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A Sinner's Progress

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The Avengelist of Hymn Power #1, part of the A Sinner's Progress series, cover art by David Sandlin

A Sinner's Progress is the collective title of a series of books by cartoonist David Sandlin. Begun in 1995, there are six volumes to date in the series and Sandlin is currently working on the seventh book, "Oh My Son, All This Is Yours", together with a final volume tentatively titled "Slumburbia".

The first book in the series, "The Beast Years of My Life" (1995, nos. 1-8), introduces Bill Grimm, the protagonist of the series. Crafted in a non-linear fashion, "The Beast Years of My Life" lays out Grimm's multiple digressions and offers three alternate "dream" endings, suggesting that there are no clear-cut answers to life's questions. In "Wrathland" (1996, nos. 9-12), the second volume in the series, we find a darker story with a few glimpses of the promised salvation, as Grimm succumbs to the sins of wrath and pride. The third book, "Road to Nowhere... Road to Pair o'Dice" (2000, nos. 12-24), amplifies the sense of uncertainty Sandlin estalished in the first two volumes. It is a two-sided construct. Read from one end, it follows the story of Bill Grimm, the lustful trucker. When the book is inverted, a parallel story unfolds of his alter-ego, born-again salesman Brother Grimm. Their two tales meet at the book's centerfold in a virtual Mobius strip of a board game featuring "Sin or Sellavation".

Volume four, "The Avengelist of Hymn Power" (2004, nos. 25-35), adpots a more conventional narrative format to advance Grimm's story. The Avengelist's science fiction storyline includes the cliche of an alternate universe, maintaining Sandlin's motif of a coin-toss duality. Bill Grimm has apparently risen in rank to become owner of Pur-Ton-o-Fun, a "puritanical novelties company", but in his supposed success, he develops delusions of grandeur. He inhabits, or hallucinates, a caste-based realm of entitlement and suppression. The tale this time offers a ray of hope for the hapless protagonist when, at the story's end, Grimm discovers a monstrous truth behind the cabal of elites he had previously revered. In contrast with the three earlier books, handcrafted and published in small editions, Sandlin commercially produced The Avengelist in offset-lithography on newsprint, in support of the volume's pulp comic book theme.

The most recent aditions to the series are "Swamp Preacher" (2006, no.36) and "An Alphabetical Ballad of Carnality" (2006, no.37). Published by Fantagraphics Books, these two volumes propel Grimm into a broader milieu, beyond the more insular domain of the artist's book.

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