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Saga, Vol. 1 Paperback – October 10, 2012
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*Starred Review* Vaughan, writer of the hugely successful Y: The Last Man, isn’t one to think small. In this opener to his ambitious new series, bits of sf space opera and classic fantasy mesh in setting a sprawling stage for an intensely personal story of two lovers, cleverly narrated by their newborn daughter. Though recently soldiers from opposite sides of a massive intergalactic war, moth-winged Alana and ram-horned Marko simply want peace and anonymity to raise their daughter (an abomination to the powers that be) away from conflict and hatred. Vaughan’s whip-snap dialogue is as smart, cutting, and well timed as ever, and his characters are both familiar enough to acclimate easily to and deep enough to stay interested in as their relationships bend, break, and mend. While Vaughan will be the star power that attracts readers, do-it-all artist Staples is going to be the one who really wows them. Her character designs dish out some of the best aliens around, the immersive world-crafting is lushly detailed and deeply thought through, and the spacious layouts keep the focus squarely on the personal element, despite the chaotic cosmos they inhabit. Add another winner to Vaughan’s stable of consistently epic, fresh, and endearing stories. --Ian Chipman
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Top Customer Reviews
Short answer: Abso-freakin'-loutely.
SAGA is the type of space opera that only someone like Vaughan could do, and do with enough smarts, fun, emotion, action and surprises to keep the audience wrapped around his finger. It's the story of Marko and Alana, a pair of star-cross'd lovers from different sides of warring planets. Alana is from the planet Landfall, a place of great technological advancement, and their planet is in constant conflict with the magic-wielders of that planet's moon Wreath, where Marko hails from. Marko was captured after a battle with Landfall where he threw down his arms because he is a self-proclaimed conscientious objector, and he was imprisoned, where Alana, who was also somewhat disgraced in her military service, is his prison guard. Fast-forward several months, and Alana is giving birth to their child, Hazel, the actual narrator of the series. The very beginning of the series is dedicated to her actually giving birth, and it's hilarious and beautiful and suspenseful since they are being pursued from both sides of this galaxy-wide conflict. In the midst of their pursuit, where they are in search of a legendary (and perhaps fictional) Rocketship Forest so that they might get off the planet with their new baby, we are introduced to all sorts of new, strange, frightening and wonderfully rich characters. We meet Prince Robot IV, a humanoid being with what appears to be an old-fashioned TV set for a head, who is the one primarily tasked with the elimination of Marko and Alana. We also meet two of the bounty hunters that have are in a bidding war to get the fugitives, The Will and The Stalk. The Stalk is a somewhat frightening-looking spider-like alien who carries weapons in all of her additional appendages, and The Will is humanoid, but has with him what might be one of my favorite characters EVER and that is the character of Lying Cat, who is a talking cat that can tell when someone is lying. Also characters in their own right are a legendary group of terrifying killers called The Horrors, which, like all characters in this book aren't quite what they seem.
Alana is much more prone to using violent means to protect her husband and new baby, but Marko is hesitant, despite that he carries a sword chained inside its sheath that he has vowed never to unsheath. Prince Robot IV is less than pleased with the notion of having to track this fugitive couple down, feeling that it is beneath his aristocratic sensibilities. The Stalk and The Will obviously have a romantic/sexual past but both of them are fearsome, amoral killers, or as one might think, until The Will goes to the pleasure planet of Sextillion and his unethical code is put to the test.
Vaughan's writing is as strong and natural as it's ever been, and he uses a great deal of English-Speaking slang, because... why not? Whatever language these different races might be speaking to each other is still going to be translated to our language, and Vaughan, if nothing else, is masterful at the art of language. Each issue moves along at an incredibly even pace, allowing for moments of great suspense and violence, but also allowing for great humor, character beats and texture to the worlds around them. If there is a science fiction-fantasy comic out there that is so adept at creating its own universe, I have yet to read it.
Fiona Staples' art is an excellent balance of extreme detail to abstract lines and shading. It is exactly the feel that the book demands, and once again, Vaughan has found the perfect person to illustrate his work. Her amazeballs work is absolutely suited to this book and is absolutely one of those artists that demands following in this and other titles.
