Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow that was good.
While I’m not familiar with the work of Brian K. Vaughan if this book is any indication, he’s certainly earned the reputation for quality writing.
With Saga, he and artist Fiona Staples give us a literal star-crossed lovers story. This time, the lovers are from two different warring races. The war itself has been going on for a while and is destroying the galaxy. Our protagonists, Alana (the girl with the wings) and Marko (her husband, with the horns), as the series opens, are having their first child. To say this is the only moment of peace they get is a slight exaggeration, but only slight. Within minutes they are attacked by factions from both sides, who see the couple as scum and traitor (the epithets flip depending on whose kinsmen are spouting them). From this point on, the three are on the run. And that’s the basic plot (at least for the first 6 issues, which are collected and reprinted here).
Once you get past that, though, you get into some wonderful story-telling. You get secondary characters who are fully realized the moment they hit the page. You get plot twists you didn’t see coming and that confound your expectations. And you get beautiful art, illustrating creative, new races of interstellar folk.
What’s nice about this is it really plays with the precepts of visual story-telling. This isn’t a superhero book with civilian casualties, this is civilians just trying to make their way. This is a book about being parents and bringing children into a hostile environment. It’s about trying to do the right thing because now you have a kid and they will reflect everything you do. It’s about trust and growth and family. And ghosts. And living wooden rocket ships and revenge and a cat who knows when you’re lying and a killer with a rock steady moral compass. But at its heart it’s about two parents and their daughter who are real. They have fights, they disagree, they make-up. They love each other.
I don’t want to say too much more because it’s a joy to read and discover it for yourself. Additionally, I’ve only read the first collection and there’s currently 4x more issues to read before I’m caught up (and I will be caught up soon) so the story may change a bit. That said, this first collection won a number of Eisner Awards and the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story. It won’t take you long to finish once you start. And once you finish it won’t take you long before you’re pining for the next one.
The only caveat I have is this isn’t for little ones. Sure, a cover illustration of a winged woman breastfeeding might be a clue in that direction and the first line of dialogue, “Am I shitting?”, removes any doubt. So with that in mind, go to your local comic store or online distribution network and pick up a copy.
PS: A special thanks to Matthew Sorvillo and Diana C. Soto for turning me on to this.