I came across this post by Memory (who writes In The Forest Of Stories) on ladybusiness last week. It’s about her picks for the Best Graphic Story category at the Hugo Awards, with good details about what qualifies and how you can nominate things. It added about 9 more comics to my TBR pile…
I’ve knocked two of those off already, and can concur with what Memory said regarding Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch (“It’s the secondary world fantasy comic I never quite dared to want.”)
Nimona is a web comic by one of the creators of Lumberjanes, and although it will be released as a graphic novel in May, it’s still available online for you to read for free. So you should go do that. Now. Here’s the link again: Chapter 1 Page 1.
It’s about a shapeshifter who thinks she’d be the perfect sidekick for Ballister Blackheart. He’s a former hero turned evil scientist who is determined to bring down The Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics and get revenge on his arch-nemesis Ambrosius Goldenloin.
Nimona quickly proves her worth to the initially reluctant Ballister, and a cautious friendship forms (in the midst of explosions, fierce battles, and the sudden appearance of sharks and dragons). Things start to escalate, and as the stakes get higher old secrets test friends and foes alike. The conclusion is incredible and heartbreaking and if at times the comic seems merely funny and entertaining, the ending rams home the fact that it is so much more.
Nimona is a complex character, a teenager with a lot of trauma in her past who is not very good at being loved. She is spunky and hilarious and passionate, and her relationship with Ballister is unusual, defying so many tropes that I can’t even… That relationship is the heart of the story – it’s non-romantic, a friendship where both characters support and challenge each other, while kicking ass and taking names and ordering pizza.
I loved this comic sooooooo much. It made me laugh (a lot) and cheer and cry a bit and then whoop for joy. I haven’t read a web comic from start to finish before, or in nearly one sitting, so that was a fun aspect. Noelle Stevenson’s little comments at the bottom of each update were a huge part of the fun, and the comments from other readers were great too. I felt bad for them, left hanging on the edge of their chairs week upon week!
Memory wrote another guest post for ladybusiness all about Nimona and what makes her such a well written and important character, and why the comic as a whole is fantastic, and it is totally worth the read and the consideration of the thoughts it will inspire. (There are mild spoilers, but if anything they’ll make you want to read the comic more.) After reading her post I want to read Nimona again, and I know that when it comes out in book form I will be buying a copy or two and passing them out with grim determination to everyone I know.
Rat Queens: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch pales in comparison, but only slightly. It is about a troop of lady mercenaries who brawl and party their way through the Middle-Earth style world they inhabit, leaving a bloody trail of wreckage and laughter behind them.
Betty is a Smidgen (Hobbit-like), and a tiny badass thief, while Violet is a sword-slinging dwarf (who looks even hotter with a beard, she claims). Hannah is a saucy elven spellcaster, and Dee is a human who used to be part of an octopus-worshiping cult (her healing tricks make me question if she still believes in the octo-god).
In Vol. 1 the Queens avoid an assassination attempt, try to solve a local mystery, and take on an army of trolls, all while drinking hard, doing mushrooms, getting badly injured, and trying to stay on top of their romantic entanglements. They accomplish all these things with plenty of swearing, high spirits, friendship (to the max!), and heart. And they look incredible doing it.
The plot is a little loose and loopy, but the artwork is so on fleek that I found myself dropping delighted expletives of my own as I turned the pages. The Queens are each gorgeous in their own way, with so much personality tangled up in a single frame that I was a little bit in love with all of them by page 2. Upchurch’s ability to capture expressions is kind of incredible, from quirking eyebrows to clenched teeth, to the crushing disappointment a pair of shoulders can display when grand hopes are squelched.
The action is fierce and gory, the hangovers are something to see, and the friendship between the Queens is worth being jealous of. (Seriously, the quiet moments between episodes of “large wholesale slaughter” are just lovely sometimes.) With the cliff-hanger ending to Vol. 1 (which captures issues #1-5) everyone knows that I’ll be hitting up my comic book store asap and digging out #6-11!