Friday, 30 January 2015

Avery Hill joins SEQUENTIAL

We're delighted to announce that Avery Hill, one of the best small-press publishers in the UK, now has its titles on SEQUENTIAL. Details of the news here and information about their titles is here.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Best Graphic Novels of 2014

Russell Willis, the founder of SEQUENTIAL, chooses his top ten graphic novels published in 2014 and released on the app – and squeezes in a couple of extras and adds a few comments. Don't forget that you can read 5-page previews of these items on the SEQUENTIAL website or in the app itself.

[1] THE LOVE BUNGLERS | Jaime Hernandez | Fantagraphics
I read The Love Bunglers and was deeply moved. I then re-read the Locas stories leading up to this story and read Love Bunglers again…Upon finishing a certain two-page spread I was paralysed – and then reduced to a sobbing wreck: not in the way that can happen with particularly manipulative soap opera (where you feel disgust at yourself and the work) but in a way where you feel the truth in the fiction and feel elevated.

After a lifetime of losses, Maggie finds, in the second half, her longtime off and on lover, Ray Dominguez. In taking us through lives, deaths, and near-fatalities, The Love Bunglers encapsulates Maggie’s emotional history as it moves from resignation to memories of loss, to sudden violence (a theme in this story), and eventually to love and contentment. Much like John Updike in his four Rabbit novels, Jaime Hernandez has been following his longtime character Maggie around for several decades, all of which has seemed to be building towards this book in particular.

[2] GAST | Carol Swain | Fantagraphics
I was familiar with Carol Swain’s short form work from Fast Fiction magazine in the 80s and was looking forward to reading something a bit meatier. Swain has a marvellous graphic style that, in this book, takes you through an extremely odd story at a pace equivalent to a stroll in the country. Reading this was like a virtual reality trip where you can smell and experience the world she has created. And I loved the long bus journey.

Helen is a city child, new to rural Wales. Her neighbor has told her of a “rare bird” – Emrys – that has committed suicide. Helen may not know much about nature, but she knows birds don’t kill themselves. In Gast, Helen’s inner life is slowly revealed through a mixture of naturalistic detail and phantasmagorical occurrences. Small observations, moments of ruminative solitude, and searching conversations—among Helen and her parents, and especially the animals she speaks to—propel the narrative toward a deeply satisfying conclusion that is as much a beginning as an end.

[3] ARSÈNE SCHRAUWEN | Olivier Schrauwen | Fantagraphics
One of those graphic novels where I didn’t know the creator, and I wasn’t immediately enamoured of the art style… Don't judge a book… etc. The apparently hyperbolic reviews by Art Spiegelman and Matt Senaca turned out to be plain speaking… It's a trippy page-turner with great storytelling which at the same time leaves you happily fretting about what actually happened for hours after you’ve finished.

In 1947, the author’s grandfather, Arsène, traveled across the ocean to a mysterious, dangerous jungle colony at the behest of his cousin. Together they would build something deemed impossible: a utopia of modernity, in the wilderness – but not before Arsène falls in love with his cousin’s wife, Marieke. Whether delirious from love or a fever-inducing jungle virus, Arsène’s loosening grip on reality is mirrored by the reader’s uncertainty of what is imagined or real by Arsène. This first full-length graphic novel from the critically-acclaimed Olivier Schrauwen is an engrossing, sometimes funny, slightly surreal and often beautiful narrative.

[4] ANGIE BONGIOLATTI | Mike Dawson | Secret Acres
Mike Dawson is able to set scenes and tell down-to-earth stories with flair and ease. Here he takes us to New York – and gives us the perspective of smart young things struggling with their jobs, their love lives, paying the rent, and their sense of right, wrong and what they should do about the wrong. It's great to visit them and inhabit their world. One of those graphic novels that you can easily re-read again and again.

Set in the same universe as Troop 142, Dawson’s acclaimed tale of Boy Scouts gone wild, Angie Bongiolatti puts away childish things and moves into the city. Growing up is hard to do in a society overwhelmed by pre-millennium tension, Y2K bugs, endless war, and bursting bubble economies.

[5] BEATLES WITH AN A | Mauri Kunnas | Knockabout
Great amusing-to-look-at cartooning combined with solid jokes and a great use of detail in both the story and the art. As fun and involving a documentary of the Beatles' early years as any you're likely to come across.

These are the first beats of the Beatles’ career as only legendary rock cartoonist Mauri Kunnas could tell them. The cover depicts John, Paul, George and Ringo crossing the street Abbey Road style, but the street is in Hamburg’s seedy Reeperbahn red-light district. Kunnas chronicles the band from Ringo’s birth (against a backdrop of the Luftwaffe shelling Liverpool) through the release of their hit ‘Please Please Me’/‘Ask Me Why’.

