The 2018 Hugo finalists for Best Graphic Story

Back to Hugo blogging again, with the Graphic Story category for 2018. Interesting to note that this year we have two Prison Break stories, three Fantastic Voyages, and one that isn’t really sfnal at all. I did not find it hard to make my ranking (with one exception); but I am also conscious that my choices here are even more subjective than usual.

6) Black Bolt, Volume 1: Hard Time, by Saladin Ahmed, Christian Ward, & Clayton Cowles

I'm not into Marvel mythology, but this seems to be an origin myth for the superhero Black Bolt, tricked out of his rightful kingship and imprisoned in deep space along with various other hard cases (most with their own super powers). He makes allies with his fellow inmates and breaks free. There is a certain amount of social commentary on the US prison system (though perhaps slightly pulling its punches). I think I would have needed to be more invested in the overall Marvel universe to really appreciate this. You can get it here.

5) My Favourite Thing is Monsters, Part One, by Emil Ferris

Make no mistake, this is a tremendous piece of work, one of the great graphic novels of the century so far. It’s about a young girl in Chicago in 1968, obsessed with monsters, whose upstairs neighbour is mysteriously shot; and her investigations take her to some very dark places in the past and present, notably the experience of Jews in Nazi Germany.

However I can’t really accept this as sf. Karen, the protagonist and viewpoint character, is almost always portrayed as a troll; but it’s clear that this is her own self-image, and in fact she is an entirely human kid. None of the plot requires sfnal elements to work.

I think that this is the first time this issue has come up in this particular category, but it’s not unusual – back in 2014, both “Wakulla Springs”, in the Best Novella category, and more notoriously “If You Were A Dinosaur My Love” in the Best Short Story category, were finalists despite a real lack of sfnal content. Hugo administrators must of course balance the choices of nominators against the rigour of definitions, and the last book to be disqualified on grounds of content despite receiving enough nominations to be a finalist was L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, vol XVII, back in 2002, judged to have insufficient non-fiction content to qualify for Best Related Book. It’s generally up to voters to exercise their choices, and I choose not to give high preferences to fiction that isn’t really sf or fantasy. It’s still well worth getting.

4) Bitch Planet, Volume 2: President Bitch, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Valentine De Landro and Taki Soma, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, lettered by Clayton Cowles

This is another Prison Break story, but with the extra wrinkles of gender, sexuality and politics woven into the essential narrative of tragic arrest and detention on spurious grounds in a deeply corrupt system. I felt I cared a bit more about the characters here than I did with Black Bolt. Get it here.

3) Monstress, Volume 2: The Blood, written by Marjorie M. Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda

The first volume of this story won last year, and here our protagonists take a trip to the mysterious Isle of Bones, to resolve past issues and maybe gain future strength. Once again it’s gorgeously illustrated and tightly plotted; once again I find myself a bit squicked by the violence, and dropping it maybe a place or two for that rather subjective reason. You can get it here.

2) Paper Girls, Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher

I had read the first volume soon after it came out, and greatly enjoyed it, but missed the second volume, and wondered if I would feel able to pick up the plot having missed half of it. In fact it worked out fine. Our heroines are trapped many thousands of years in the past, getting mixed up with the local indigenous inhabitants, other time travellers and the mysterious alien presence which seems to be Behind It All, meanwhile each grappling with her own set of issues which can’t be left behind. I’ll probably fill in the gap and get the second volume. Meanwhile you can get vol 3 here.

1) Saga, Volume 7, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples

Sometimes it’s nice to get back to familiarity. I read all of these during a slightly stressful week or so, and there was somthing very comforting about sliding back into the familiar world of Saga – even though a favourite character appears to get brutally written out. I suppose that Vaughan and Staples have an end in mind for this story, but I am not in any hurry for them to get there; I am really enjoying the journey. It gets my vote, and you can get it here.

2018 Hugos: Novel | Novella | Novelette | Short Story | Related Work | Graphic Story | Dramatic Long | Dramatic Short | Professional Artist & Fan Artist | Series | Young Adult | Campbell Award
1943 Retro Hugos: Novel | Novella | Novelette | Short Story | Dramatic Short | Fan Artist