It's no secret that when my life was turned upside down last year by bring 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.)
Panel Mania has been renamed as First Look and continues as normal - features this time is the highly anticipated new collection from Norwegian cartoonist Jason.
The multi-award winning Jason has been consistently publishing at least one critically acclaimed hit per year since the turn of the century, with 2014 the only omission. Fans and critics are awaiting this new collection with keen anticipation, not least due to the alluring title in the original Norwegian: Frida Kahlo’s Parrot.
If You Steal collects eleven new stories, with a definite if extensive focus on pop culture pastiche. A 50s horror comic styled take on Van Morrison’s Moondance, Frida Kahlo as a hitwoman (as seen on the cover), the JFK assassination conspiracies concluded, Santo and his greatest challenge, a heist story with touches of Magritte… Jason casts his net wide, threading these disparate comics into one seamless tapestry with Nostradamus at the helm.
With his signature four panel grid, simple anthropomorphic animal characters, and ligne claire minimalism throughout, Jason’s work is often at risk of being discounted on sight. Yet the uncomplicated surface gives way to complex layers that hold far deeper meanings.
Jason is the master of haunting comics that wriggle into the reader’s brain and very often break their heart. If You Steal is a tad lighter than some of Jason’s previous works but it is still a tremendous example of the power of amplification through simplification – he forges a world so universally recognisable one cannot help but be captivated completely.
Jason’s entire oeuvre is published in English by Fantagraphics and is absolutely essential reading for any fan of comics, art, pulp fiction, or silent/near-wordless narratives. From the earliest Hey, Wait… through I Killed Adolf Hitler and Athos in America, each is an instant classic. If You Steal, complete with Chet Baker, Night of the Vampire Hunter, 50’s style big bug horror fare and all, is no exception.
Panel Mania is back with an exclusive preview from the indie king.
It’s rare that an award winning alternative comics creator also finds great book market success, but that is exactly what Canadian artist Michael DeForge has achieved in recent years. Since the publication of Lose #1 in 2009 with Koyama Press, the designer for Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time has gone on to win a clutch of awards at home and in the US, as well as repeatedly breaking into the New York Times best seller lists.
Ant Colony, originally serialised on DeForge’s website and published in early 2014 earned wide critical acclaim, while his on-going Lose series continues to revel in the experimental and eccentric.
Dressing then is a collection of short stories, curated from his prolific portfolio of mini comics, webcomics and both anthology and zine contributions. It is a spiritual successor to the award winning collection Very Casual in 2013, as DeForge continues to balance longer-form work alongside the short strips he revels in.
A series of structureless, but far from pointless, stories are contained within; a myriad of tangents and detours that take the reader on a most unexpectedly boundary-pushing journey. At 120 pages, Dressing holds its own on the DeForge shelf, a thick slice of feverish dreams and fantastic worlds.
There is much to be said about DeForge’s work, from the ever evolving color palettes to his ability to cross into the mainstream while retaining his singularly alternative aesthetic, but what really sets his comics apart is their ability to connect with the reader on a very visceral, instinctive level. Their commentary, often quite subtle, on the human condition – told through descriptive colors and sometimes without words – provoke and soothe in equal measure.
Frequently compared to Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Charles Burns and Marc Bell amongst many others, and with the chafing label of “critical darling” attached, DeForge continues to defy both convention and comparison with all his many layers of work.
There are a lot of great new comics out this month and I'll dig back a little into April too so we're fully up to date.
Here then are my picks of the new comics you should have a look at this month, including one graphic novel, two collections, and an art book amongst the fabulous new series.
In a tweet: Fluid and grand, standing for change and absolution, beautiful in its communication of empathy - a brand new level for superhero comics.
Full disclosure - I've never read a Bucky Barnes comic before. In fact I've only really read old school Captain America. So this was the least likely comic for me to read, pretty much ever. Until I saw some preview pages. Featuring Marco Rudy's art. And was BLOWN AWAY. And then I realised it was by Kot, oops! So of course it was something I was going to try, but damn if it ain't one of the most fun and beautiful comics I've read this year.
Now I have come across Rudy's work before, and been really impressed, but this is a whole new level of amazing and something that makes getting the trade collections a real joy. From the full page spreads to the lavish panel design, I'm struck by how easy it is for newcomers to still follow Rudy's more experimental layouts.
On the one hand, Bucky is sexy as sin here. On the other, he's dealing with an incredibly traumatic history, a life governed by war, and the realisation that his survival instincts and protective walls are no longer quite as necessary. He's operating on a galactic scale, seeing his story reflected in the cosmos but also seeing new ways of living; new ways of being.
It's fluid and it's grand, it's about change and absolution, and it's beautiful in its communication of empathy. Oh, and it also mentions polyamory as a valid relationship choice - hurrah!
Those that follow me on Goodreads* may be aware that I am reading a LOT of comics right now. I'm working on some reviews behind the scenes, as well as for Panel Mania, and press, but I've been intrigued by the very positive reaction to my short twitter reviews of what I'm reading on a weekly basis.
Here then is the first of... a few(?) review roundups of my ongoing comic reads!
Rules: I'm only including comics that have had at least 2 issues published, and I'm only including the comics that I think are four and five star reads, ie the comics that I can't wait to read each month.
(*where I am tracking every comic I read in 2015.)
In a tweet: Best zombie comic on the shelves, requires no prior Archie reading! Very fun, great characters, and nods to horror comics of old.
Aka the first Archie comic I ever read. I know, I know, it's not such a big title in the UK but I did at least know the basics of who each character was. This is a great comic to read and probably the best zombie comic on the market right now, kicking off with great gusto but keeping the character development going. As a non-Archie reader I had no trouble keeping up. The covers, courtesy of Francavilla, lovingly hark back to the horror comics of old, making them almost worth the price alone. Afterlife With Archie returns in May and I can't wait!
(Hit the jump for more!)
I've been using Goodreads to track my comics reading and I've been surprised to see just how much I really get through each month, and the range of genres that I love the most.
I'm still catching up on some series from last year as well, but here are my top picks for February and March - and hopefully these recommendations will be helpful to others too! (I'm still loving Lady Killer and Feathers from January...)
As a trial, I've put my ratings (from Goodreads) next to each comic.