[6] SUPERCRASH | Darryl Cunningham | Myriad Editions
A calm, step-by-step dissection of modern capitalist society and the philosophical underpinnings of the "age of selfishness" that culminated in the crash of 2008. Darryl Cunningham's efficient, inviting artwork sparkles with clarity and should be required reading by anyone interested in the economic forces that govern our lives.

Cunningham draws a fascinating portrait of the New Right and the charismatic Ayn Rand, whose soirees were attended by the young Alan Greenspan. He shows how the Neo-Cons hijacked the economic debate and led the way to a world dominated by the market. Smaller countries, such as Greece, have paid the price for joining a club that held impossible membership rules.

[7] HOW TO BE HAPPY | Eleanor Davis | Fantagraphics
Davis is a stunningly adept and versatile artist with a wide range of styles – all delightful. A major talent. This is a book you tend to gawp at, flicking through the images repeatedly, once you think you're done with actually reading the collected stories that beautiful artwork lures you back in to read again...

How To Be Happy represents the best stories Davis has drawn for such connoisseurial venues as Mome, Nobrow, and Lucky Peach, as well as her own self-publishing and web efforts. Davis achieves a rare, subtle poignancy in her narratives that are at once compelling and elusive, pregnant with mystery and a deeply satisfying emotional resonance.

[8] MADDY KETTLE | Eric Orchard | Top Shelf
Lovingly drawn, yet hinting of hypnotic nightmare worlds, this is a delightfully dark all-ages adventure, that you'll read and then be dipping back into to savour the atmosphere.

Eleven-year-old Maddy loved working in her parents’ bookstore... especially when joined by her pet flying toad Ralph. But that was before the mysterious Thimblewitch turned her mom and dad into kangaroo rats!

Now Maddy’s on the adventure of a lifetime. To save her parents, she’ll need to sneak past an army of spider-goblins, scarecrow warriors, and much more... Fortunately, an assortment of new friends await, including the cloud cartographers Harry and Silvio, a bear and raccoon who explore the world in their moon-balloon.

[9] THE BAD DOCTOR | Ian Williams | Myriad Editions
In some ways similar to Angie Bongiolatti in that it convincingly takes you off into another, only vaguely understood, social milieu – in this case that of a doctor and his general practice. A well-told story that enlightens as it entertains.

Cartoonist and doctor Ian Williams introduces us to the troubled life of Dr Iwan James, as all humanity, it seems, passes through his surgery door. Incontinent old ladies, men with eagle tattoos, traumatised widowers – Iwan’s patients cause him both empathy and dismay, as he tries to do his best in a world of limited time and budgetary constraints, and in which there are no easy answers.

[10] BACCHUS | Eddie Campbell | Top Shelf
Released by Top Shelf in 2014 but collecting the comics originally created by Campbell in the 80s and 90s. It is now only "in print" in these digital editions. Campbell is a master storyteller and one of the most erudite and wise voices in comics. These tales of greek gods were his idea of superhero comics. If they can really be so defined then they're probably the best superhero comics ever published.

Bacchus is a wild and hilarious mythological adventure imbued with unparalleled social and political insight. It’s a story of a few Greek gods who have somehow managed to survive the last four millennia. And even though they’re the ‘wisest’ and most powerful beings on Earth, they can’t seem to rise above the whirlwind of petty grudges and skirmishes that bind them.

Both of the digital editions of the following books were edited by me (with Chloë Pursey) and published by Panel Nine, the creators of SEQUENTIAL… but I'm very, very proud of them, so include them here.

STRANGE EMBRACE | David Hine | Panel Nine
“David Hine’s sinister and macabre masterpiece is given the ultimate collectors treatment courtesy of SEQUENTIAL. We doubt you will find a more comprehensive retrospective of a series this year. Strange Embrace is a dark and sinister mix of supernatural and gothic horror that should be required reading for any fan of Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore.” – Pipedream Comics

When Sukumar meets Alex, a manipulative, amoral psychic with an obsessive desire to discover the story of the old man in the antiques shop, he is plunged into a terrifying world of madness, murder, torture, psychological horror, suicide and damnation.

This brand new digital version, exclusively available on SEQUENTIAL, takes David Hine’s original black and white masterpiece and supplements it with a whole host of extra features, including audio commentary by David Hine for each and every comics page, pop-up pages showing artwork galleries, original covers, an interview with Paul Gravett, an academic piece – Visualising the Fantastic in Strange Embrace – by Marcus Oppolzer, and the original Strange Embrace scripts.

VERITY FAIR: PINK ELEPHANTS | Terry Wiley | Panel Nine
"An exhilarating comedy-drama... If this were a TV sitcom, the audacious, ebullient Bourneville would be hailed as an era-defining character up there with Liz Lemon from 30 Rock or Ab Fab's Edina. VerityFair is one of the best of today's comedies – in any medium."– Colin Smith, Q Magazine

A slightly twisted soap opera with the merest dash of X-Files, VerityFair tells the story of Verity Bourneville, a 40-something semi-talented actress and full-time extrovert, in her quest for success and a good night’s sleep.