Hugo nomination time is upon us! Apart from hoping that many listeners of Galactic Suburbia will remember to nominate us for Best Fancast (but only if you love us, obviously), I’m very keen to join the chorus of voices making recommendations for the Best Graphic Novel category, which has suffered from occasional neglect and malaise in the past (not to mention a whole bunch of cynicism).
Here are my favourite SF/graphic novel pics of the year. I hope I haven’t forgotten any!
If you like weird comics and grand space opera, this is definitely the comic for you. I was blown away by the (very reasonably priced) trade of the first six issues of this brilliant, slightly warped new series by Brian K Vaughan (of Runaways) with gorgeous art by Fiona Staples. Random Alex, you need to check out this comic!
I love the combination of space adventuring, drama, angst, domesticity and creepy alien bounty hunters, all against a war torn galactic background. The story begins with the birth of a baby to a star cross’d couple from opposite sides of a massive space war – and rather neatly, the story is narrated by that same baby which means at least I can take comfort in the fact that THE BABY MAKES IT to the end of the story. Not everyone else does.
Plus, did I mention? BABY. The two hapless parents may have made one, but they don’t have much idea how to look after it, and juggling domestic issues like nappies and breastfeeding while escaping assassins and scary alien plant menaces (not to mention dismembered ghosts) makes for a really original and fun contrast.
Graphic violence, kinky sex, dismembered ghosts, baby cooties and a wonderful jumble of magic, science and lunacy. Reeeeead this comic. Then think about nominating Fiona Staples for Best Professional Artist, too – her covers are things of beauty.
Another very strong trade comic from the first six issues of an original comic – this one written by Kelly-Sue DeConnick, with various artists (mainly Dexter Soy to start with). Captain Marvel might come with a whole lot of baggage from the history of Marvel comics, but this story of identity, time travel and feminist history gives you everything you need to know about Carol Danvers and her new name.
The art is a downside of this one – I’m not actually sure if Soy is the problem of the first few issues or if it’s more that the colourists are making his work look worse than it is – he captures the characters reasonably but the pages are terribly dark. It picks up a lot by the time Carol is bobbing around in her time travelling hijinks, though, to the point that when new artist Emma Rios came in, it was a real adjustment for me.
Still, while I might not love the visual style, the story is wonderful, so clever and pointed with plenty of history, action and banter. All of my favourite things. If the internals had the same clarity and colour of the brilliant covers from this run, it would be a perfect comic to rival my other 2012 favourite, Hawkeye (not being recced here because not remotely SFnal or fantastical).
Sadly this one has recently been cancelled and the ultimate story will be left unfinished. This first arc, though, is fresh and clever with very nice ‘realistic’ art. Cornell has taken the mythology surrounding alien abductions, Area 51 and Roswell New Mexico, and blended it with the pragmatic narrative of a charismatic female divorced Latino governor who is about to enter the US Presidential race – and with supremely bad timing, learns of the truth behind the alien abduction conspiracy.
The political discussions and campaign details are part of the joy of this trade, along with a snarky sense of humour. I’ve never seen the West Wing (I know, right) but I see why Saucer Country has been compared to it. The only warning I’d put (apart from the fact that if you like this, it’s only going to have maybe one more trade and then be finished abruptly) is that it deals extensively with actual and metaphorical discussions of rape. This is a necessary thing, I believe, considering the tradition of violation (both sexual and medical) in the mythology surrounding alien abductions, and is treated respectfully through the text – I particularly like the way that Cornell addresses the shameful way that these violations have been turned into cheap ‘anal probe’ jokes in our culture, and that he works very hard to make sure anyone reading this comic will never find them funny again.
My favourite character is Chloe, the Republican advisor brought in to play devil’s advocate in Arcadia’s very Democrat team (at least I’m pretty sure that’s the right way around) – she reminds me of Mallory Book in She-Hulk – funny, sharp and absolutely exhausted by everyone else’s weakness and incompetence. I kind of want her to continue as a DC character, regularly popping up to offer her services to, for instance, make Wonder Woman President, to improve Aquaman’s PR (have you considered a hook?) and to regularly play pool with Lex Luthor. You just know she plays dirty pool.
Yes it’s a kids comic, but Princess is also smart, clever and interrogates gender issues in the fantasy genre. Plus it has some amazing art. I haven’t managed to get hold of the trade from Australia, but I have read several issues of this brilliant comic through ComiXology and heartily recommend checking it out.
Avengers Babies vs. X-Babies by Skottie Young
Possibly my favourite single issue comic of this entire year. You have to read it to believe it. Fabulous, hilarious art, layered jokes on every page, and Cyclops has never been better, nor Wolverine wittier. Seriously.
Again, this one can be found on ComiXology.