Friday, June 26, 2015

Hugo Reading - Graphic Story

This is my category, being a comic book fan. I've even got a graphic novel writing credit to my name (one of the stories in True Cat Toons by Roberta Gregory). I read a lot of comics every month, but none of the nominees are on my pull list. These are all new to me, but I know exactly what I look for in a comic book story. So here goes.

  • Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt, (Marvel Comics)
    So this is a book I wasn't aware of... from a company I don't usually buy much from. Kamala Khan is an interesting character and the origin story was fine, but not so unique or interesting that I was impresed with it. There are a few minor plot holes and gaps, and the book seems to jump a little in parts instead of flowing from scene to scene. The art is ok, but not fantastic. Overall, it's a fine little book, but I've read better things in the past year. The packet version also had an annoying "Hugo Voters Packet" watermark across every single page that sometimes obscured the text. I didn't mind that it was there, but it needed to be slightly lighter to not interfere with reading the book.
  • Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery, written by Kurtis J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics)
    This reads like a particularly goofy D&D campaign... which it's clearly based on. It's vulgar and funny and disturbing, and there's an actual plotline with twists and turns and romance. The art ranges from merely competent to pretty good, but isn't a style I enjoy much. For that matter, I'm not really all that much into the vulgar side of things. It didn't go too far, although I wouldn't go showing it to some of my friends. There were bits that I really liked, such as the Four Daves, and the bluebirds in the beard. This is a fun book, but not one I'd be inclined to get for myself.
  • Saga Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
    Um, wow. This is a complete package, despite being volume three of a series. The book starts with a kind of framing sequence that gets the reader up to speed very quickly, and that framing sequence even gets a conclusion of sorts before the end of the volume. There are a couple of main plotlines and in each one the characters are introduced carefully and as completely as needed. There's plenty left out, much of which can be deduced from context, the remainder of which makes me want to go read more. The art is good, although I have lots of questions about the people that inhabit this universe. For a bit, I doubted the wings were actually wings. Overall, an excellent book. I've never read Saga before, though I'd heard of it, so it was all new and interesting to me.
  • Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick, written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
    So, I said Rat Queens was a little too vulgar for me... this one is... problematic. I can't even explain the premise without blushing. That said, it's a really interesting premise and one that has a lot of promise for storytelling. Stopping time is an old trope of science fiction, the method is what's unusual. The story hangs together nicely, introducing the characters with only a couple of twitches that made me say, "huh?" For the most part this was a well-plotted storyline with decent artwork. Anyone easily offended would want to avoid it, but it's not bad at all.
  • The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate, Carter Reid (The Zombie Nation)
    Because this wasn't in the packet, I looked online and found the webcomic. I attempted to figure out what strips were in the collection, but there doesn't appear to be any handy listing, so I'm not entirely sure. What does seem clear is that the zombies in this aren't mindless, they are basically normal folks with odd quirks. The strips themselves are jumbled into a variety of different types, some of which aren't bad while others are just strange. There appears to be an ongoing plot, constantly interrupted by other stuff. Put up against the competition, this really doesn't stand well.
The top spot has to go to either Saga or Sex Criminals. I'm more impressed with what Saga managed to do in what is clearly a single volume of a long ongoing story, so I think I'll probably give the top spot to Saga and the second to Sex Criminals. The clear third-place winner is Rat Queens, which is much more amusing than the top two, but just not quite as good. The Ms. Marvel volume is solidly in fourth place while Zombie Nation will take up the rearguard of the five nominees. If I wasn't a charitable sort, I'd leave Ms. Marvel and Zombie Nation off the ballot entirely. But I'm inclined to include them.


So, $40 got me all this short fiction, four graphic novels I wouldn't have normally read, three novels, and a reason to seriously review instead of do my short opinionated capsules... In addition, I've been obsessed enough that my husband told everyone on Facebook that I'm dating Hugo. So far I'm really enjoying this, even though some of the work isn't what I'd call award-worthy. I may just have to do this next year. I'm also considering voting in the site selection for 2017, which apparently requires me to buy a supporting membership for that year... which I'm not opposed to doing.

File 770 is continuing both round-ups of the Hugo debates and ongoing ideas for how to prevent slates from dominating in the future as well as a proposal to add "series" to the Hugo award categories. The debates are interesting just to see where everyone stands on the current dust-up, and if there's a current dust-up. The proposal for a new category is... well, I don't see the need for it, personally. As I noted above, a really strong book in a series can often stand on its own. And if it can't, I'm not convinced it deserves an award. But that's just me. I suppose other people will have completely different views.

