We continue our Reading the Hugos series with a look at Graphic Story. I can't help but compare a bit to the five finalists from last year's ballot and only Invisible Republic would make the cut here. I was already impressed with Monstress, Saga, and Paper Girls as each collection was on my nominating ballot. Heck, I was impressed enough by Paper Girls to include both of the published collected editions on my ballot - so I was definitely glad to see the first book make the cut. Beyond that, this list is dominated by two publishers with an even split between Marvel and Image. Granting that these are generally some excellent books and were on my ballot, I still would have liked to have seen a wider variety of publisher's on the list. I just can't say specifically what because I'm not well read enough in what's going on in comics today - which I would also guess might be the case of a lot of voters. Or maybe I'm just projecting. Either way, let's get to this year's finalists.
Black Panther, Volume 1: A Nation Under Our Feet, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze (Marvel)
Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)
Ms. Marvel, Volume 5: Super Famous, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa (Marvel)
Paper Girls, Volume 1, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (Image)
Saga, Volume 6, illustrated by Fiona Staples, written by Brian K. Vaughan, lettered by Fonografiks (Image)
The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man, written by Tom King, illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta (Marvel)
The Vision: I completely get that there should be something compelling about Tom King's story of a robot family trying to live as humans AND about this same story about a superhero trying to live as normal life as possible, but somehow this didn't quite work for me. I loved the ideas of the story, but not the execution.
Monstress: I'm not sure if it is Sana Takeda's art or Marjorie Liu's story of the after effects of brutal war and even more horrific experiments, but the combination of the story marks a truly stellar book. Monstress is a beautiful, sinister, wonderul, nasty book. I wish this first book was twice as long just so that the story didn't have to end (or pause, since this is an ongoing series). Sana Takeda's art is the strongest in the category. So gorgeous and perfectly detailed.
Black Panther: I will grant that I've only been diving into the Marvel Comics Universe for the last several years with a random starting point (right around Avengers Disassembled), but I don't believe I've read a Marvel book written quite like this volume of Black Panther. This is a thoughtful, more meditative book where even the action is complemented by T'Challa considering what it means for him to return to Wakanda to reclaim the throne he gave up to his now killed sister and face the revolution his nation is in the midst of.
Ms Marvel: There is a certain amount of fame and notoriety that comes with being a superhero, and perhaps none more than if you're also a member of the Avengers. Kamala continues to balance high school with her superheroing, but the Hope Yards Development & Relocation Association are looking to gentrify Jersey City (and make buckets of money) AND they're using Ms Marvel's image to get their way - except Ms Marvel didn't sign off on it and how do you punch a corporation anyway? G. Willow Wilson has been knocking her run of Ms Marvel out of the park and Super Famous is no exception. I continually enjoy how the lower key threats in Jersey City come across as just as important as the big world breaking threats of the Avengers - which, I suppose, is because the threats Ms Marvel faces back home are big to her and to her city. They're single super hero threats rather than Avengers level threats.
Saga: I continually find myself at odds as to how to describe Saga, whether has a single collection or the series as a whole. It's a story of family told across a galaxy filled with a menagerie of increasingly bafflingly weird creatures all exhibiting their own deeply personal versions of humanity (or, of sentience, I suppose). It is, in turns: hilarious, violent, profane, lovely, and heartbreaking. Volume 6 is all of those things, and more. If not for the other book written by Brian K. Vaughan on this ballot, Saga would be my top choice. It's fantastic.
Paper Girls: On her ballot, Abigaul Nussbaum describes Paper Girls as "Stranger Things starring four Barbs, the less-popular, slightly weird girls who just happen to be the only ones left standing when reality takes a break on one ordinary fall day in 1988", which is a very apt way to describe the book that I never would have thought of but makes perfect sense. It shares the sense of nostalgia while telling a fresh story of the beginning of an alien / monster / something invasion. There's cool stuff here with great character work. I could say this of most of the books on this ballot, but I really want all of Paper Girls at one time so I don't have to stop reading. There's a reason I tried to nominate both Volume 1 here as well as Volume 2. They're really friggin great.
1. Paper Girls
3. Ms. Marvel
4. Black Panther
6. The Vision
Please feel free to look at our previous coverage:
BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 2017 Hugo Award
Finalist for Best Fanzine. Writer / Editor of the mostly defunct Adventures in Reading since 2004. Minnesotan.