Saga chronicles epic adventures

Photo Courtesy of Image Comics / The Will, a bounty hunter hired to kill the protagonists, and his sidekick the Lying Cat are only two of Saga’s large, crazy cast.

Brian K. Vaughan returned to comics early last year to start a brand new series at Image Comics entitled Saga, with all artistic duties falling to Fiona Staples. The premise is fairly simple: a Romeo & Juliet plot mixed with war, magic and science fiction. A planet and its moon are at war with each other. Marko, a man from the moon and whose race is proficient with magic, and Alana, a woman from the planet and whose race wields advanced technology, fall in love while he is being held prisoner. In the first issue, taking place after they run off together, their baby is born. Both of their governments want their romance and child to remain secret, namely by killing them. So the story is this family of three attempting to survive war, bounty hunters, ghosts, robots and whatever Vaughan decides to throw at them.

The premise is fairly simple: a Romeo & Juliet plot mixed with war, magic and science fiction.

Saga, Volume One collects issues one through six, which is the first complete arc of what promises to be an epic, universe-spanning story worthy of its title. The newborn baby narrates the events from an unspecified time in the future, meaning it is safe to assume that the baby makes it. The fate of everyone else, on the other hand, is entirely unclear, and Vaughan’s track record bodes ill for his characters. The baby’s narration floats caption-free around the panels like a playful spirit bouncing on stage as the actors perform. The narration is never in the way and often interacts with the panels like an artistic element, being used in novel ways such as connecting characters together or wrapping around a planet hanging in space.

Each character is lovingly crafted. It is impressive how alive and human they feel considering only one, a bounty hunter, looks like a normal human being. Speaking of, the character designs are fantastic; Staples consistently creates simple yet powerful looks for all the cast. Not all of them are amazing, but the majority is. And then there are those like The Stalk, who might be perfect.

Part of the allure of Saga is that Staples has planned to create every aspect of the art on every issue, however long that may be. Environments, body language, facial expressions- she nails them all. She takes Vaughan’s scripts and spins gold from them.

And those scripts are not drivel either; through them, Vaughan proves once again that he is one of the best writers in the industry. Some of his past works like Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina and his stint on Runaways are a few of the best stories in comic books, but Saga is arguably his best to date. The dialogue flows and is distinctive with each character, the myriad plots parallel and contrast with each other and it is easy to connect on some level with every character, including the ones attempting to kill the central figures. It is a crazy story filled with things weird and strange that cause every page to deliver fresh surprises. But at its heart this is simply a tale of a family struggling to survive. One page will depict a quiet moment between a first time mother and father bonding over their mutual love for their newborn child, and in the next, a giant turtle will be taking down spaceships by shooting it with eye lasers.

A word of caution is necessary regarding the mature content. Saga does not refrain from violence, sex, drugs, or gore. The first issue alone depicts the baby’s birth on a table, two robots having sex and guts flying everywhere. And issue four involves a planet called Sextillion. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like: an entire planet that is a brothel. But nothing is crass or done for shock value. Instead, these harsher elements are key to creating tension. This is not a kind universe, and terrible people, who are willing to do whatever is necessary for their own personal gains, call it home.

The best aspect of Saga is that it has no clear end in sight.

The first volume closes with a minor twist that succinctly sets the stage for the following arc. At only ten dollars, Saga, Volume One is a must-buy for those who have even a passing interest in comics. A highly imaginative new series, Saga is beautiful both visually and thematically. A tale of family set amidst a war that stretches across the universe, it manages to retain an emotional grounding to an epic scope.

The best aspect of Saga, however, is that it has no clear end in sight. This story can continue for as long as Vaughan feels it remains relevant. He has reportedly already written the last page of the last issue, so fans are eager to see the story build to that point. Hopefully, that point will not come for a long time.