This is the first time I’ve ever done a review on a comic book, and I can’t think of a better one to start with than Saga, a science-fiction/fantasy story written by Brian K. Vaughan (who did two of my other favorite comics, Y: The Last Man and The Runaways) and illustrated by Fiona Staples. This post will be shaken down into 5 parts: Story, characters, worldbuilding, art, and some extra fangirling about anything I might’ve missed.
Mums and dads have never been more badass.
STORY: I read the very first issue of Vol. 1 on the Comixology App (because it was free haha) and was instantly hooked because of the art and the story–but more than anything, it was the characters that got me interested and made me laugh. The story is about a war being fought by two enemy races across the expanse of a galaxy far, far away–one side has horns and the other side has wings. However, two soldiers named Alana and Marko, from opposite sides fall in love, forsake the war, get married and have a baby together. Their daughter is born in the first issue, but their respective armies send people to hunt them down, one of which is a bounty-hunter named The Will. The story does touch a bit on the politics of the war, but more than anything the center of it is how the family struggles to survive while on the run, and in the end it’s pretty much about how wars can ruin things and end up looking pretty stupid, especially because most people in the story have lost sight of why they’re fighting in the first place.
The story is really well-written; the dialogue is hilarious! It was really enjoyable for me because even if the setting is in an over-the-top fantasy world at war, the protagonists are still more occupied with soiled diapers and ex-girlfriends than whatever all the fighting is about. The story is narrated by a grown-up version of Hazel, the baby; which I guess is reassuring in a way because it must mean that the characters live through their adventures. But her voice also provides a laid-back commentary on what first-time parenting is like, and based on what I hear from my own parents and relatives, the events in Saga will be incredibly relatable to anyone, even if they’ve never had to breastfeed while dodging laser fire.
Marko and Alana’s story, as explained by some of the people trying to find them, actually begins when Marko was captured and Alana, having been demoted previously, was assigned to guard him at a detention facility. They fell in love and eloped within a matter of hours, but what I love about them is–despite their story having all the elements of being some kind of desperate Romeo-and-Juliet, love-at-first sight tale that sounds doubtful at first, the way they interact and balance each other out really convinces one that they’re perfect together, incredibly sweet, and a power couple to end ALL power couples. It’s a great OTP investment; you do not not want to ship this.
CHARACTERS: Characters are, for me, what always makes or breaks a story, and the ones in Saga instantly became really special to me (in Tumblr speak, they became ‘my bbys.’) First off, the protagonists are super interesting because they’re beyond the box–I don’t often see a lot of comic books that focus on parents and parenting. But what makes the protagonists in Saga more interesting is watching them navigate through life as parents, spouses and refugees, because their dialogue and reactions are so hilariously realistic. Especially when Alana curses– being impulsive, brash and a little foul-mouthed, maybe she doesn’t start out as great ‘mom material,’ but over the course of five issues, she certainly does grow into the role and sends the message that it doesn’t matter who you are; if you’re willing to do anything to protect your kid, that makes you a great parent already. And Marko–just Marko, guys. He’s like a combination of your adorkable high-school sweetheart and enthusiastic first-time daddy. Is it too much to ask for a Marko in your life!?
also he can do magic, yay!
Izabel is a character who joins the family later on. She is, according to Alana: ‘a dead teenager missing her vagina’ because Izabel got killed after stepping on a landmine and presents as a legless ghost floating around, who becomes Hazel’s first babysitter. She’s pretty much an example of how wars can seriously muck things up for children in particular, but Izabel never feels sorry for herself; she just takes it all in stride.
We also get insight into the ‘bad guys’ surrounding them, and then we realize that hey, they’re not so bad after all. Some of them, like the television-headed Prince Robot IV, are under orders to go find this family and arrest them for treason blah blah blah, but you can’t help but feel sorry for him because all he wants to do is stop fighting and start a family (with his similarly robot-headed wife.) The Will, a bounty hunter, is just trying to do his job, but deep down he’s actually a guy with good morals, exemplified when he tries to do everything to save a young girl from the rest of her life as a sex slave. Then there’s another bounty hunter called The Stalk–and even if her character design is creepy AF, I actually ended up liking her personality a lot!
You know the characters in a book are great when you can imagine their voices in your head (and to me, The Stalk sounds like a stoned/drunk Kate Beckinsale) and when they appear as people you actually know, with flaws and strengths and their own stories behind why they act the way they do. Well, that’s the characters in Saga, and not just the main ones–all of them.
WORLDBUILDING: Brian K. Vaughan created a universe of mixed races, species and cultures, which was really interesting for me. The galaxy Saga is set in is a blend of magic and technology, a lot like Narnia meets Star Wars. The differences between Landfall (where Alana is from) and Wreath (where Marko is from) are distinct and contrasting. The other locations are very cool and unique; scenes switch between haunted forests, sleek army headquarters, an entire planet that serves as a very big sex shop (disturbing scenes here) and the interior of a bio-organic rocketship. And I never knew I wanted to live in a bio-organic rocketship until I read Saga.
ART: The art. I swear to God. Aaaagh. Where do I even start? Fiona Staples is a genius with facial expression and shading. The colors are both sleek and lush. Each character distinctly looks like they’re a different ethnicity. And the panels are paced in really unique ways that allow the reader to get the best out of the scene. The characters’ clothes are just begging to be in my closet (Alana’s poncho! Izabel’s beanie!) and every spacecraft is designed to make you want to go take it for a spin. Each wide-angle landscape is a feast for the eyes, with sharp sketchy pencils and bright colors. The entirety of Saga’s art is like eating an extra-fudgy chocolate chip cookie–delicious, delightful and too good to be true. Nyom.
ANYTHING ELSE?: Let’s just say that Saga is that breath of fresh air and subversive movie-material comic that everybody needs right now–and I mean, right about NOW. And this is just volume 1! I can’t wait to see where and how far the characters go over the course of the, well, saga. Volume 1 ends with Marko’s parents having tracked the couple using magic…and if that ain’t awkward, I don’t know what is.
But the beauty of Saga is how it handles certain situations (like war) and subjects (like first-time parenting) and puts it all together in an interesting, relatable, funny, honest and brilliant way.
‘This is what I get for marrying a vegetarian! Even the goddamn PLANTS want us dead!’– Alana