RogerBW's Blog

Hugo 2015: Graphic Story 30 June 2015

Four nominees in this category that conform to my criteria. I'm not much of a comics reader as a rule, but there's a pleasing diversity of styles.

All four are collections of 22- or 24-page comics, and none of them comes to any sort of conclusion. I suppose by the time the full story is out in a trade paperback, the early issues will have gone out of eligibility – but that didn't stop the entire Wheel of Time getting nominated last year, and personally I'd rather see complete stories than these fragments. (Then again, a complete story from a successful comic could be huge, especially with the current preference for crossovers.)

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal

Written by G. Willow Wilson, drawn by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt.

The packet version has a huge and intrusive "Hugo Voters Packet" watermark over every page of these first five issues. Thanks, publishers! By assuming I was a thief, you ensured that my only option for giving you a fair shake was to become one.

Anyway, Kamala is a young muslim woman in Jersey City. Yeah, she lives with her parents and they don't approve of her sneaking out (even before they know that she's going off superheroing). But although there are various Islamic trappings to her life, this isn't so very different from the stories that would be told about a young white man living with his parents. That may well be the point: people are still people, and sneaking out to be with the cool kids doesn't automatically get you accepted by them whether you're Billy-Bob or Kamala.

And then she gets handed superpowers that she doesn't really understand, and has to work out how to control them.

The artwork is a curious mixture of realistic and stylised; the less significant a character, the more likely he is to have a vaguely elongated head or otherwise be a caricature. It's a bit consciously weird, but the backgrounds are decently packed without distracting from foreground events, and there are plenty of small sight gags.

The story assumes you know, or at least care, who various superheroes are, but it still works without that knowledge. There's a supervillain called "The Inventor" who seems to be sponsoring various sorts of petty crime, and… well, that's about as far as we get in these five issues. This doesn't obviously tie in to the Greater Marvel Universe (note: I'm told Kamala's superheroic powers come from an event that one's expected to know about) but I'm sure they won't be able to resist the temptation.

This is the closest thing to a conventional superhero comic book in this selection, and I didn't hate it, so that's good.

Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery

Written by Curtis Lee, drawn by Roc Upchurch (who was later sacked after having been arrested, though not convicted, for domestic violence). This volume collects the first five issues.

The Rat Queens are four female adventurers in a generic fantasy city. They're rowdy, foul-mouthed and have nonexistent impulse control, but they're our heroines. Yeah, I guess not being adolescent boys counts for something, and the facial expressions are particularly good. But, meh, rotefant. A bit of treachery provides a little interest but doesn't really make things better, especially when our heroines stumble on the main enemy pretty much by accident. Twice.

Saga Vol. 3

Written by Brian K. Vaughan, drawn by Fiona Staples.

The only entry here that isn't the beginning of a story: this collects chapters 13 to 18. I've read volume 1, and it struck me as interesting, but even here in volume 3 we're not given a whole lot of background information on the world. This whole thing is basically a prolonged chase sequence, and lots of nice people die pointlessly. All a bit grim and depressing for my taste.

But the art is lovely. I just wish I thought it meant something.

Sex Criminals Vol. 1: One Weird Trick

Written by Matt Fraction, drawn by Chip Zdarsky.

Again, collects the first five issues. Suzie discovers that, when she has an orgasm, time stops for a while around her, but she can still move around and act freely. She meets Jon, for whom the same thing is true. They decide, eventually, to rob a bank in order to raise money to save the local library; but there seems to be some sort of law-enforcement that moves in the same space.

So mostly this is about attitudes to sex and sexuality, as well as some amusingly bad jokes. Of the four here, it's the one I enjoyed the most. Everyone's got problems, but they try not to let them take over their lives; and they still have normal lives, rather than just something to do between being a hero.

The art style is suitably lurid (though not sexually graphic), with lots of solid saturated tones.


Well, none of these makes me want to dash out and read the next chapter. Maybe I shouldn't vote in this category at all: these comics are evidently not aimed at me. If I do, it'll be purely by my enjoyment, in which case Sex Criminals comes top, Saga bottom, and the other two in between, Rat Queens probably above Ms. Marvel. I really have no feel for what's "Hugo-deserving quality" here.

  1. Posted by Soon Lee at 07:19am on 02 July 2015

    No opinion on The Zombie Nation?

    It was not included in the Hugo Packet but is available online.

    This link points to the archives from January 2014, read from this point for episodes that fall within the Hugo eligibility period:

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 01:14am on 03 July 2015

    As I said back in my general post about the Hugos this year, I'm omitting from my consideration anything that was on an approved list. Lists and slates and so on lead to party politics, which I despise. That's too bad for the good authors, artists, etc., whose work was listed without bothering to ask them; a few of them had the grace to withdraw rather than take advantage of shenanigans.

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