With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.
Of course, occasionally I may even explore comics outside of Marvel if they come highly recommended or simply peak my interest. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Artist: Fiona Staples
Issues: Saga #1-6
The story of Romeo and Juliet is the classic tale as old as time. It’s note quite as cliché and overused as Man Gets Revenge for Murdered Family, and the actual tale of Love Conquers All usually takes a backseat to the tragedy and hardships that both characters face. In Saga, comic superstars Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples successfully craft the timeless tale of two star-crossed lovers in a wildly creative sci-fi universe by grounding all the characters and events in very human emotions.
The biggest wrench that Vaughan throws into the story serves as both the opening hook and brilliant past-tense narrator: the birth of Hazel, the love child between former prison guard Alana and prisoner of war Marko. Alana is a winged native of Landfall, the largest planet in their galaxy and technologically advanced. Marko hails from Landfall’s only moon, Wreath, home to a race of horned magic-users. Both races are distinctively different yet still very humanoid, and I especially liked that there’s a lot of racial diversity within the groups (different kinds of wings and horn styles).
With two such different people in relative close proximity, war was inevitable. Since directly annihilating one side could send the other spinning out of orbit, the war between Landfall and Wreath has been mostly been outsourced to other planets, and other races.
The first six issues follow Marko, Alana and Hazel as they attempt to find a spaceship and get off the backwater planet of Cleave. While making their way through hostile territory they are also being hunted by both sides. Landfall sends Prince Robot IV, a humanoid creature with a decidedly retro-sci-fi look of a tv screen for a head (who’s softcore sex with his robot wife should cement the series as Mature Audiences Only). Wreath hires an infamous bounty hunter from the Freelancers called The Will (a generally normal looking dude) with a giant hairless cat called Lying Cat. It can, uh, tell when you’re lying, and has some great scenes with The Will despite its very limited vocabulary.
Neither of our hunters quite reach our fated pair; that honor goes to another freelancer and former love interest of The Will, The Stalk, one of the most inventive and unsettling alien creatures I’ve ever seen. Half-spider woman wouldn’t even come close to doing the creative art work justice. Fiona Staples’ heavy shading and pencils take a few pages to get used to but I absolutely loved her emotive facial expressions and character focus as much as the violent action scenes.
A sci-fi world full of wonderfully bizarre creatures could easily get lost in its own spectacle, but Vaughan keeps everything incredibly grounded by focusing on Marko and Alana’s very human survival stories, both in keeping their relationship together and surviving the hostile world around them. The casual and strong language is also refreshing and keeps everyone in the story much more realistic.
By the end of the first volume, Marko took down an entire platoon by himself (then swore off violence…again), Hazel is bonded with the upper torso of a teenage ghost named Izabel (her first babysitter!) and they find passage off of Cleave in a tree-like spaceship. A fun cliffhanger suddenly adds Marko’s parents into the mix as they’re summoned onto the ship, and I can’t wait to read more of their adventures.
Saga came highly recommended and I can easily see why. The world is incredibly interesting and adheres wonderfully to the ‘show, don’t tell’ creed as it teases out information and characters only as needed. The small cast keeps the focus tight, and it’s an interesting balancing act keeping the A-B-C stories of Marko/Alana, Prince Robot IV, and The Will hovering around each other. Vaughan’s writing is wonderfully human and real, and I absolutely adored Staples’ art work. If you enjoy character-driven sci-fi adventures, especially the struggles that a new relationship and a child can bring layered into a new universe, Saga is an absolute delight.