I will admit, with the exception of my forays into Kickstarter, I am often very short-sighted when it comes to my choices of comics. I do regularly pick up the Dark Horse comics from the Whedonverse, but that is not stepping outside my comfort zone in the least. Occasionally I will stumble upon a number 1, and check it out, but very often my eyes gloss over everything else, foregoing potential for the realm of the familiar. For this reason, it has taken me a long while to jump onto the "Saga" train. The series has been going for over a year, and with this I am looking at only the first 6 issues.
SAGA: VOLUME 1
By: Brian K. Vaughan (Writer), Fiona Staples (Artist), Fonografiks (Lettering + Design)
It is a little disheartening, that the creator behind one of my favorite forgotten superhero teams (The Runaways) had a series like this, that I was completely oblivious to. "Saga" is the brainchild of one of the few good things to come out of Ohio in a long time, Mr. Brian K. Vaughan.
I've said in the past, that I often like to look at comics in larger collections, rather than in single issues. Especially in the beginning. When a series first starts, there is so much exposition that needs to be delivered in those first issues, that it can be a bit of a tough pill to swallow. So much new world, it is difficult to shove it into a single 22 page issues, and convey a compelling narrative that will hook the reader, and still manage to get everything across. This title managed to create a new world, pull the readers in, and tie it all together with a hook for upcoming issues quite amazingly. This is the mark of a masterful storyteller. Brian K. Vaughan starts things off in the middle of the story, insuring that readers will know from page one, that this is not some kids book. The first line of dialog is, I kid you not, "Am I shitting? It feels like I'm shitting!" If that doesn't say that this is a book aimed at adults, I don't know what does.
The book goes on to tell a boundary-pushing sci-fantasy tale, that never fails to treat the reader to a new twist, and an unpredictable turn. The cast of characters is introduced in a well-paced manner, never tossing too much at the reader as to seem unapproachable, and giving each character enough personality to set them apart, and make them feel genuine, despite their fantastical nature. Marko and Alana are two star-crossed lovers, from warring worlds, wanting nothing more in life than to live in peace and raise their newborn daughter. As is so often the case with star-crossed lovers, things do not go their way. Events quickly spiral out of control, and set the trio on an adventure of stellar proportions, as they are hunted by bounty hunters, robots, and their own people. Honestly, if you are familiar with Brian K. Vaughan's work in any way, and have not picked this title up yet, head out to get it now! (A link to buy this particular trade will be included at the end of the article.)
Complementing the story, is the artistic talents of Fiona Staples. I can honestly say, I am not terribly familiar with her work, but after reading this first volume, I want to see more. This is the kind of art that draws on in immediately, and reminds me at times of the work of Stjepan Šejić (whose style is similarly amazing). In the first three pages alone, she manages to so perfectly capture Alana and Marko's emotions that you can tell what is going on without even reading the words. She takes these almost human characters, and makes them stand out as almost living creatures. The expressiveness she manages makes one feel as if these characters could be long lost friends. Sadly, I don't have a digital copy of this title to give you many examples.
This comic goes on, and by the fifth page has earned it's mature rating, throwing in images of a naked breast, without ever once making it feel like it is being sexualized, instead it feels like a natural progression, and in context is a thing of beauty, rather than a lewd act. This is not to say there aren't artistic representations of lewd acts, there are points where the book walks that fine line between artistic and pornographic, with only a very brief step into the realm of the pornographic, something that is broken up into short burst so it is never too overwhelming. And in an unusual turn, the ladies in the book aren't the only ones getting naked. Their are guys without pants in almost equal number to the topless ladies. Sprinkled in with the nudity, there are some acts of violence that are handled just as masterfully. As you can see from the image to the right, there are some strange creatures roaming this world.
FINAL THOUGHTS: When all is said and done, this book was a breath of fresh air. A welcome change from the often very safe, and quite mundane world of the mainstream comics. The adult themes make it feel like it is something more than just another kids story shined up, and retread. This feels new and interesting, and ultimately, it is something I plan on continuing reading. Looking forward to seeing what Volume 2 has to offer in the very near future.
22 PAGE GRADE: A+