Review: Saga #1 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Saga #1
Saga: Chapter 1

Written by: Brian K. Vaughan
Art by: Fiona Staples
Lettering by:
Design Fonografiks

Published by: Image
Cover Price: $2.99

Note : This review is for the digital version of the comic available from Comixology

Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!

The comic itself is FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY,

When I came back to comics back last summer, one of my first questions was “What’s Vaughan working on?” Y: The Last Man, Runaways, Pride of Bahgdad, and Ex Machina are some of the best comics I’ve ever read, and I knew that anything he was doing I would jump in feet first.

I was sad to hear, “He’s not actually writing any comics at the moment.” So a few months ago, hen I saw that he was working on a new sci-fi/fantasy book from Image called Saga, I didn’t even need to read another word of the solicitation. I knew that I would be buying it.  Nice to see my memories of Vaughan being awesome still hold true today.

Summary (contains spoilers): Saga states on the planet Cleave. We are introduced to Marko and Alana, a couple who is about to have their first child in the middle of a body shop. While Marko has horns, Alana has wings, and there isn’t a doctor in sight, the situation basically plays out like a normal couple having their first kid. They even have a conversation about a particular ritual that the mother is in favor of and the father feels uncomfortable with (my wife and I had a similar conversation about circumcision for our son).

The baby is a girl, with stubby horns and wings of her own. We quickly realize she’s narrating this story from years in the future.

We’re shown that Marko and Alana are on the run. A winged group armed with technology arrives led by Baron Robot XXII of the Coalition Forces. They are demanding that Marko and Alana surrender or they will be killed. Seems like they were tipped off by an informant.

Almost immediately, a second group arrives, using magic and speaking in an alien language. They were also tipped off by the same informant.

The two groups end upkilling each other, and miraculously, Alana, Marko, and the baby survive.

The informant who ratted them out is badly wounded and dying. He gives them a map, he says that he paid for the map using the money he got for betraying them.

Before we can find out what the map shows, the story switches to some exposition. The winged guys were from the planet Landfall, the magic users are from it’s moon, Wreath. The two cultures have long been at war, though because they don’t want to knock their own planets out of orbit, they tend to fight on other planets.

We also find out who our characters are. Alana is a former Landfall soldier assigned to Cleave, Marko was a former Wreath soldier who was imprisoned on Cleave as a conscious objector. They met and fell in love. And now both sides have sent their best operatives to kill them both and recover the hybrid child.

The map leads to someplace on Cleave called “Rocketship Forest.” Marko seems reluctant to check it out, but Alana convinces him to go along with her. Marko and Alana encounter more fighting on the way, but the landmarks on the map seem to check out, which gives them hope. Thankfully, they decide to name the baby Hazel and not Hope. Another comic already uses that cliche…

Review: What immediately jumped out at me was the cool way they did Hazel’s narration. It flows right around the panel, and a few times I actively had to look to make sure I caught it. I thought this was a terrific design decision, and it made Saga stand out:

I have no data to back this up, but I am pretty sure this is the first comic that has ever started with a winged woman giving birth to a horned man’s child which discussing defecation. At first I was thinking “Okay, weird and gross” but remembering that my wife and I had similar conversations during both of her pregnancies, it immediately gave this book a strong footing in reality.

As big a scale as Vaughan seemed to be presenting us, he still managed to give us lots of details that kept us grounded. I especially loved the “TV screen headed” prince (more on the Blue Bloods later) that seemed to be having sexual performance issues.  I also liked that the Wreath inhabitants were called “Moonies.”

All of the main characters really get a lot of time to show who they are. Not just Marko and Alana, who get most of the focus, but their “enemies,” Prince Robot IV, Gale, Vez, and The Will all are given a lot of characterization in just the few panels they show up on. These aren’t characters that can easily be classified as “hero” or “villain.” They have a lot of motivations driving them, and I can’t wait to see what happens when these agendas start to crash in to each other.

Another strong part of this book was Fiona Staples’ art and design. I’ve read and seen a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, and sometimes I think “I’ve seen it all.” To get around this, so many new sci fi and fantasy creators seem to go over the top to try and make their work different. Sometimes it works, sometimes it just looks overblown and unappealing. Staples went a different approach.  Everything has a certain familiarity to it,  just amped up for effect.

The universe of Saga has a real “lived in” feel to it. It actually reminds me in some ways of what I always liked about Star Wars as opposed to Star Trek, I can imagine these locations and technologies as something the inhabitants of the universe can and would actually use.

I also think she does a brilliant job making the sci-fi and more fantasy elements both have a distinct look, but at the same time, there are enough similarities that it is easy to imagine them in the same universe:

The way the two genres were blended was just perfect. I am a huge fan of Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept series, which also blends fantasy and sci-fi elements, but I will admit that Vaughan and Staples managed to make it even more natural than Piers Anthony did. It never feels like two different universes colliding, it feels like one world that happens to be divided along two distinct factions.

I am really curious what the Blue Bloods are. Are they machines (which would make the blue blood actually blue blood…oil), or are they humans who have been modified in some way to have crazy TV heads?

Since we see two of them having sex, I just of assumed they were modified humans, but we will have to wait for answers on that question.

I also love that the first issue was double sized, with no ads and only 3 bucks. Vaughan has been careful to say that Saga is a story that could only be told as a comic book (and having worked in so many mediums, he would know), but at the same time I couldn’t help but be reminded of a 2-hour TV pilot.

The characters, setting, and storylines were established very well. I have read quite a few first issues in the last few months (Fatale, Thief of Thieves, and Saucer Country), and more than any of those series, Saga seemed to immediately know what it wanted to achieve and hits the ground running.

I do want to comment that this book does have a lot of adult content. Lots of nudity (including male full frontal nudity) and cursing. It never seems excessive and never takes away from the story, but I know that might turn some people off. That said, it’s definitely much less bloody and violent than Demon Knights was this week.

Y: The Last Man proved that Vaughan is no stranger to playing the long game when it comes to stories, and I am really curious how long he plans to go with Saga. The narration has already told us that Hazel manages to grow old, and doesn’t become a war hero or a savior, but that still leaves a universe of possibilities, and I can’t wait to see where Vaughan and Staples will take us. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Final Score: 9.5 –  I am glad to see Vaughan back writing a comic series, and Saga is already shaping up to be as good, if not better, as some of Vaughan’s other great work.

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