So, I’ve been hearing good things about this new comic book series. It was the subdued kind if good things, the recommendations on blogs, from readers who actually enjoyed it. There is no hype swamping the internet (although if you go looking for it, you will find tons of rave reviews). This is the kind of graphic novel that everybody seems to recommend without the publisher making a big deal out of it. So naturally, I had to buy it. I read it yesterday in one sitting and… Wow – this thing is brilliant. When’s volume two coming out?
Published by: Image Comics, 2012
Paperback: 160 pages
Series: Saga #1 (duh)
My rating: 9/10
First sentence: Am I shitting? It feels like I’m shitting.
When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.
This volume collects the first six issues of the smash-hit series.
My love for graphic novels is, in the big scheme of my reading addiction, a late addition. I started with the “classics” of the genre with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Moore’s V for Vendetta and Watchmen, the Sin City series and then went on to more experimental (not as tested by the community) comic books such as The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin. My boyfriend has been telling me to read Transmetropolitain and The Boys but while they interest me, no recent graphic novel spoke as much to me as Saga. The cover alone promises Tons of Cool Stuff. And it didn’t disappoint.
We enter on Alana giving birth to her child, with her horned boyfriend Marko helping as much as he can. It becomes clear very soon that (a) they are on the run and (b) there will be a fight about the baby’s name. Writer Brian K. Vaughan doesn’t only combine fanasy and science fiction, he also weds humor with horror, action with emotional scenes and generally adds a bonus of awesome to every page. He also adds something that we rarely see in actiony stories – the protagonists are brand-new parents! Having a baby is challenging enough in a stable world with help from family and friends and I suppose few fantasy writers take up the subject because it complicates everything. It makes for particularly heartstopping moments when not just our competent heroes are in danger, but so is the helpless baby. Plus, I really enjoy reading about relationships after the first bumpy get-to-know phase.
Saga Volume One did so many things right. The dialogue is snappy and brings the characters to life incredibly easy. After only two pages, I felt that I knew – to some extent – who Alana and Marko were, and their love became an inevitability, their voices clear and distinct. Of course, this Romeo and Juliet in space offers more than just a couple of new parents on the run from their respective armies. It is the newborn child that narrates the story and gives this first volume a sense of being a very small part of a bigger picture (which I cannot wait to discover). While they are running away, trying to keep their child safe, they meet all sorts of curious creatures all of which benefited from this story’s medium. I doubt that prose descriptions of the author’s imagination would have done quite the same job. I was especially fascinated with The Stalk and Izabel, both because of the way they are drawn and who they were.
The art in general was totally up my alley. There are characters that are mostly human-looking, but some that are anything but. To my delight, this graphic novel is also full of little details that don’t necessarily pertain to the story but that make you smile when you notice them. For example, the greasemonkey Marko talks about way in the beginning turns out to be an actual monkey mechanic. Call me silly but things like that make me happy. I hope the thought police doesn’t come knocking at my door for liking this little quirk, telling me how wrong it is to portray a group of people (namely mechanics) as an animal, thusly disrespecting them, etc. etc. I don’t mean it that way and you know it. At this point, I must also mention the visit to Sextillion, a place with lots of sexy time going on. Apart from the fact that what The Will finds there is utterly disgusting and made me wince, I was impressed with Fiona Staples’ way of drawing lots of naked ladies (and gentlemen, although I’m not sure about their manners) without going too far. If you are sqeamish, if you have a problem seeing naked breasts or the occasional penis, then this is probably not for you. Also: swearwords. Lots of them. Alana has a filthy mouth and always finds the best insult for every situation.
Alana and Marko aren’t the only characters we follow in these first 6 issues of the series. Naturally, people are out to get them and these people have leaders in high places. One hires a mercenary to kill them and retrieve the child, another one, a robot prince with a TV instead of a head, has to hunt them to get his father’s approval and finally be done with this war. The TV-robot-guy, prince IV, opens a whole world of possibilities because sometimes emotions (or memories?) flicker across his TV screen. I have nothing more to say to that except awesome!There are multiple layers to each of these characters and we only get glimpses for now but enough of a taste to make us beg for more.
That is probably my only negative thing to say here – while the characters were fully fleshed-out and felt real to me (despite the horns, wings, TV heads, etc.), I would have liked to spend more time with them. Action scene follows on action scene, guaranteeing that there is not a boring moment in sight, but I felt this story deserved at least an extra 50 pages. And also, I lied a little. There are quieter moments that focus on the emotional drama, rather than the physical. I realise this is just the opening chapter to a bigger story and I’ll leave it to you to interpret my slight diasppointment. I wanted more. Because it was that good? Yes. Because the story told in this first paperback could have been spread out a bit more to give us more insight into the characters (especially The Will and Prince IV)? Definitely. But if you think about it, me wanting more of the same, and in a larger chunk next time, can’t really be counted as negative, can it?
THE GOOD: Incredible characters, fast-paced action, emotional levels to everything the characters do, and a world that begs to be explored more.
THE BAD: It was too short. The Stalk’s story arc was the only one that really suffered from the abrupt ending point, but I would have liked more in general.
BONUS: Lying cat. Also, The Stalk. That bitch is straight out of my nightmares.
THE VERDICT: If you haven’t guessed yet, I am going to recommend this book to everyone. It’s a fast-paced science fiction odyssey with Romeo and Juliet bickering along the way and super creepy creatures lurking in the dark. It is fun, it is original, and the art is beautiful. Go out and get it (or maybe wait until the second paperback comes out so you don’t have to suffer like me…)
RATING: 9/10 – Pretty close to perfection
- Volume 1
- Volume 2
- Why You Should Be Reading Saga (comicbooked.com)
- Review: Saga, Vol. 1 (inbedwithbooks.blogspot.co.at)
- Graphic Novel Review: Saga vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (http://classicvasilly.wordpress.com)