comicbookGRRRL Do not offend the chair leg of truth; it is wise and terrible.

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

20Jul/150

First Look: Jason’s Triumphant Return with ‘If You Steal’

Panel Mania has been renamed First Look and continues as normal twice a month - this time around it's an exclusive preview of Norwegian's finest!

Jason's upcoming If You Steal, complete with hitwoman Frida Kahlo and 50s horror comic pastiche.

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.

Read the full preview here: Jason’s Triumphant Return with 'If You Steal'

If You Steal

10Jul/150

The Independent on Sunday: Review of Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

The web sensation hit the books market last month to enthusiastic acclaim, and today's Independent on Sunday carries my large review of one of my favourite complete comic stories of all time.

This review was great fun to write, and it was fabulous to see artwork from Nimona adorning the sunday papers!

"Nimona though is where it all began, and where Stevenson’s most pure artistic expression is to be found. What begins in simple panel layouts and shark jokes, turns through expressive colour palettes into playful design and incredible characterisation that matches the dark evolution of the story. Stevenson has prioritised accessibility above radical composition, with simple but effective transitions and easy to follow dialogue bubble paths. This is perhaps why Nimona is as popular with new comic readers as it is with long-time fans."

Read the full review here: Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson - book review

Nimona

1Jul/150

First Look: ‘Dressing’ for Success with Michael DeForge

Panel Mania is back with an exclusive preview from the indie king!

Panel Mania is now called First Look, and continuing with that name.

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.

Read the full preview here: 'Dressing' for Success with Michael DeForge

Dressing

Dressing

2Jun/150

Panel Mania: Return to Carcosa in Culbard’s ‘The King in Yellow’

It's weird fiction time at Publisher's Weekly this month with a comics adaptation of the infamous The King in Yellow by the magnificent Culbard.

Two masters of horror combine to bring forth the graphic adaptation of the infamous The King in Yellow, a classic piece of weird fiction that promises madness and delivers genuine chills.

Robert W Chambers is the author of the original collection of short stories, and it is the first of these, the tales connected by the titular play, The King in Yellow, that INJ Culbard has brought to life within these pages.

The reputation of The King in Yellow precedes it, influencing such fellow cult creators as HP Lovecraft and Raymond Chandler, and even making ripples last year by frequent reference in HBO’s True Detective. The book within the book, the play at the heart of it all, is hinted at and teased, the book as object never before as dangerous as when rendered fully upon these pages, sat in innocent hands.

Culbard is no stranger to the weird and wonderful, adapting several Lovecraftian tales from At the Mountains of Madness to The Shadow Out of Time, both to great acclaim. Two science fiction highlights of 2014 had Culbard collaborating with writers: the magnificent War of the Worlds inspired Wild’s End at Boom! Studios with Dan Abnett; and the uniquely brilliant Brass Sun at 2000 AD with Ian Edginton.

The artist’s star is rising fast indeed, with last year also seeing his first original graphic novel, Celeste, hitting the shelves to rave reviews. He remains one of the UK’s greatest comic artists with a prolific output – always guaranteeing an intelligent and instantly recognisable graphic read.

Clean lines, bold colors, and characters that wriggle right into the readers’ brain are Culbard’s trademark. Here, in the realm of The King in Yellow, those skills are put to dastardly use as what begins in intrigue ends in poisonous insanity and palpable fright.

Do you dare read it? Do you dare not?!

The shadows lengthen… in Carcosa.

Read the full preview here: Return to Carcosa in Culbard’s ‘The King in Yellow’

The King in Yellow

The King in Yellow

23May/150

Top of the Shops: May 2015

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.

Bucky BarnesBucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier Volume 1: The Man on the Wall
(W) Ales Kot, (A/C) Marco Rudy, Michael Walsh, Langdon Foss, (L) Clayton Cowles
Marvel
Paperback
£12.99/$16.99
26 May 2015

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.

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier - Marco Rudy Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier - Marco Rudy

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!