Some of the books I discuss here are ones that I have received from publishers. This was especially the case when I was reviewing for the now sadly closed Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. I have, however, rarely (if ever?) made this clear in my comments. Not from a desire to hide that fact, or in any way be deceitful; rather it’s never a habit I got into, and sometimes I forget the provenance of a book I really want to read! Some book bloggers do a very good job of announcing it (I think of Sean the Blogonaut). So what I’m wondering is… does it make a difference? Should I make a conscious effort to notify my readers of when a book was given to me gratis by a publisher or author? I’d be very interested in your thoughts.
Look, I’ll be honest: when Tansy wrote her blog post with some recommendations for the Hugo graphic novels category, and mentioned this one, and then made a rather pointed comment about me having to read it, I kinda skimmed the post because I don’t NEED another graphic novel to be reading! This is meant to be my year of reading books I already OWN! So, you know, I was just going to… not pay much attention… 😀
Then, Tansy discussed said graphic novel on Galactic Suburbia, and made it sound even more compelling – comparing it very favourably to the Deathstalker series, which she just KNOWS is bound to pique my interest.
I went and downloaded the first instalment. (I know there’s controversy around paper vs electronic comics, but I don’t want to start buying hard copy comics – I already struggle to find space for my books, this would just be another imposition. Plus, convenience.) And then I downloaded the next one. And then… yeh. So now I am as addicted as that nasty Tansy KNEW I would be. Maybe I should send her the bill. I do, though, disagree slightly with her comparison – I think the relationship is closer to that of Hawk and Fisher than Deathstalker.
Look closely at the cover and you’ll see why Tansy was smitten so quickly. That’s a mixed race (species) couple, with the woman breastfeeding a baby. And this image was on the very first issue. Remarkable, no? The story itself is actually told from the point of view of the baby herself, which is a clever little quirk and – as Tansy pointed out with some relief – it means you know that THE BABY SURVIVES. This is a good thing. The couple themselves are soldiers from opposite sides of a galaxy-spanning war, which has been going on for more years than people care to remember. She’s got wings; he’s got horns; they’re both soldiers. Their relationship – once discovered – is naturally one that does not bring joy to their respective authorities. Especially after the revelation of the abomination that is their mixed-species child.
I am still coming to terms with the idea that I have to genuinely consider the art when I read graphic novels. First, I don’t have an instinctive love of the visual medium; second, I don’t always feel that the art is… integral?… to the comics I read. It is vital in Girl Genius but seems less so in the new Captain Marvel or Hawkeye. Maybe that just makes me a bad comic-book reader. At any rate, Fiona Staples’ art is wonderful and rich and nuanced and definitely adds to the story overall. Alana and Marko – the couple – are drawn with great expression and realism. Maybe the art works here because there’s such a range of characters and species and settings – which is more like Girl Genius and less like Captain Marvel and Hawkeye. Eh; that’s probably an indefensible proposition. Probably I just need to pay more attention to the art in those stories, like I do with Saga.
There have been 9 issues as I write. Brian K Vaughan has said that there’s a definite arc he has in mind for the story, but it’s not clear how long that will take. This could be a long term commitment, TANSY. So far, there have been mercenaries; ghost-girl nannies; subversive romance novels; attempted assassinations; robot-headed folks; in-laws; magic; blasters; secrets revealed; rocketship forests; space travel; and the sorts of domestic interludes that we’ve been complaining don’t turn up often enough in science fiction and fantasy but that clearly MUST if these people are to be believed and their relationships to function. It’s a science fiction and fantasy heroic domestic adventure. It’s Mad About You meets Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. In space. With magic.
I second the nomination of this as a nominee for Best Graphic Novel 🙂
You can buy Saga Vol 1 here; it collects issues #1-6.