SAGA by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona staples Vol. 1 & 2
I read the first two volumes of this critically-acclaimed series in one sitting the other night and under two hours, maybe even less. Sometimes you just click with a comic book, you know, and this is definitely the kind of story that has both commercial and niche appeal. SAGA is a celebration and tribute to the hybrid elements of fantasy and science fiction, a rich and diverse tapestry of characters, themes and settings that leave readers awestruck and infatuated with the story very easily since the impact is just as long-lasting.
Published in 2012, SAGA has had numerous awards and recognition, mostly pertaining to its flexible range when it comes to ethnicity, sexuality, social and gender roles, as well as its commentary and sentiments towards war and conflict. Reading SAGA made me think of Joss Whedon's short-lived series Firefly. That show instantly clicked with me two episodes in, and that's exactly how SAGA felt like for me! It's a remarkable blend of everything I love in fantasy and sci-fi! The Vaughan and Staples team is an unstoppable force of nature!
The first volume opens by impressively burying the lead, and never bothering to ease the readers into the mythos and world-building in SAGA though this will still happen later on over the course of the story. This added to the suspense and thrill of the moment as the action occurs seamlessly throughout the pages that I can't stop turning and digesting every piece of dialogue and scenery therein. Writer Brian K. Vaughan's caliber is noticeably relaxed and caustic, employing a naturalness to his characters' speech that most authors in comic books tend to take for granted. His dialogue, I believe, is the most stellar part of this series; every retort between and among characters is beguiling and often raunchy and hilarious at that! And don't get me started with Fiona Staples' illustrations because they are quite visually striking in a sense that she captured emotions in expressions in fine details; a great way to accompany Vaughan's text which is just as dynamic and spunky.
What we do know about the plot is this: we have an unseen narrator speaking to us as an adult as she crafts the quixotic tale of adventure that is her parents' exodus: a star-crossed pair of dumb shits named Alana and Marko who are of different ethnic ties and whose species are at war with each other as they overcome obstacles to raise a family. These two suckers fall in love and now have to run with their newborn child Hazel across the galaxies while mercenaries and other concerned parties of an ongoing political strife are on their asses all the time.
The second volume opens with just as enough heart-pounding suspense and sublime comedic moments which never diminish the more serious and meaningful scenes and message of the plot. Everything about the second volume made me lose my shit especially with the climactic confrontations among our heroes and their adversaries. It's daring, sexy and funny.
Vaughan's pacing never slows down, enticing the readers to feel as if their own lives are endangered as well, and making them sympathize with Alana and Marko as they become more privy to the politics and atmosphere in SAGA. The largest planet in the galaxy Landfall is at war with its moon/satellite Wreath whose inhabitants wield magic. Other coalitions and even royal dynasties are caught up in this galactic war. Alana and Marko meet when Alana as a soldier was stationed as a guard where Marko, a revolutionist for his people, is being kept imprisoned. They escaped together and became fugitives, hunted by both sides especially since they have produced an offspring, a hybrid cutie pie named Hazel.
They meet a ghostly apparition named Izabel who is a casualty of the war when her village and family were massacred in one of the many battles being fought by Landfall loyalists and Wreath fighters. She soul-bonds with the baby Hazel and has since become the official babysitter. Marko's parents also join in the fun and the family drama is both entertaining and poignant to watch unfold as they try to deal with the fact that their son has shacked up with an enemy. Other supporting characters include the mercenaries or 'freelancers' who hunt down the couple and their child such as The Will who is a killer with his own unique sense of morality, accompanied by his sidekick Lying Cat who can telepathically tell when people lie.
I'm only two volumes in but this is already high on my list of comic books to keep reading as soon as my self-imposed list of graphic novels to read and review for 2016 have all been completed. SAGA simply has a full palette of flavors that I can't wait to experience completely. Staples' art style is also another spectacular thing about SAGA. Her landscapes and character designs, especially with the diverse ensemble of alien species, are truly creative and innovative. I could tell that he and Vaughan are having fun coming up with the appearances. Their collaboration on the ever-expanding mythos and how to put that best in print was a worthwhile accomplishment that is one for the ages!
So do yourselves a favor--stop whatever you are doing---and start reading SAGA instead!