written by David Steffen
The Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story covers graphic novels and comic book series (including web comics). Five graphic stories were on the final Hugo ballot, but Sandman: Overture (written by Neil Gaiman with art by J.H. Williams III) appeared to be only a partial of the book in the Hugo Packet, so I haven’t reviewed that here.
1. Erin Dies Alone written by Grey Carter, art by Cory Rydell (dyingalone.net)
“Erin Dies Alone is an ongoing comic strip about isolation, mental illness and videogames. It’s a lot more cheerful than that description makes it sound.” — that is the description on the webcomic for Erin Dies Alone. Erin lives alone, and in constant solitude, unemployed (I think?) and doing not much of anything but sitting around the house watching bad TV and smoking pot. In the first issue of the strip she contemplates a bottle of pills in her medicine cabinet but is interrupted by a visit from Rad her childhood imaginary friend, who digs out her old box of video games. Much of the comics take place in those video games, as Erin and Rad take the role of those characters in the game worlds.
This is an interesting one, and like the description said, more fun than it sounds. I found most of the humor a little flat, but it seems like my opinion is not a good gauge for judging the humor of geek comics because most of the time I understand the basis of the jokes but they don’t do much for me. A lot of the entries are just fun, usually not dipping too far into the dark side (though it is implicit in the setup of the comic). The games in the strip are based on real games, so gamers will likely enjoy the references and in-jokes more than anyone.
Since the nomination didn’t list a specific plotline or date range, I am guessing that it’s supposed to simply cover all of the episodes from its inception in mid-2015 to the end of 2015 with episode #75, which isn’t of any particular importance. I’m interested in seeing where the comic is going, and there have been some backstory and some character development, but so far not enough has changed for it to have much of an arc.
2. Full Frontal Nerdity by Aaron Williams (ffn.nodwick.com)
“Join four guys, usually around a gaming table, as they celebrate and dissect everything geekdom has to offer. From video games to movies to the latest version of D&D, Frank, Shawn, Lewis and Nelson find fault, find joy, and find that you really shouldn’t let Lewis roll for anything if a 1 spells disaster.”
It is what it says on the tin. Much of the series takes place around D&D gaming table exploring D&D adventures with amusing results (i.e. a battle against a god of puns), but also covers some movies and other other geek culture stuff. It’s fun, though as I mentioned in #1 I seem to be a poor gauge for judging geek humor because I usually see what the source of the humor is supposed to be without really feeling it, if that makes sense–I haven’t spent a lot of time playing tabletop games, so maybe that is part of the lack in this case.
Since the nomination didn’t list a specific plotline or date range, I’m guessing it’s supposed to cover whatever they published in 2015? Which begin at an arbitrary point and end at an arbitrary point, and make no effort to really be a “story” in any cohesive sense, so “Best Graphic Story” seems like a bit of a misnomer in this case.
3. Invisible Republic Vol 1 written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, art by Gabriel Hardman (Image Comics)
“Breaking Bad meets Blade Runner. Arthur McBride’s planetary regime has fallen. His story is over. That is until reporter Croger Babb discovers the journal of Arthur’s cousin, Maia. Inside is the violent, audacious hidden history of the legendary freedom fighter. Erased from the official record, Maia alone knows how dangerous her cousin really is… ”
This description sums it up well. The story is told in two different time periods. One through the eyes of Babb as he finds the journal and reads it, and tries to do something with the contents of the journal. The other one through the eyes of Maia, who is not a part of the official histories but saw many of the events of the rise of McBride’s regime firsthand.
The comic was well-drawn and the plot moves forward without slacking in both of the timelines. But, for me, I didn’t really get emotionally invested in either timeline. I felt empathy for Maia, but since we already know how the regime turned out I didn’t feel that her account really mattered in any substantive way. And in the future timeline, I didn’t really care about what Babb did with the journal either–he needs it as a way to make a living, because it’s a breaking story that’s actually new, but it wasn’t clear to me why the journal was actually important as anything other than a meal ticket, especially since the regime has already fallen (it might be different if McBride were still in power). To be fair, this is only volume 1, and the story has been ongoing since then.
4. The Divine written by Boaz Lavie, art by Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka (First Second)
Mark, an explosives expert, signs on to freelance job with his old Army buddy Jason in the (fictional) civil-war-torn southeastern Asian country of Quanlom. Mark is captured by a group of child-soldiers led by a pair of 9-year-old children with magical powers known as The Divine, bent on forcing a confrontation between an ancient dragon and modern technology.
This story has a gritty feel of accounts of real war that I’ve heard, and the story doesn’t pull any punches. The biggest issue I had with the story is… why in the world did Mark take the job? Mark’s wife is pregnant, and he lies to her about where he’s going to take a job from his borderline psychotic ex-military friend in a country where the U.S. isn’t supposed to have a military presence. I didn’t feel like the story justified that decision at all, and without that decision, the rest of the story wouldn’t happen (at least not from Mark’s point of view). The confrontation between magic and technology is a cool premise, but without some clearer character motivation, it falls apart for me. The Divine are closely based on actual leaders of a child army who were rumored to have mystal powers, to the point that their namesake’s images in the graphic story are recognizable in a photograph of the people. I don’t know how I feel about those two being turned into characters in a graphic story, even though they’re mentioned at the end as the inspiration.