read the full review above!

There are a lot of Dark Horse titles in this sale, including another favourite of mine, Beasts of Burden, alongside many Hellboy and Mind MGMT collections.

 

WrinklesWrinkles
Paco Roca
Knockabout
$3.99 instead of $19.95

There are few things in this world as frightening as slowly losing our own grip on who we are and who we were. Roca's haunting portrait of ageing and Alzheimer’s is told from the perspective not of family members and carers but of Ernest himself as he struggles to accept his diagnosis and the subsequent debilitating symptoms. This is not an easy read but it is perhaps an essential one - too often do we put such terrible ends out of our minds, content in the thinning fantasy of our own immortality.

This was the first comic I chose as the new columnist for Panel Weekly over at Publisher's Weekly, full preview there.

Also in the sale is Lucy Knisley's Displacement, an unflinchingly honest diary of the creator's time with her ageing grandparents aboard a cruise.