There's also a proposal, called E Pluribus Hugo, to change the nomination process in order to prevent slates from dominating the nominees. It's an intriguing study in mathematics, with nominations getting point values depending on how many works a person nominates in a category as well as how many people nominate it. Personally, I don't believe the Hugos are broken. I think fandom is a little messed up, and fans need to step up and decide what they want to do. That's the entire reason I bought the supporting membership: so I can nominate works next year and help offset any slates. I am guessing that what happens in this year's final vote tally will have an impact on whether or not rule changes are made.

Well, I think I've gotten through every category I could get through quickly. Unless something strange happens, I'm not sure I can keep up the one-category-a-day pace of reviewing. I may just have to do some regular blogging tomorrow. I will say, it's fun to have my husband on my side, looking for the nominated movies so I can see them all in time to vote. In short, despite how it came about, this has been a fun experience for me.


Vivienne Raper said...

Did I just completely misunderstand Sex Criminals? I'm worried I missed something. I thought the plot was buried under heaps of irrelevant backstory. I was so baffled that I planned to no-award it!

Tegan said...

Um, maybe? Spoiler alert!

Spoilers!!! The method of stopping time was *ahem* *blush* having an orgasm. The backstory all establishes that then introduces the two main characters AND their motivation in becoming criminals. I actually saw very little that was irrelevant, it all led up to the action as seen in the opening pages. In my opinion, it held together very nicely. It just was... blush-worthy.

The book does suffer a bit from decompressed storytelling. That's the modern way comic books are written, so action that maybe could have been told more concisely tends to be spread out over a few panels/pages more than is strictly necessary. But that's actually a problem with just about every comic book on the stands right now.

Vivienne Raper said...


Thanks! I got that they stopped time when they orgasmed and decided to rob banks. I just felt that the middle had FAR too much backstory and most of it was of the nature of 'character has early sexual experimentation, character visits sex shops, character talks about sex'.

The story also kept flicking back to the bank robbery so that I wasn't sure whether it was the same bank, a different bank, etc. And, as for the woman in white with the cutaway coat and the black panties, I never got where she came into it at all... She stopped them at the bank, they thought she was the sex police, but in fact she was just an ordinary mum and not a cop? It felt very incoherent and confusing. Did you understand the significance of the three people in white who stopped them in the bank? I was baffled.

I really wanted the story to go forwards and spend less time dwelling on the couple's sexual history. Having sex and deciding to rob a bank doesn't need that much explanation... Money and lust are Human Motivation 101.

Tegan said...

The three in white are people like them, who can stop time, who are worried that the bank-robbing activities will draw attention to their abilities and result in discovery. They are introduced a little abruptly, which is my main complaint with the book. It read, to me, like their backstories are being saved for a future issue.

The two main characters robbed a bunch of banks before the one they get caught at... some of the backstory was them figuring out the best way to rob a bank. Because of the nature of the book, a narrator who jumps around in time to explain how they got to the opening scene, it does seem very disjointed at moment.

Another bit of the "early sexual experimentation" scenes was establishing the rules of the time stoppage as well as the narrator trying to justify robbing banks.

It's really not for everyone, and I'm actually surprised I liked it, considering the subject matter.

Vivienne Raper said...


Maybe I had a failure of expectations then... I knew it was about a couple who stopped time by having an orgasm. And robbed banks while they stopped time.

I'm a fan of the Parker novels (about a master thief who does heists) and I was expecting Parker with smut and time travel. I was flicking forward going 'Where's the bank robbery? What's with all the backstory? Give me a bank robbery'.

I agree, Volume 1 seems to be setting up for a later volume and feels disjointed. I suppose, for me, getting to the point and filling in the back story as you go along is basic storytelling technique. I had no patience with the slow start.

There may also be a cultural difference too. I read a lot of noir crime novels and I assume that bank robberies don't need a motivation beyond 'there is money in banks'. So I got annoyed by the panel-after-panel of characters justifying why they were robbing a bank. Likewise the pages of song lyrics was unforgivably loose.

Perhaps I was expecting too much since, as you say, many comic books suffer from decompressed storytelling...

Thanks for this! :D I thought I was missing some important bit of narrative. It seems like I understood the story, I just didn't like the narrative structure.

Tegan said...

Yeah, if you aren't a regular comic book reader, the decompressed storytelling style would probably grate. I felt the narrative structure was pretty standard for a story like this... but then I read mostly comic books at this point in my life and I'm only starting to get back into prose thanks to this Hugo mess.

Thank you for the insight! It's always good to step outside my expectations and see how other people think of a work.