Brian K Vaughan has no credibility issues. Aside from writing many titles for the big heroes, he is best known for his work on Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina. He was also heavily involved in the television series Lost, amongst other projects. There is a solid experience base to his writing, and he is joined by Fiona Staples, who draws this book completely digitally. She has carried out previous work on DV8 and Thunder Agents but her greatest plaudits lay with this book. Saga is set in a galaxy far far away and is about a couple from both sides of a massive race war. They are running from both Landfall and Wreath authorities, as they have had a child together which is strictly forbidden. It is a classic premise for a book but that is as classic as it gets, because rarely has there been a more modern day saga. The book is set in a fantasy sci-fi world filled with magic, characters with horns and wings, royalty with television sets for heads, a Venus de Milo spider assassin, and disembowelled ghost children. One of its most unique qualities is that the story is narrated by the daughter, Hazel, who is looking back at her parents’ lives whilst she was a baby.
Brian K Vaughan has a writing style embedded in reality. This book may be in a far-fetched galaxy as any other, but the troubles Alana and Marko face are prominent in the world today. The book does not feel so far away because Brian writes in a modern form of colloquial English, full of current swear words and humour based on mocking and self-deprecation. He grasps the relationships that we can all empathize with, especially between Alana and Marko, but also with his parents and their natural love and fear for their new baby. The plot pace is quite variable since the book began, but the dialogue is so engrossing that there is no need to over complicate the story. This issue focuses on Alana with her father-in-law looking after the baby, and Marko with his mother fighting aliens. Very little happens in the form of action but there is an immense amount of character/relationship progression. Alana’s profession of love to Marko’s father is simply written but overwhelmingly truthful. Hazel’s description of her parents’ first encounter is as reckless, humorous and joyful as you would expect, from having gotten to know Alana and Marko.
Fiona Staples art style is simple but incredibly effective. She deliberately keeps her backgrounds as beautiful landscapes but seamless with intricate shading. However her characters the opposite as they are definite, simply coloured and minimally detailed in comparison. In her own words, she wants to maintain the momentum of the book with a steady flow. It’s an intriguing concept for an artist but in simplifying her art, she has made it expressive and emotional. The dialogue is succinct and has a perfect balance with the art, giving a heart warming and affectionate book. Alana really appeals to the reader as a tough but loving mother, and Marko comes across as a soft but dedicated husband and father. Mention must be made of the free childlike handwriting that appears across the page, as Hazel’s dialogue. It is not overused but does not bear the constraints of boxes or thought bubbles, allowing it to interact with the art. The panel below is an excellent example of this.
The themes of this book are very familiar to its reader but their expression is completely novel. It matters not that the species are strange and the universe is unrecognisable, because the relationships resemble the ones we have in our everyday likes. It is an intimately relatable book whether it is from the clearly matriarchal Alana, the hapless Marko, the long adoring lost love of The Will, the chronically afflicted grandfather or the narrator reminiscing her childhood. Saga is a subversive comic book, it does not follow the rules of mainstream comics, it highlights the unpleasant and immoral aspects of the world it inhabits, its produces a love that so true, emerging out of tragic circumstance. This review is longer than I would normally like to write, but there is so much to say about Saga. The writing and art are new concepts to me, and the subject material, though unoriginal is extremely fresh and wonderfully presented. There are few books to savour as much as this one, and it should be read by everyone, comic lover or not.
“It’s the story of a rock monster and the daughter of this rich quarry owner.” 10/10