Review: Saga Volume 1
Since I got into comics, I’ve always been a superhero guy. That’s what got me into them. It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve really started to explore the way in which comics allow stories of any genre to be told, as my reading branched out from mainstream Marvel books into The Walking Dead and Scott Pilgrim. But nothing could prepare me for what Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples had in store with Saga.
I knew of Vaughan’s work from his initial volume of Runaways for Marvel, which I first read when I found the Omnibus Edition in my local library and blew through it in one sitting. That book had me mark him out as a talent of rare imagination. But by the time I had discovered it, he had already been tied up by his work on TV Show LOST.
And then Saga happened.
This book was not on my radar. I knew nothing about until suddenly, the week of it’s release, all the review sites which I followed blew up with the buzz about Brian K. Vaughan’s incredible new series. So I picked up the first issue. And I was blown away. Now, the first six issues are in trade, with issue #7 on the stands and #8 just around the corner. And now I’m going to tell you why you need to read this book.
The market leaders, DC and Marvel, are always trying to make existing books more accessible. Reboots, relaunches, new #1’s, summer events, Point One issues, #0 issues… Saga starts in what is seemingly the middle of a story, and it doesn’t slow down. From the very first page, Vaughan and Staples throw you into a universe that is a dazzling blend of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and barely give you time to breathe. What this book has in spades is respect for it’s audience. It never talks down to you, it isn’t trying to hook you constantly by doing anything else then telling a gripping story in a beautiful world. Yes, there is exposition, and yes, things are explained, but the narrative never stops moving forward in truly compelling fashion.
Saga tells the story of Hazel, the story’s after the fact narrator, and her parents Marko and Alana. Hazel’s folks from opposing sides in a galactic war between the winged inhabitants of the galactic capital planet Landfall, and the horned, magic-using natives of it’s moon Wreath. On the run from both sides, Marko and Alana embark on an epic journey to find a place away from the war to raise their child. The story begins in the middle of Alana giving birth to Hazel, and almost immediately, the galactic conflict conspires to tear this new family apart.
One of the best things about Saga is the most immediately apparent: Fiona Staple’s incredible art. Her designs are mind-blowing: there’s something pleasingly familiar and yet strange about the horned and winged humanoids that make up the armies of Landfall and Wreath, but that’s as simple as it gets. What’s really impressive about Saga are the moments when Staples cuts loose: Ships, vehicles, monsters, buildings… from the spidery, almost ghostly form of freelancer The Stalk to the neon illuminated planet of decadence that is Sextillion, all rendered with a beautiful mixture of kinetic linework and colour washed vistas.
But the true beauty of Saga is the way in which Vaughan’s relentless writing and Staples’ wild imagination interweave with each other to tell this beautiful story. And make no mistake, this story is beautiful. For all the weird aliens, sci-fi setting, and magic, this is a story about love and family. But weaved into this rich tapestry is a mean streak: some strong stuff happens in this first volume, and I can’t honestly recommend it to someone not up for a bit of blood and violence. But that’s not all that might offend. Some rather dark themes are touched upon, there’s a whole lot of foul language, and some of the imagery is downright disturbing in it’s imagination. But if you can cope with it (and the violence is not quite on the level of something we’d see in a regular basis in The Walking Dead or a Marvel MAX book) then it’s an incredible ride.
I cannot wait to see where this series goes. And with the first six issues collected in this lovely trade collection, you have no reason to
not jump on now. Make no mistake, this is the closest thing to a perfect comic book I have ever read. And you should read it too, because this is going to live among the likes of Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, and The Walking Dead as prime examples of the medium.