Saga Vol. 1
Comic book series by Brian K. Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist)
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: October 10, 2012
I strive to keep my reviews and articles on current topics and new releases. With books and comics that are part of a series, I usually need to go back a couple of years to ensure that I start at the beginning. I wasn't sure if I should cover Saga starting at volume 1, considering it was released four years ago. After rereading it, however, I found it feels just as fresh and as new as it did when I first picked it up. And I know that if there's an ongoing comic book series worth talking about from the beginning, it's this one.
Saga is a sprawling fantasy/science-fiction space opera occupied by worlds and species inspired by our own cultures. The story focuses on Alana, Marko, and their newborn daughter Hazel. Alana and Marko are from two planets (technically one planet and its moon) that have been warring with each other since time immemorial. The war has been raging for so long that their fight encompasses the galaxy, invading other planets in order to spare their own, and hiring and recruiting allies from other governments and species. In the first volume alone we are introduced to dozens of different beings, including the monkey-like people of Cleave, the planet where Alana gives birth to Hazel. Marko's people on the moon Wreath have horns (ranging from ram to rhino to unicorn), while Alana's planet of Landfall have wings (bird, bat, insect, etc). In the first six issues of volume 1, Alana and Marko are trying to work their way across the planet Cleave to find a forest where an organic rocket ship lies in wait to take them off-planet. Along the way they meet the ghosts of Cleave's deceased children, and one named Izabel agrees to help them off planet if they take her with them. If this all sounds crazy, trust me, it is. It is insane and beautiful.
Because both Alana and Marko are defectors, they are being hunted by agents from both sides. Wreath's upper command has hired assassins known as Freelancers to hunt them down, specifically The Will and his sidekick Lying Cat (a large blue cat that can tell when people are lying), and The Stalk, a giant woman-spider hybrid. Meanwhile, Landfall has tasked Prince Robot IV (a silver-skinned, blue-blooded humanoid with a television monitor for a head) in discovering the whereabouts of Alana. These characters are not merely subplots to the overall tale. They are fully formed, with motivations, flaws, and personalities that make you root for them even as they track our heroes down. The Will and Prince Robot IV in particular are central to the story, and their development plays a large role in the future of the series.
The scope of the story is breathtaking. Despite the huge backdrop of planets, races, cultures, and histories presented here, the comic never moves away from its central focus: people. This is a story of how people react to the horrors of war, and how they dedicate themselves to family, friends, or even vengeance, just to survive. It is by its very definition an epic, a chronicle, a saga.
Brian K. Vaughan is an amazing writer who has given us Y: The Last Man from Vertigo, and Marvel's The Runaways, both of which I highly recommend checking out (Y: The Last Man, in particular, is an essential read). Recently I reviewed volume 1 of Vaughan's Paper Girls, which I felt didn't reach the same level of his previous work. What he and Fiona Staples bring us in Saga though is nothing short of a modern classic. It has won several Eisner and Harvey Awards, as well as the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story. Of course it's not just the story that sells it. Staple's artwork is superb, with vibrant colors and intricate details. She uses a realistic style that make even the most odd-looking alien seem like a real character. Most of the people we meet that don't look like normal humans usually have features or designs based on animals, so when a character shows up that's a large anthropomorphic sea horse, it looks like an honest-to-god sea horse. Some characters designs, like The Stalk, are some of the coolest I've seen in any medium.
I cannot recommend this comic enough. Please be warned that it contains violence and nudity of a graphic nature, and that this is not a comic for younger readers. There's blood, guts, nudity, sex, and language that somehow surpasses everything else (which is why I've only been able to show the covers). In fact, Saga had some issues with censorship with Apple concerning some of its details. I don't think this should dissuade you from at least sampling what this has to offer. This is some of the best storytelling and artwork you'll see in comics today, and we'll certainly be taking a closer look at the series.