I know, I know, I do almost all of my comic reviews on Marvel superhero comics, I’ve been criticized for rarely talking about DC, and when I’ve done that, for rarely talking about independents, and when I’ve done that, for rarely talking about non-superhero comics.
So here you go, happy yet?
Saga is an independent, non-superhero comic put out by Image Comics, written by Brian K. Vaughn with art by Fiona Staples. It describes itself as “Star Wars meets Game of Thrones”, owing to it’s interesting mix of science fiction and fantasy.
So let’s delve into the first two arcs of Saga, shall we?
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t an early adopter of Saga. As I’ve said before, I think there are some genres that work really, really well in comic book form, such as superheroes, and others that just don’t work very well. Into that camp, I put science fiction and fantasy. I think those work out best in either film or text-novels, one can give you the visual effects that you need to appreciate the storytelling and the other puts all the action into your imagination. I’ve usually had a problem with them in a sequential art format because it’s never conducive to your imagination, nor can it give you a panoramic view of the universe. That said though, I think Saga does an excellent job of taking up that middle ground, giving you just enough to understand the visual side, but not so much as to quash your imagination.
Saga tells the story of Alana and Marko, two lovers from different sides of a galactic war. Alana comes from the winged world of Landfall, a highly technological planet and Mark comes from the only moon of Landfall, Wreath, where the horned inhabitants use magic. The two sides have been at war for as long as anyone can remember, but when Alana and Marko fall in love, get married and have a child, both sides call out the troops to see them dead and their half-breed dissected. Soon, you have bounty hunters (The Will), robotic royalty (Prince Robot IV) and Marko’s ex-fiancee (Gwendolyn) chasing them down as they try, with the help of friends they’ve picked up along the way, including a ghost half-girl (Izabel), Marko’s parents who come to love Alana and a giant alien space-tree that transports them.
The story is split into 6-issue arcs, the third arc has just started but will not be reviewed here. The first arc told the story of Alana and Marko’s escape from Cleave and set up a lot of the backstory. The second arc gave a lot of background about Marko’s parents and how he and Alana fell in love. It also showed Gwendolyn and The Will teaming up, rescuing a young sex slave from a pleasure planet and the race to reach the home of D. Oswald Heist, author of Alana’s favorite book, which is a lot deeper than anyone thinks.
Now I’m not a big fan of magic, in fact, I hate it with a burning passion, but it’s use in Saga isn’t that bad, it’s not some guy in the corner screaming “MAGIC MISSLE!” or anything absurd like that. In fact, much of the technology in Saga is far enough advanced that, in Arthur C. Clarke fashion, it could all be called magic. It doesn’t grate on me too much. That said though, a lot of the aliens in Saga do. They are not realistic aliens. Some of them are just ridiculous. I know some of it is stylistic, but I’d rather have aliens that don’t jar you out of your suspension of disbelief constantly. Like it or not, I do ask myself if this is remotely realistic and most aren’t.
That said though, the art is great, the plotting is fantastic and I’m really digging the story, even if it is a bit slow at times. That’s part of the unfortunate “writing for trades” nonsense that comics do these days. One of the nicest things is that these aren’t just 22 page pamphlets, they are longer issues that allow them to pack more story between the covers than they otherwise could. I will admit to being slightly hesitant about the series over the long term. I started out really liking Vaughn’s Ex Machina, but over time, it stopped being that great, I just didn’t care for the directions it went in and while I bought the first 47 issues, I dropped it 3 shy of it’s finale. The same thing happened to his other big comic project, Y, The Last Man. I hope that doesn’t happen to Saga. I do like Vaughn’s hesitance to allow Hollywood access to the property, he wants this to be a comic book only, not a TV series and not a big budget movie. That takes a lot of guts for a writer, especially one that has so many film and TV credits to his name, to tell Hollywood to take a hike.
Saga is a story that is definitely worth following, the only problem is that there’s no good “jumping on point”, you really need to go back to issue #1 and read it all, which, while not a bad thing at all, can be an expensive proposition. It’s somewhat problematic that, as a creator-owned book, it does tend to go on hiatus now and then so you may go months without a new issue and if you’re really jonesing for a new issue, it can be hard to wait. Still, the wait is always worth it, I heartily recommend this book to any and all comic readers.