I have now read all six nominees for the Best Graphic Novel category in this year's Hugo awards. Two observations strike me. First, some of them are not particularly good. This is often the case with Hugo nominations, with the Best Short Story list usually containing one or two total clunkers. I notice that not a lot of nominations were actually received in this category, and will be interested to see what the cutoff to get on the shortlist actually was. For all that, I hope that future WorldCons keep this as a Hugo category; comics are an important part of the sfnal world, and really this award should have been instituted decades ago.
Second, a lot of graphic novel series are pretty damn impenetrable if you jump in in the middle. The only two nominees which I really unequivocally liked were a) one based on a TV show which I loved and b) a standalone book (also based in a non-comics continuity). The other four included two climaxes to ongoing sagas (one of which I already knew, and the other of which I didn't) and two volumes in ongoing stories where much of the humour rests in established characters with whom I am unfamiliar. I wonder to what extent Schlock Mercenary and Y fans will vote for these particular books as if they represent the entire series, without really reflecting on how they stack up compared to the Serenity or Dresden Files nominees as stories in their own right. Of course, this is a problem that exists in other Hugo categories as well, notably (but not only) the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) award, and again is no reason not to choose a Best Graphic Novel.
My votes are pretty clear in my mind, as follows:
- Serenity: Better Days
- The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle
- Fables: War and Pieces
- Girl Genius 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones
- Y: The Last Man: Whys and Wherefores
- Schlock Mercenary: The Body Politic