Saga Deluxe Edition Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
What kind of cool people would like it: Star Wars fans, Shakespeare fans, fans of strong female characters, exhausted new parents who know they’re still hip.
Some cool places you might find it: Atomic Books 3620 Falls Rd Baltimore MD (410.662.4444), Tattered Cover on Colfax Avenue 2526 East Colfax Avenue Denver CO (303.322.7727), The Elliot Bay Book Company 1521 10th Ave Seattle WA 98122 (206.624.6600)
“All good children’s stories are the same: young creature breaks rules, has incredible adventure, then returns home with the knowledge that aforementioned rules are there for a reason. Of course, the actual message to the careful reader is: break rules as often as you can, because who the hell doesn’t want to have an adventure?” – Saga, Chapter 17
Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, on the other side of the galaxy from children’s parable, still adheres closely to this maxim. The story of two fugitive soldiers from opposing armies – one from the planet Landfall, the other from its orbiting moon Wreath – and their infant daughter, has no business being this engaging, but Saga manages to convey a world that is both fantastic and desperately human at the same time.
Having realized that the destruction of one’s homeland assures the destruction of the other, the winged citizens of Landfall and horned residents of Wreath “outsourced” their battlefields to neutral terrain, and in the process destroyed large parts of the galaxy. It’s a war that’s persisted for as long as anyone can remember, and the hatred runs deep. However, for what appears to be the first time in history, two combatants have not only fallen in love but have also conceived and birthed a child.
Alana and Marko flee from captors, freelance bounty hunters with lie-detecting cats, and broken-hearted exes through the war-decimated universe, all the while trying to provide something of a normal, happy existence for their newborn daughter Hazel, who also serves as the book’s narrator.
Marko, a horned and magical warrior who longs to lay down his sword, and Alana, a book nerd with wings, rely on the help of Marko’s parents (themselves magical warriors), the top half of a teenage babysitter ghost (complete with hanging intestines), and a one-eyed drunken writer (maybe the closet thing Saga has to a cliché) to escape their pursuers. The female characters are some of the most fully developed you’ll find in a major comic today, heavy-duty fighters with strong wills to match.
You wouldn’t think something so strange would be so accessible, but Saga presents an incredibly relatable story placed inside the most space-operatic setting anyone could have imagined. As the issues progress, as new and more outlandish characters are introduced, as the mythology and politics of this universe are expanded, Saga never forgets what is was the from very first page: the examination of the life of any new parent. Laser battles and stay-at-home dads fit together nicely here thanks to the dueling effectiveness of Vaughan’s writing and Staples’ artwork.
Saga is truly a collaboration. Vaughan and Staples are co-owners of the work, and Staples designs much of the cast as well as the varied alien races and space ships in addition to providing her own handwriting for Hazel’s narration. She masterfully balances the tightly drawn close-ups necessary for a comic with such genuine human emotion with the occasional two-page spread of a planet size egg hatching as our heroes’ space ship takes off just in time.
Along with the first 18 chapters, which is plenty of entertainment, you get bonus material that takes you through the creation of issue 4 and provides an inside look at how a comic is made and how Vaughan and Staples work together. As a writer, I’ve always enjoyed the way Saga connects being a parent with producing art, and Saga Deluxe Edition Volume One provides some insight into how this particular art was created. Along with a few of Staple’s pretty awesome sketches, it’s the kind of extra stuff you’ll find rounding out a lot of these high school yearbook-sized hardcover editions. If you’re new to the comic world, or a casual reader like myself, these add-ons will keep you entertained for a few minutes, after you’ve read Saga for the fourth time.
Because that’s the most honest thing I can say about the book: Saga is super fun to read. It’s action-packed, full of amazing characters, beautifully rendered, and intelligently written. In putting together this review I found myself taking too long, because once I checked something on one page I had to read the next, and then the one after that, and then I had to talk myself down from going out and buying the six issues I haven’t read yet. It’s okay. I can wait for the trade paperback. I can…