July 1, 2015

The Hugo Project: Best Graphic Story

(Note: This is the latest in an ongoing series of posts reviewing as many of the 2015 Hugo nominees as I can before the July 31 deadline, and explaining why I will or will not vote for them.)

Best Graphic Story. Now this is a category I know little about, as I am seriously not into comics. I never got into them when I was younger, and in fact I tended to look down on them, considering them obviously inferior to books. The closest thing to a comic book I remember reading is (anybody remember them?) a Big Little Book, in this case the old-fashioned Fantastic Four with the orange Ben Grimm. (Actually, I just found it on Amazon--it's The Fantastic Four in the House of Horrors.) I don't remember much about the story, as the last several pages were missing, which frustrated me to no end.

So I am (or was) very much a comics virgin. Now I won't be so crude as to say I just popped my comics cherry (wink wink) but I did chew it up and spit out the pit.

Rating the four non-Canine nominees, from bottom to top:

4) Saga

Sorry, I just couldn't get into this. I think the word is "bounce." Maybe because it's Volume Three, Chapter Thirteen, but it seemed like there was too much backstory I neither knew or cared to know.

3) Sex Criminals

I suppose the idea is original enough--certain people can freeze time during and after orgasm (at least until they get aroused again), and they use what they call "the Quiet" to steal money to rescue their local library. This seems completely contrary to human nature, wherein if people could actually do this, they would have sex just to get off and get rich. Also, as far as that goes, why is Suzanne even bothering with this weird loser? Surely she could do better with just her favorite vibrator, in terms of not sharing the wealth, having a better chance of getting away from the Sex Police, and avoiding Jon's ill-timed boner knocking them out of the Quiet.

2) Ms. Marvel

Now we're getting into an actual story, and one that is far better than the first two. This is the tale of sixteen-year-old Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American with the usual adolescent problems intensified by the unique complications of her Muslim culture and customs, being made a superhero quite by accident. In this story, she is dealing both with the typical teenage angst of a girl trying to find herself and break out of her parents' narrow box, and the challenge of attempting to control her superpowers and use them for good. However, I wish "Hugo Voters Packet" hadn't been stamped across every page (why? none of the other nominees was like this) as it interfered with quite a few of the dialogue balloons.

This comic was certainly Hugo-worthy, and had it not been for that other nominee, I would have voted for Ms. Marvel first. But the remaining nominee is:

1) Rat Queens

I loved Rat Queens from the very first panel.

As far as I'm concerned, this has it all: four great characters, a compelling storyline, sass, intelligence, female bonding/friendship, ample passing of the Bechdel test, humor, and heartbreak.

I don't know much about the history of comics, so I couldn't say if it's derivative, poorly drawn, etc etc. Just comparing my top two, I think Ms. Marvel was a bit better drawn, but Rat Queens has the superior story. It takes my top spot.

But there was one other nominee, wasn't there? The Impacted Canines choice?

Yes, there was. A webcomic, Zombie Nation, and the less said about this the better. It has no storyline, no compelling characters, and doesn't come within spitting distance of the worst of the other four. It's almost as bad as John C. Wright's preachified polemics and that Wisdom From My Internet abomination.

But this category does provide an example of what the rest of the ballot should have been. One Canine nomination against true quality stuff. In the categories that are all, or nearly all, Canines, to my mind there is no vote beyond No Award (with only a few exceptions) because the Canines' choices are not only derived from an unethical (if legal) slate--they are all that bad. This category, with more proportional representation of Canine and non-Canine, drives the point home.

(I realize the Canines will say the same thing about, for example, last year's ballot. But come on. As far as good writing goes, Ann Leckie, Katherine Addison, and John C. Wright/Tom Kratman/Michael Z. Williamson aren't even in the same universe.)

So: for this category, my vote is as follows.

1) Rat Queens
2) Ms. Marvel
3) Sex Criminals
4) No Award
5) Saga

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