Best Graphic Story -- As a long-time reader of superhero, especially Marvel, comics, I'm definitely biased toward the capes. But this year's noms only have one (which I have already read, and loved). Here are my thoughts, in reverse alphabetical order:
Zombie Nation -- As the only one NOT included in the packet, I'm going to judge this one based on the most recent month of comics (it's a webcomic). And I have to say... meh. It's occasionally funny, but it's just not in the league of the other noms. 1 out of 5
Sex Criminals -- You had me at "sex"! And "criminals"! Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky's highly acclaimed comic lives up to its reputation. Funny, touching and it left me wanting more; what more could you want from a comic? Any other year, and this would most likely be my pick. but it's up against the force of nature that is Kamala Khan. Sorry, criminal fornicators, maybe next year! 4 out of 5
Saga -- I started reading Saga from the beginning, but I quickly grew tired of the seemingly endless churn through ideas with little follow-through. Not bad by any means, but this is my baseline for an award (for this year). 2.5 out of 5
Rat Queens -- I was pretty psyched to find out this was in the noms/packet, as I've heard a lot of raves about it. Fun, funny, sword and sorcery action. Boozing, fighting, this is balls/ovaries-to-the-wall action. An excellent read and a worthy winner, but unfortunately they brought a sword to a catapult fight. 4 out of 5
Ms. Marvel -- Kamala Khan is all kinds of awesome. She's firmly in the classic Marvel teen hero mold, following Peter Parker, Ultimate Peter Parker******, Kitty Pryde, The Runaways, Miles Morales, etc. She's smart, trapped between wanting to be a good daughter and fit in, and secretly dreaming of being a superhero. And, because it's a Marvel comic, she becomes one. She's a muslim teen in New Jersey, but none of those traits defines her (though the Jersey bit comes the closest) -- she's fully rounded, as is her best friend/wannabe suitor Bruno. Highly recommended. 4.5 out of 5 (had they included the Wolverine story, it might've been 5 out of 5).
So, my final vote:
* Seriously, as long as I can remember. One of my first book(ish)-buying memories was to get comics at the pharmacy in scenic** Fairview, TN.
** "Scenic" here is a synonym for "redneck and boring"
*** Soooooooooo overrated. Ugh.
**** Soooooooooo underrated. Ah!
***** I kid because I love. And because DC has been selling the sizzle, not the steak, since DiDio took over.
****** Confession: Ultimate Spider-Man is probably my favorite long-run of any comic, ever. Bendis and Bagley were AMAZING.