Hugo Thoughts: Graphic Story
Of the five nominees, the collection from The Zombie Nation was recommended by both the Sad and Rabid (SR) puppies. The rest of the category is puppy-free.
- Ms. Marvel: The first page includes Kamala Khan smelling bacon and saying, “Delicious, delicious infidel meat” and someone responding, “Chow or chow not. There is no smell.” I was officially intrigued. A few pages later, we discover Kamala writes Avengers fanfic. She’s also struggling with her own identity, torn between cultures and dealing with ignorance and prejudice. She dreams about being powerful and blonde and beautiful like Ms. Marvel…and then she gets her wish. Sort of. And discovers it’s not what she imagined. This is a superhero origin story that plays off of our expectations, because Kamala has grown up in a world of superheroes. She’s an Avengers fangirl. She has to unlearn what she has learned, in order to become, in her words, “a shape-changing mask-wearing sixteen-year-old super ‘moozlim’ from Jersey City.” There’s a lot of humor, and some good depth and complexity to Kamala and her family and friends. There’s also a supervillain, of course, but that’s secondary to the story of Kamala coming of age and learning to navigate and incorporate the different parts of her identity.
- Rat Queens: Smart-ass D&D-style all-female adventuring team with good artwork, humor, attitude, profanity, and a great cast of secondary characters to go with it. Including an orc cleric who gets bluebirds in his beard when he casts healing spells. I bought this volume last year, and I’ve got the next one on my wish list. The Rat Queens are well-written, complex characters who are utterly unapologetic about who and what they are. They’re also fiercely loyal to one another. I liked this even more when I reread it to refresh my memory for the Hugos. With both Rat Queens and Ms. Marvel, I’m sure there will be people complaining that they’re politically correct, feminist, Message Stories. Are they feminist? Sure. They’re also fun as hell. Beyond that, I’ll let Hannah respond to the haters.
- Saga: I’m afraid this one didn’t work for me. Part of the problem is that this is Volume 3, and I was coming into the middle of a pretty complex and ongoing story about an ongoing, interplanetary war. The blending of science fiction and fantasy elements was fascinating, and there’s a lot of good worldbuilding, as well as some great details. I love Lying Cat, a sphynx/lynx-like creature who can sense lies, to great effect. I don’t think it’s bad, and it’s possible I’d be much more invested if I started from the beginning, but as it is, I’m afraid the story just didn’t draw me in. I’ll probably rank it above No Award, but it won’t be one of my top choices.
- Sex Criminals: So imagine when you orgasmed, time basically just stopped for a while, and the world went all glowy and psychedelic. This isn’t something you’ll want to read at work. (Well, depending on where you work, I guess.) But it’s an interesting premise and a good story. It also addresses and challenges the rather prudish attitudes folks tend to have toward sex, starting with young Suzie’s efforts to understand what’s happening to her, and all the ways those efforts get shut down. Generally amusing and entertaining, though I didn’t feel like I just had to pick up the next volume. A middle-of-the-ballot pick for me.
- The Zombie Nation (SR): This one wasn’t included in the Hugo Voters Packet, but the nominated work is a collection from an ongoing webcomic, available here. I clicked through some of the recent comics, then went back and read through some from the beginning. I didn’t find the gags particularly funny. The actual art isn’t bad, but I don’t see this one earning a place above No Award for me.
May 23, 2015 @ 5:16 pm
I would definitely recommend reading Saga from the beginning. It has some really in-depth interwoven plots and universe-building along with very believable and sympathetic characters (including some I wanted to hate at first). It’s not afraid to tackle some big social issues while largely keeping the interactions at a mundane level; family is a huge theme. At the same time, there are exchanges that have had me laughing out loud, such as an exchange regarding naming a child.
Jim C. Hines
May 23, 2015 @ 5:21 pm
I’d definitely be up for reading it from the start. But I don’t know if it’s going to happen in time for Hugo voting, especially given the reading stack I’m looking at.
May 23, 2015 @ 5:51 pm
I didn’t get to the actual story in zombie nation. The jokes in the zombie game character spreads got really samey. Apparently people stare at boobs and lose the ability to do survival oriented activities. And women wear revealing clothing and even as a zombie they yell at you for looking at their boobs. There were other jokes in the 15 or so pages I made it through, but not many.
Unless he turned them down, they should have done Howard Taylor’s Schlock Mercenary. He’s an adventure story writer who does politically right writing with nuance and science and the sort of varied view points heinlein did in his better works. And he does the occasional boob joke because, you know, they can be funny when they aren’t the only joke you know. He is kind of all the things I look for when I look for science fiction of the sort they claim to want.
