Avery Hill at 10
Avery Hill Publishing is ten this year, which is an incredible achievement for any publishing company. They are one of our favourites, though, and were one of the reasons I decided to focus Comic Book News UK on UK comics instead of comics from anywhere in the world. Places like this don't deserve to be lost amongst news from all over the place. I decided that focusing on the UK would hopefully mean news from the UK could shine and be easily visible to all our readers. That's the aim of this site.
Seeing that Avery Hill is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year got me thinking. They've made some wonderful books over the years, so how about we take a look at our favourite books/series and where you can buy them.
So, in no particular order, here are my favourite Avery Hill graphic novels over the years.
The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott
Zoe Thorogood's debut graphic novel is one of the best debuts I can remember. The story and art are incredible. It's a deeply existential graphic novel full of questions that hit hard. A very powerful experience. It's a solid story with unique artwork, complex characters, relationships, and moving moments.
Billie Scott is an artist. Her debut gallery exhibition opens in a few months. Within a fortnight, she'll be completely blind.
As Billie struggles to deal with her impending blindness, she sets off on a journey from Middlesbrough to London, into a world of post-austerity Britain and the problems facing those left behind. Her quest is to find ten people to paint for her exhibition, as well as the inspiration to continue with her art and the strength to move on with her life.
The Ismyre series is currently four books - and I really hope there'll be more! Ismyre, Terrible Means, The Tower in the Sea and Method of Dyeing by B Mure is a collection of books set in the city of Ismyre. A place where everyone is anthropomorphised. Each book explores a different period of time in Ismyre and the surrounding countryside. With fantastical creatures exploring strange mysteries and attempting to solve problems that could have disastrous consequences for everyone in the world, mixed with a charming sketchy-looking art style, there's a lot to love about this series.
In Ismyre, Ed the sculptor, works as his widower neighbour sings strange melodies late into the night. He places the finished figurine and notices there is an empty space on the shelf where another one should be. Perplexed, he sleeps whilst his neighbour continues to croon.
With Terrible Means, Henriett travels to Ismyre to warn the current Prime Minister and council of an imbalance within the world's ecosystem and magic. On her way, she encounters a young magician called Emlyn, who is there for a very different reason. Alongside a crew of ex-academics and inhabitants of smaller surrounding villages, Henriett and Emlyn work together to uncover the strange imbalance being created in the world.
The Tower in the Sea takes place off the coast of Ismyre, where a group of illicit magicians have been gathering for years, schooling others in the ways of long-forgotten divinations. From high up in this forbidden home, a young scholar keeps dreaming of terrible visions and looks out across the ocean for answers.
And finally, there is Methods Of Dyeing. In Ismyre, on the eve of his lecture, the renowned botanist and master dyer Professor Detlef is found dead in the university gardens. As the local constabulary begins their search for the culprit, a strange detective arrives from outside the city to help solve the crime. In a place where things are never as they seem, will Mary, the university custodian, be able to help the mysterious investigator uncover the truth?
On a Sunbeam
Tille Walden is an Avery Hill regular, and it's no surprise, given that her comics are always a joy to read. On a Sunbeam not only has one of the best covers, but it also has a real rollercoaster of emotions. It's a space opera that's part love story and part epic space adventure, with an art style that is just delightful.
Tillie Walden's queer space opera tells the story of Mia, from her life as a rebellious schoolgirl to her time as part of the crew on the ship Aktis, out in the deepest reaches of space, rebuilding beautiful and broken down structures.
Originally a webcomic, On a Sunbeam is a chunky book. The story is non-linearly, with a series of flashbacks relating to Mia, presented concurrently with present events. It is a queer coming-of-age story. A story about how to salvage lost love and youth. How to thrive in a society that does not understand who you are or what you can do. Just an excellent book.
Untitled Ape's Epic Adventure
Untitled Ape's Epic Adventure was one of the first Avery Hill books I read, and I still regard it as one of my favourites. Untitled Ape is not an ape, more of a giant purple ghost-beast who has decided he needs to see his family. Where has he come from, though? What is he? And an Epic Adventure is a bold claim, but it's been years, and I still think about and regard this book highly, so it lives up to the "epic" in Epic Adventure,
Untitled Ape's friend Cat (a cat) doesn't think it's a particularly good idea. But it's the start of their epic adventure. Without a map or much of a plan, they journey through flooded cities and stormy seas, across frozen plains and snowy mountains, and even up into the world of the clouds on their quest to find Ape's home in the jungle. Along the way, they make the acquaintance of a cast of incredible characters who both help and hinder them to an equal degree.
Meanwhile, and elsewhere, Ape's past is starting to catch up with him, and it becomes more and more difficult to keep his dark history from Cat.
What We Don't Talk About
An emotional book that I coincidently read a week after my mixed-race girlfriend told me about all the racist comments she's grown up with and the little comments/questions like "where are you from?" when she's English. I hadn't thought about that before. Then reading this book just hit home things even more. Examining contemporary issues of race, bigotry and the difficulties that interracial couples face, What We Don't Talk About is an exciting debut graphic novel that hits hard on an emotional level.
Farai has been in a relationship for two years and has never met her partner's parents. Until this weekend.
Farai has finally persuaded Adam to introduce her to his parents, but the visit to the in-laws turns out to be a horrible experience for her. She starts to feel uneasy and ostracised. When confronted about this experience, Adam tries to play down the situation and does not show any understanding of his partner's concerns. Then things get a lot worse, and Farai has to question if she can be with a man whose family does not accept her and who is unwilling to face the difficulties of an interracial relationship.
Owen Pomery studied architecture before moving into comics, and what that produces is an architectural illustration that looks incredible. The story is entertaining, but that art is some of the finest-looking buildings and landscapes that you'll see in comics. 10/10 on looks alone. It's a short and sweet story that you can breeze through, although I don't know why you'd want to when there's so much beauty on the pages to look at.
Victory Point sees Ellen returning to the coastal town she grew up in. The picturesque yet architecturally strange town called, shockingly, Victory Point. Revisiting old haunts and people from her past, she feels increasingly disconnected from her previous life and exhausted by the constant struggle of trying to forge the path ahead. Exploring a town, which itself is an experiment in how to live, Ellen searches for some comfort in her own history that might just give her the strength to move forward.
Sleeping While Standing
One of the newer Avery Hill graphic novels and one that has you multiple times checking that this is, in fact, an autobiography. I don't know how Taki Soma got through life and then was able to retell some of the events here. Some of it is downright horrifying, but thankfully it's not all bad. There are some genuinely funny moments, along with some heartfelt ones. The level of depth to the storytelling is sublime and complex and makes for one hell of a read.
Sleeping While Standing is a series of short autobiographical strips, dropping in at important events throughout Taki's life that shaped who she is today, told in a compelling and humorous authorial voice. We are led by Taki through her early childhood in Japan in the early 80s, to moving to Minnesota, the separation of her parents, childhood trauma, teenage angst, death, drugs, comics, health issues, love, fertility, pets and zombies; all of life is here in this book!
It's a picture of a highly regarded creator, with an unflinching look at some particularly harrowing moments, but threaded through with levity and love. Just an incredible book that covers a range of topics and emotions that'll stay with you long after you've finished.