Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Arty by Fiona Staples
Letters by Fonografiks
Release Date: May 16, 2012
Cover Price: $2.99
Within the arguably isolated realm of comic fans, mostly everyone has heard of Saga by Issue #3 and my awesome local comic shop cannot even keep it on the shelves. Even without the unintentional controversy over the first cover, the huge amount of press it has received is almost infamously positive. While there is a rebellious streak in me that doesn’t want to like what everyone else likes, with this title I am honored to join the happy choir.
Why does Saga engender such good feelings and good reviews to match? Honestly, this series does not break exceptionally new ground in terms of premise. Fans of Firefly are no strangers to intelligent soap operas being played out in space, and fans of Game of Thrones are familiar with fantastical kingdoms vying for supremacy where the personal is political. Feel free to insert many other references of your own, because as far as settings go, many would apply. What makes writer Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples‘ Saga such an imperative to check out is the nuanced blend of sci-fi and fantasy. The series also seems interspersed with enough politics, sex, drama, and action sequences to catch all the other folks who may or may not care about either of those genres.
This issue is no exception and allows Vaughan (who used to write for the better seasons of a little show called Lost) to showcase his talent for creating immersive worlds where new characters are quickly memorable and, no matter how weird, believable.
The story begins where the previous issue ended with Hazel (a new born baby who readers know will grow up to be our narrator) and her fugitive parents Alana and Mark, fleeing jurisdiction from both their respective homelands, Landfall and Wreath. Both are wanted criminals for war desertion and being an interplanetary married couple with a child. The writing is careful to not paint either side as noble or the other as monsters. Both sides feel they are in the right and both engage in activities that force you to question that assumption.
Venturing into Rocketship Forest rumored to be haunted by a group of murderous entities called “The Horrors,” our trio of protagonists are looking for a ship and a way off Planet Cleave. Supporting characters include bounty hunters The Will, who was scared off by said entities at the end of the last issue, even though he supposedly has a large talking cat who knows when people are lying, and The Stalk, who is an alien lady with eyes and an insect-like body who is nonetheless romantically popular and who also ends up getting scared off by The Horrors, but only after seriously wounding Marko. The actual Horrors end up being ghosts of children and even though that sounds depressing as I write it, Vaughan is a good enough writer to make them endearing and not didactical in nature.
Izabel, who explains she had half her body blown off in a landmine, says they call themselves “Defenders of the Cleave” and project faux visions for tourists of murder and mayhem just to keep “invaders” away. To save the wounded Marko he needs snow for a spell, stay with me here, so Izabel offers to get them some if Alana wouldn’t mind binding Hazel’s soul to hers so she can leave the planet with them. It leaves the story arc open for the next few issues nicely, and the banter between the bounty hunters, the smart ass but likable childish way Izabel behaves towards her would be traveling companions and Alana’s fierce determination to protect her child keep up the energetic pace of the previous issues.
Fiona Staples’ elegant linework and animated facial expressions make Saga a joy to look at, even at its most violent or disturbing. Her use of color and ability to make even frightening characters strangely pleasant to look at, makes traditionally uncomfortable images more palatable. Not that anything seems unwarranted within the scope of this world, as people die, kill, spy, etc., in wars on Earth, too. They also do things like wander around private quarters semi-naked, breastfeed children, and sometimes have sex. So, while this title is meant for mature audiences, there is nothing inherently shocking about it, except how well all the disparate elements and crazy characters work together to form an epic many people would want to follow.
Interplanetary babies in danger, robot people with televisions for heads, ghosts who can tell good visitors from evil, literally anything can happen in Saga, and it is almost assured that if you enjoy the series, Vaughan and Staples will make you care about every minute of it all.