Published by Image Comics, Saga is a monthly comic book from writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Dr. Strange: The Oath) and illustrator Fiona Staples. It tells the story of the early years of our young narrator, Hazel. Hazel’s mother is a former guard at a military prison. Her father was once a prisoner. Their two races have been at the forefront of a Galactic War that has raged on for longer than anyone can remember. Regardless, the two fell in love, escaped, married one another, and had a child. Now they’ve been discovered and are trying to escape the planet, Cleave.
This review is of the first volume trade paperback collection of issues 1-6. I could make it really short.
Go. Hunt. Buy Saga.
I’ve said before that Vaughan (BKV) is one of my favourite authors working in comics today. The characters he creates always interest me. His dialogue is witty, his characters often trade jabs and hilarious insults. He writes Whedonesque women who are simultaneously strong and feminine. His male characters, often, seem to find themselves forced into situations where they are overwhelmed, or must confront their own weaknesses. His plots may sometimes be filled with holes, but they’re usually driven by the characters, so I’ve never been left wondering “That makes no sense. Why would _____ want do to that?”
Saga is really BKV at the top of his game. This first volume shows all of his strengths, in spades. I find it particularly interesting that, like Star Wars, basically every element of the story is reminiscent or referential of something else, but it all comes together in a way that feels wholly original. The book doesn’t look or feel like anything else I’ve read before. The alien races all have a humanoid familiarity to them, in much the same way Star Trek‘s races always seemed to, and yet, I can’t imagine them feeling more other. And in just the six short issues contained in this volume, we barely get a taste of the vastness of what a whole war-torn galaxy might look like.
Most of the credit for that accomplishment undoubtedly has to go to artist, Fiona Staples. She is, apparently, a one woman army on this book. Not only does she do the pencils, but also the inks, shading and lettering, and they’re all fantastic. Her artwork, character and creature designs are absolutely fantastic. Almost everything in the galaxy is gruesome, sexy, psychedelic, or all that combined. A particularly interesting race is the ruling class of robots with TV Screen heads and humanoid bodies. Meanwhile, the main characters have a kind of ethnic ambiguity to them. Their features aren’t overtly white, black, tan, or whatever, and this leaves you feeling that they are just… alien.
But the series isn’t 100% science fiction, either. There is a strong fantasy component to this world as well. Living space ships and ghosts inhabit the planet Cleave. Also, while the side of the war that Hazel’s mother’s race fights for seems primarily influenced by technology and tradition, Hazel’s father’s side seems to focus more on magical spells and brute force. Other fun sources like Star Wars, He-Man, Final Fantasy, Farscape and Thundercats have, at times, successfully been able to mix together Fantasy and Science Fiction elements to create wonderous worlds. Very rarely, however, does anyone do so in a way that doesn’t feel cheesy or childish. While this book definitely has fun, it doesn’t seem the least bit cheesy. It’s high-but-non-juvenile levels of sex and violence make it feel anything but childish.
If I had to knock it anywhere, it would be that the sexual content does border on gratuitous. This doesn’t bother me in any way, but it certainly does affect the series’ marketability and accessibility, so it does bear mentioning.
I’m extremely excited to continue reading this series. It’s been years since I put down a trade, and wanted to have more of it… right now. The last time was probably Vol. 8 of The Walking Dead.
is not enough for how excited I am to continue this series.