I read Rat Queens and the first 3 Saga books concurrently last year. Saga does some neat things and tells a good story, but on the strength of book 1, rat queens is IMO better. I think they did the introduction book better than most comics. Also, their publication schedule slots trades in between loose comic runs. Those of us who don’t buy regular comics, but wait for the trades do really well with that.
Ms Marvel has me trying to decide if I can cut my budget for other things enough to order book 2 now or if I should wait for my next pay check. I don’t love origin stories, so me wanting the second part of an origin story says a lot.
Have not read sex criminals yet.
May 23, 2015 @ 7:48 pm
Right now Ms Marvel is first on my ballot and Rat Queens second. But that could change. I liked Saga too, but well, something has got to come third. Sex Criminals was fun but something has to come fourth.
Zombie Nation was a puppy pick and I’m in no hurry to read it, though it’s nice to know it’s around on the web if I want to. But frankly zombies are not my thing and “boobs make mens brains stop working” is a joke that has to be done *just* right to be funny, and that loses whatever charm it might have in a hurry if it’s repeated.
May 23, 2015 @ 9:24 pm
I just picked up Rat Queens at the Wiscon dealer room today, looked like fun.
May 23, 2015 @ 9:35 pm
Of the list I’ve only read two Ms Marvel and Saga. For me the current Ms Marvel is the only Ms Marvel because I got into Carol when she became Captain Marvel. Anyway I love Ms Marvel one of my favorite comic titles right now and I really love where they went with the story line recently. Saga is one of the ones that I wait for the volume releases at the library I love it and it’s definitely worth a from the beginning read, and I can see where it would be hard to get into from the middle.
May 24, 2015 @ 4:38 am
I don’t generally like superhero comics, but Ms. Marvel is pulling me in.
Jim C. Hines
May 24, 2015 @ 12:13 pm
I may try to go back and read Saga from the beginning, but given the current TBR pile, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do so before the close of voting.
Jim C. Hines
May 24, 2015 @ 12:14 pm
I would have been happy to see Schlock Mercenary on the ballot … except that it would have made voting in this category even harder 🙂
Howl’s Moving Castalia 5/24 | File 770
May 25, 2015 @ 12:28 am
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May 25, 2015 @ 3:43 am
While I love Saga, I could see vol.3 struggling on the ballot – I don’t think it’s as strong as the previous two volumes. The Lighthouse sequence is fantastic, IMHO, but The Will’s arc of “everybody is secretly mind-controlled” is a weak point. And neither of the two is likely to work well for newcomers.
May 26, 2015 @ 9:44 am
Glad to see the first comment says this! I knew I wouldn’t be the first coming to the site directly (I read it via feedly) to comment that it should be checked out but it warms my heart to see the rec right off the bat!
to pile on, Jim, when you get a chance to do so, definitely read from the beginning! SO GOOD.
May 27, 2015 @ 7:49 pm
On the one hand, I endorse reading Saga from the beginning; it’s good.
On the other hand, it’s only volume 3 that’s under consideration for this year’s Best Graphic Story award. So basing your judgment on volume 3 alone? Entirely legitimate; I’m a strong believer in that each nominated book should be able to stand strong alone as well as being part of a great whole.
If I had a third hand, I’d be saying Sex Criminals deserves re-evaluation. Not only does it have a fantastic SFnal premise, the execution skilfully avoids all the potential ‘exploitative wish-fulfillment porn’ traps it could have fallen into. As you say, it addresses and challenges attitudes to sex, which is something that it seems to me is so important. It shows that finding sex weird and strange and confusing at first is not unusual, and show that it’s OK for people to have sexual desires of their own. It’s sweet and touching and clever and, cards on the table, was the first book I nominated for any of the 2015 Hugos (further cards on the table: even as far back as the 2014 Hugo nominations I was telling people “You need to read this and nominate it in 2015”)
A cracking SFnal idea, a cracking story, cracking writing, and cracking art (Zdarsky’s contribution cannot be undervalued). For me, it ticks all the boxes. It does something special. And I hope others can see that too.
That said, Ms Marvel is also a strong contender, and would also be a worthy winner.
May 28, 2015 @ 10:35 am
I haven’t read any of these, but Ms. Marvel is already on my wish list, sounds like I need to add Rat Queens for sure and maybe Sex Criminals and Saga as well. Sounds like a lot of good choices in this category, so that’s great 🙂