The window for those eligible to nominate contenders for the Best Graphic Story category for the prestigious Hugo Awards – the major global science fiction and fantasy awards - will soon be closing. Since the Hugos decided to add a comics category it has frequently suffered somewhat from a stumbling block – not all of those who can vote are familiar enough with the medium to make a good selection, unlike in the prose sections. It’s been a problem for a while – only some of those who can nominate know some comics, others may only know a handful of names, a couple of years ago I took part in a round table podcast hosted by Cheryl Morgan to discuss just that matter and offer up some suggestions of comics works with the appropriate science fictional element. This last year has offered up a whole bunch of clever, innovative sci-fi comics, several of which featured on our run of Best of the Year posts through December (including my own selection), so I thought I’d offer up a handful of “for your consideration” suggestions for the discerning Hugo voters considering some decent science fiction comics.
Grandville: Bete Noire by Bryan Talbot (Jonathan Cape): it’s the third in Bryan’s fabulous alt-history, Steampunk laced anthropomorphic tales of Lebrock of the Yard and I think it is his best entry in this series so far, showcasing spectacular, hugely detailed artwork of this steam and clockwork powered alternative Paris, with a great conspiracy story which burns along at a cracking pace and which still manages to weave in multiple references to art history and other media, demanding a number of re-reading sessions.
Saga by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image): This series was picked by by more of the blog crew and our daily guest Best of the Year posters than any other in the 2012 Best Of series and it isn’t hard to see why. Ostensibly a Romeo and Juliet-esque tale of star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of a long-running interstellar conflict, this mixes some wonderfully touching romance with our couple on the run with their infant child with future war action and some great science fiction (a forest where starships are grown, anyone? Fabulous). Beautifully emotional adventure.
The New Deadwardians by Dan Abnett and Ian Culbard (DC Comics/Vertigo): Zombies and vampires – we love them but they have been done to death in recent years. Or done to undeath. Then Abnett and Culbard decide to use both in the same mini-series and do something fresh with it. At the height of the British Empire’s powers a zombie plague requires desperate measures, with the upper classes resorting to becoming vampires in order to fight them. Our gallant Scotland Yard detective in Edwardian Britain had been such an upper class officer, vampirised to fight for queen and country, now jaded and, he thinks, passionless. Abnett and Culbard build a great world, exploring issues of class and morality and duty alongside a cracking murder-mystery in this alt-history piece, the sort of world that is just begging for more tales to expand it. Serialised last year the collected edition is out next month.
Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra (Image): Imagine that the Manhattan Project’s development of the atomic bomb was just their cover story, while an assemblage of scientific gods – Einstein, Von Braun, Feynman and more, although not like the ones we knew – worked on a series of astonishing concepts, from talking to aliens to dimensional portals, through the war and on into the Cold War, with a similar Soviet project running in parallel (including Gagarin and Laika!). From Japanese robot samurai teleporting into the US lab to an American scientist learning alien’s advanced secrets by killing them and eating their brains this is totally out there and continues to be delightfully unpredictable.
Judge Dredd: Day of Chaos/Trifecta by Wagner et al (2000 AD): Running across the venerable British science fiction comics’ 25th anniversary year the great John Wagner crafted an epic tale of revenge harking right back to the comics’ early history, bringing down the mighty Mega City around its citizen’s ears and leading into a multi-strip sequence of incredible complexity with the ultimate Trifecta, which made three strips into one huge story arc in a display of bravura writing, editing, art and storytelling. 35 years on and 2000 AD is still innovating in the medium. Simply superb. The first Day of Chaos collected edition is due next month.
Prophet by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy et al (Image): Oh how to describe this brilliant slice of wonderfully weird science fiction? A human agent awoken on a very bizarre future Earth to reclaim the Terran empire, it starts with a conventional narrative, before flipping into a series of related tales which become increasingly odd and unusual. In some ways it’s less about the story and more about being immersed into the experience in a manner reminiscent of some of those achingly cool, stylish European sci-fi comics from the 70s and 80s.
Batwoman by JH Williams III, Haden Blackman et al (DC Comics): JH Williams III and friends have been creating one of the most visually ravishing superhero comics on the market – the artwork is astonishing, atmospheric, beautiful, matched by some terrifically kinetic layouts. Engrossing characters, very strong female leads and stories which combine elements of science fiction (the gadgets, the shadowy government agency working in the weird areas), horror (a chilling supernatural menace) and fantasy (including a team up with Wonder Woman to tackle mythical monsters).
I’m sure plenty of you have some suggestions of your own (must be science fiction elements and must be from the last publishing year) so please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below.