Ever since my parents let me, for some unknown reason, bring home a copy of ‘Justice League of America’ No. 219 (after purchasing it, of course. None of this ‘raising a thief’ business, mind you), I have been hooked on comic books. I purchased various Justice League and X-Men comics over the years, until I turned 12 years old and discovered something called ‘indie comics’, that could be in black and white or color, and could even contain (gasp!) inappropriate language.
Suddenly, the product Marvel and DC were putting out, with a few exceptions, seemed so childish. I wanted to learn more about these comics where heroes (or anti-heroes) could really die, and things were not as clear-cut as Marvel and DC made them. It started with Comico’s ‘Grendel’ and ‘Mage’, and later spread, Then, when I was 14 I picked up an issue of ‘Cerebus’, and for the next 8 years would exclusively only collect that series. By that time I had become a young new dad and didn’t have the time to collect comics, plus the local comic shops had closed up.
As my time cleared up a little as the children got older, I started reading comics again, and with the advent of the eBook market came digital comics, which became not only my main domain for reading comic books, but also afforded me the greater potential to experiment. Or, in some instances, Comixology (the excellent digital comics platform that I have bought into) will provide a giveaway.
One such comic book freebie was for the double-sized ‘Saga’ No. 1.
It was like digital heroin. After reading the first issue I proceeded to mainline the rest of the available several issues that evening.
‘Saga’ is by Brian K. Vaughn (of ‘Y the Last Man’ and ‘Ex Machina’ fame) and artist Fiona Staples (research tells me she worked on ‘The Secret History of the Authority: Hawksmoor’ previously, among a few other projects, but I’ll be honest, I had to look that up. I had never heard of Ms. Staples even a little bit before ‘Saga’), published through Image Comics. There was a lot of hype around ‘Saga’ leading up to it debut. Comparisons to ‘Star Wars’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ were bandied about. Impressive, sure, rarely does the actual series live up to such hype.
‘Saga’, thankfully, does. In spades.
At it’s very core, ‘Saga’ is the story of a married couple – Alana and Marko – who are from different races who also happen to be on opposite sides of a great intergalactic war (Alana’s race from the planet of Landfall and technologically advanced, while Marko’s race comes from Landfalls’ moon and wield powerful magic as weapons). In a very topical and ironic twist, both races – knowing the other planet’s destruction would mean their own – have outsourced the war to other races, which has in turn embroiled the rest of the galaxy in decades-long conflict while both homeworlds enjoy relative peace. Things get complicated fast as Alana and Marko produce an offspring, a daughter named Hazel – something Alana’s race finds abhorrent and they send mercenaries after them. Things spiral out from there, including a nanny in the form of a young female ghost (who is also missing everything below her waist), robotic princes with televisions for heads, a sentient rocket ship (which is also a tree), and more. So, so much more.
Part of the brilliance that is ‘Saga’ is how much imagination each issue is infused with. Vaughn’s scripts and Staples’ artwork just radiate with imagination. Vaughn clearly has an in-depth world plotted out for ‘Saga’; every issue peels back a little more about the galaxy in which Alana and Marko live and it feels very expansive, as though the sandbox that Vaughn and Staples are playing in is not very large but made of multiple levels. Vaughn ups this by using the technique of having Hazel provide narration during the series, looking back from some as-yet undetermined point in the future at the events during ‘Saga’, and this allows for Vaughn to drop some intriguing foreshadowing in spots. Everything about Vaughn’s scripts click – the pacing, the dialogue, the plotlines. He has an absolute passion for this series and it shines through.
Staples’ 100% digital artwork is gorgeous. It’s simply the best-looking comic out today, from the unique color palette to her beautifully drawn artwork to the very design and layout of the very issues – everything just sings. I would have to use the term ‘exquisite’ to describe the final product every month. ‘Saga’ is one of the few series where I can’t imagine waiting for the trade paperback, and a large contribution to that is that each issue is worthy of collecting and owning on their own merits. I can’t say enough about the triumph of design here.
As of this writing, there are 8 issues available. I can’t recommend them enough. If you want a stellar book to read month-to-month, with a glorious overdose of artwork and high-concept science fantasy, then ‘Saga’ is for you. Stat.