Hugo 2017 Graphic Novels

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Posted on : 7/23/2017 07:43:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Unfortunately, I was unable to read all of the graphic story nominees before voting closed this year.

I had previously read Monstress and was very taken by it.  I feel that in terms of art and storytelling, Monstress is a first rate piece of work that is worthy of the award.

So I voted for Monstress and didn't vote for anything else.  There were one or two other categories where I was familiar with one of the works but didn't think I could in good conscience only vote for it when I had not read/heard/seen the other nominees.  Monstress is definitely first class material.

Had I voted in time, this is how my ballot would have looked.

1.  Monstress - Volume One (The only vote actually cast)

Great art.  Great storytelling.  A unique perspective that is heavily influenced by Japanese anime.  (Is that a redundant phrase?)  One aspect of the story that I like is that women hold the positions of power in this fictional world.  The author doesn't explain it.  She doesn't lace the dialog with arsenic laden commentary suggesting many and varied deficiencies in men.  The women here have power.  Deal with it.

Hurrah!  Finally, an author that can get off of their gender studies soap box and just create something entertaining while remaining true to their perspective.

Straightforward story telling coupled with great art and inventive world building make this series a clear winner.

2.  The Vision - Volume One

The Vision series explores the attempt by The Vision and his family to live a prototypical American lifestyle.  Being a family of synthetic humans, they suffer from all of the usual tropes about clan/tribe behavior that is adjacent to outright racism.

At the same time, as they open themselves up to human behavior patterns, they become susceptible to human foibles.  They grow protective of their family.  They develop attachments with humans that attempt to have a normal relationship with them.  This is the dark side of a machine that becomes more human every day.

3. Paper Girls - Volume One

Paper Girls tells the tale of a small group of girls that deliver newspapers.  It is set in the 1980s and suggests that girls delivering the newspaper was some sort of major step for women.

We had paper girls in the 1970s.  There were not a lot of them, but they were there.

In this case, it is suggested pretty heavily that they had to work together to keep from being assaulted, kidnapped, and subject to all manner of abuse while delivering newspapers in suburbia.  Back in the day, kids delivering newspapers in suburbia were given extra protection.  People looked out for those kids. So on this issue, the plot is a little bit off.

Their world goes all wonky.  Almost everyone disappears.  Other entities/people start appearing to snatch up those that remain.  There are two different groups of people that are apparently traveling through time to do whatever it is they are doing.  The story gives you enough clues to keep the reader interested.  The artwork is pretty good and the storytelling is great.  It invites all sorts of readers to engage in the plot regardless of who the reader happens to be.  I'm glad that I encountered this series.

4.  Saga - Volume Six

OK.  I changed my mind.  Saga can thank Paper Girls for my moving it from just below No Award to just above it.  I thought about it for a few days and I was really more engaged in the story plot than my initial reaction suggested.

The story revolves around a series of otherwise pedestrian plot lines that focus on race and gender identity issues.  The artwork has improved since I encountered Volume 3 two years ago as another Hugo finalist.  That volume was a hot mess of marginal art and a messy story.  This was a definite improvement over that volume.

While this is a good nominee, it is not, IMHO, a great nominee.  If it weren't for all of the allegories to human race and sexuality issues, this would be a middling series at best.

Saga can also thank Ms. Marvel because.....

5. No Award

6. Ms. Marvel - Volume Five

I put Ms. Marvel - Volume One in first position in 2015.  It was definitely cutting edge in terms of art, character development, and story telling.

Volume Five is a big step backward.  The art isn't particularly inspiring.  The plot centered around the ubiquitous "evil corporation" that is gentrifying an urban area.  Quite frankly, the "evil corporation" stuff has been done to death.  Add to that the fact that gentrification improves an area rather than tears it down.  Essentially, gentrification is a positive change due to people making choices due to their free will.

Reading Ms. Marvel also provided some scale that moved Saga above the line.

7.  Black Panther - Volume One

Holy shnikes!  What a hot mess!

While the art was great, the storyline bounced around more than a freshly hit racquetball.  Black Panther would jump out to the jungle to fight someone.  Then he would jump back to the city for some consultation and introspection.

Other people (I hesitate to call them villains, yet) experience bureaucracy in the city before they are whisked out to the jungle for imprisonment and other events.

The cities are gleaming modern citadels that enjoy a broad panoply of technology and modern architecture while appearing bereft of average citizens.  Conversely, ordinary citizens live and work in the country under much cruder conditions with far less technology.

It is as if the people in control don't want to be bothered with actually interacting with common people.  That plot line alone should have me in love with this series.

The storytelling is so disjointed that it is no surprise that Marvel killed it after so short a run.

This arc/series was written by Atlantic Monthly writer Ta-Nehisi Coates.  I have read Mr. Coates columns in the Atlantic from time to time.  There are times when I am deeply affected by his work.  Other times less so, but that is as it should be in a world with a wide range of people.

Mr. Coates leftward leaning political tendencies are pretty well known.  So I was surprised that the Black Panther came so close to embracing capitalism!  The cities in the book are modern architectural confections, and the technology in the cities is so evident because they discovered a mount of vibranium elsewhere in the country.

This is (apparently) a highly valued commodity.  So Mr. Coates endorses the exploitation of the environment for the purpose of consuming valuable resources.  And he has no qualms about the profits of such activity paying for the aforementioned cities/technology.

Ta-nehisi Coates is apparently a capitalist at heart.

But wait!  In his attempts to "save" his nation, he kills men that were providing for their families.  He says that he will provide food and shelter.  The men's widows proclaim that their husbands were already handling those issues nicely before the Black Panther killed them.  Apparently, the wealth from the vibranium mines and industries is supposed to be spread around by the government instead of being earned by the companies and people doing the actual work.  Alas but capitalism dies another cruel and unjustified death.

The Black Panther then goes on to inspire a large group of women to become radicals that will provide for themselves (food, shelter, defense) rather than rely on the government.

What does this book lack for a moderately libertarian soul, such as myself, to not be in utter love with it?

A coherent story.  This series is unworthy of being nominated, much less making the short list.