The thing that this book may bring up for some people is an age-old argument about Art vs. Pornography. The book as a whole is certainly not for the kiddies, but it's hardly packed with sexual activity. However, there is a book in this collection that broaches that argument because it does take place on the planet of Sextillion and as The Will goes walking down its streets, there are several rather explicit sexual acts going on in the background. The general way of defining "pornography" is showing sexual acts that are designed to titillate or create a general state of sexual arousal. That is very much not the case here. This is not a comic that is somehow designed to sexually excite its readers, but I can imagine perhaps a less open-minded reader or someone who is new to reading mature-themed comics being a more than a little taken aback by some of those panels. But really, it's parsed down to no more than three or four panels. It's not gratuitous and it's not in your face, but it's there, so new readers may want to be aware. That's all I really wanted to say about that.
When it all boils down to how this book is and how it makes you feel, it's an beautiful and massively entertaining book that keeps you invested in all of its characters, creates a incredibly rich universe for these characters to exist in, never fails to please the eye or the intellect, and really, like Hazel, SAGA is something of a small miracle.
I'll try not to indulge in too much detail. It'd be criminal to spoiler things for you, plot-wise and even character-wise. Suffice this: As already mentioned elsewhere and ad nauseam, there are elements of STAR WARS and of ROMEO & JULIET here, but within that context SAGA is a daring and original masterpiece, a grand undertaking. It seamlessly melds science-fiction and fantasy. The narrative concerns star-crossed lovers Alana and Marko, two soldiers from opposing sides of an ongoing galactic war. He was a prisoner-of-war. She was a prison guard. And then they ran away together. On the armpit planet called Cleave, Alana and Marko and their baby girl desperately try to slip by enemy forces. A generous bounty placed on their heads attract the most dangerous bounty hunters in the universe. Oh, and the baby narrates the story.
SAGA reeks of freshness and originality. Vaughan is so very good, and this may be his best stuff yet, and, mind you, I've read Y: THE LAST MAN, EX-MACHINA, and THE RUNAWAYS. It's such smart writing in SAGA, and so funny and subversive and thought-provoking and, yes, sometimes graphic. Seems as if there's a "What the f--!?" moment every few pages of each issue, whether it's a plot twist or some startling imagery. A tv-headed robot sits on the toilet reading a romance novel, and this isn't even the most eyebrow-raising thing that this robot has does on page. I love the interactions between our two leads. Alana and Marko are wonderfully fleshed-out. They come off as real characters. Meanwhile, Vaughan loves to dabble in gray areas. Even the projected big bads, Prince Robot IV and the bounty hunter called The Will are fascinating people and aren't depicted as straight-up evil. In this galaxy-spanning conflict it's too early yet to tell the virtuous from the a-h0le. But they're all coming for our scampering couple.
If you're poking around for something deeper, then mull over the evolution and ramifications of this war. Alana is from Landfall, the largest planet in the galaxy. Marko is a native of Landfall's sole orbiting satellite, the moon Wreath. Because direct conflict between Landfall and Wreath would result in absolute annihilation, each side has outsourced the actual combat to other worlds. This has the effect of Landfall and Wreath's respective idealogies and belief systems subverting countless other alien cultures. So the irony is that while the war is being relentlessly waged by other worlds on their behalf, Landfall and Wreath themselves exist in a state of peace. How's that for buggering your brain?
If one's name determines one's vocation, Fiona Staples would be some indie singer in a smoky cafe. Instead she's killing it with her striking artwork. I don't know how much input she has in SAGA's meticulous world-building, but she brilliantly realizes Vaughan's concepts on page. This sort of story could very easily spiral towards a gritty tone. Staples applies sure and sharp strokes to define her characters, and yet her background scenes are rendered thru loose and subdued washes. This juxtaposition tends to lend a softer edge. SAGA's world looks both brutal and beautiful.
Image Comics is on a wicked roll right now (check out CHEW, REVIVAL, HELL YEAH!, HOAX HUNTERS, WALKING DEAD). SAGA tops all of those other titles, that's how much I'm awed by it. If you're antsy for a sweeping, sprawling space opera fraught with consistently impressive writing and exquisite artwork, SAGA is your huckleberry. It hits not one false note. It manages to be both epic and deeply personal, exotic on a bizarre scale and yet so very human. What are you waiting for?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Ultimately, this is the story about a couple trying to protect their child...Read more