Saga is one of the few recent comic book series that actually justifies the hype that surrounds it.
Volume One introduced readers to the singular Saga universe. The wide-ranging story centers on Alana and Marko, soldiers on opposite sides of a galactic war. The pair fell in love, deserted their respective armies, married and, in the opening sequence, welcomed baby daughter Hazel. The new family made its way through a war zone, desperately hoping to make it to the one place that could get them off a hostile planet. Both sides in the war wanted the couple dead and wanted control of baby Hazel. Also prominent in the first arc are: Izabel, the ghost of a spunky teenager with her legs blown off who acted as a guide; Prince Robot IV, a royal solider who pursued the family; and The Will, a gruff bounty hunter who wasn’t as amoral as he liked to think he was.
Writer Brian K. Vaughan juggled a lot of elements in the first Saga arc. He created a complex umbrella plot that featured many moving parts. But instead of trying to explore all of it at once, he wisely unpacked various facets of the larger story by focusing on Alana and Marko’s story. It was a smart transposition of Romeo and Juliet, with a post-modern, sci-fi/fantasy flair. The depth and appeal of this star-crossed love story grounded all the fantastic elements around it. You cared about what was happening across the board because it all led back to the appealing family story at the center.
Not that Vaughan wasn’t letting his imagination run wild. The horns on the side of Marko’s head or Alana’s discreet dragon wings were only the most visceral example of the feverish invention running through Saga. Along the way readers encountered a regal race of aliens with viewscreens for heads; a deadly female/spider hybrid bounty hunter; a forest that grew rocket ships; a cat that was a walking lie detector; and all manner of colorful aliens, beasts and monsters. All were colorful components of a complex political and social landscape that provided the opportunity for subtly placed social commentary. It was a riotous framework for the intricate tale that Vaughan unspooled and it gave Saga a strong, distinctive identity.
Artist Fiona Staples matched Vaughan’s inventiveness and then some. She brought a soft focus style to the proceedings that gave the art a lush, dreamy feel. Her compositions weren’t overly fussy, often going with more of an impressionistic approach that emphasized emotional impact over showy graphics. Staples did some very precise color work, using a soft, muted base that she embellished with contrasting brighter colors for maximum effect. She produced some beautiful large-screen scenes that shimmered on the page. Staples made Saga look like nothing else on the stands.
Be aware that Saga more than earned its “mature” labeling. There was plenty of strong language, violence, sex, nudity and challenging content. Vaughan and Staples remained true to the universe they created and didn’t water it down. If you’re easily offended, this isn’t the series for you.
For fans of smart, adult fantasy storytelling, Saga is a must read.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on February 4, 2016.