Saga Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples is a romance space opera graphic novel series that follows two awesome folx named Marko and Alana, people on opposite sides of a brutal war between a planet and a moon, who fell in love and were branded as treasonous traitors to their people. Now they’re on the run and about to start a family that will bridge their two communities, while avoiding authorities, bounty hunters, and everyone else who wants to cash in on their “criminal” shenanigans, thus beginning one hell of a galactic adventure of a lifetime.
About eight years ago, I really wanted to dive more passionately into the comic book medium, but like many newbies, I was totally overwhelmed by the options. I figured that superhero stories were the only ones, which given the hype surrounding hero tales is understandable. Then I met an individual who was quite versed in comics. He gave me his copy of Saga Volume 1 and said, “Start here.” That’s all. No explanation or anything. He knew that I really enjoyed strange as Seven Hells things by this time. I sat down on the floor of his room and I dove right in. It completely changed my reading life in the best ways possible and it re-instated my faith in modern-day storytelling.
Even now, eight years later, Saga continues to be one of my favourite comic serials of all-time and I’ve read a lot of stuff over the last almost-decade. It has absolutely all of the makings of a fantastical classic sci-fi experience. A large and endearingly diverse cast of characters including anti-heroes, villains, morally grey folx, kids, and sassy ass ghosts (who physically have no asses, now that I’m thinking about it) and much more; one of the most creative universes that I’ve read about and seen; visual aesthetics and an artistic style that is a perfect compliment to Vaughan’s storytelling expression; a sweet, die-hard romance that showcases all the struggles of a committed adult relationship; found family essentials; bitchin’ awesome magic; and a royal family you will love to hate and then love eventually.
I typically don’t gravitate towards pure romance stories at all because they always feel so superficial and fake to me. But with Alana and Marko, the way they flirt, banter, and bicker is sublimely natural and wholesome. They are a couple that I can picture living in the real world, struggling through real problems (aside from the being on the run from murderous politicians and things). They also have supreme chemistry that instantly makes the reader want to root for them until the very end. Their kind of romance is the stuff that I dream of having one day and deep down I know it’s not a false sense of representation. One of my closest friends, who lives in a different country now, him and his wife are the same way. It’s fucking adorable and they are an inspiration to me.
The characters are my second favourite aspect of Saga. At first it can be slightly overwhelming, especially if you are unfamiliar with the comic medium, due to the sheer amount of individuals that gets thrown into our faces (in a good way). But they are all so unique and individualistic that it it’s almost impossible to confuse one for another. Between various gender identities, sexual orientations and tastes, species and ethnicities—there is nothing that isn’t touched with Vaughan’s creativity and open-mindedness. It’s bloody brilliant. No context, here is one of my most beloved characters aside from the main coupling.
As much as I want to keep on talking about all the things that make me swoon, I’m going to make this my last (at least for this volume) titbit and that consists of the themes! While the overarching theme of Saga is obviously one of love and family dynamics, it’s also about being true to yourself and your morals, and understanding the many fines between right and wrong, and how we can determine which is truly which (of course there are more themes, but this is the one that I see in just about every corner and situation). As humans this is a part of life that we all struggle with to various degrees: doing what’s right versus doing what’s convenient and most beneficial. It doesn’t matter if we’re the hero types, anti-heroes, apathetic neutral owlbears or anything else. There is a part of us that shall always go back and forth between doing the right thing and doing the easy and convenient thing, and the continuous ways that Saga deals with this dilemma is so fabulously thought-provoking and evocative, and it does it via situations that all of us can relate with to certain degrees.
The artwork is astounding. Staples does not shy away from bright, vivid colour palettes and wild, off-the-wall designs to illustrate this remarkable world and universe that Vaughan as written and crafted. I love that every single time I flip a page, I have absolutely no fucking idea what I will encounter. Will it be Prince Robot IV making babies with his wife? Will it be some random giant monster self-fellating himself? Or will it be a bunch of kids climbing over Lying Cat like he’s a playground toy? It’s great, phenomenal, exhilarating. Although, when it involves deaths, it’s less exhilarating but still just as jaw-dropping. Honestly, the artistic talents of Fiona Staples is a must-read even if you’re not keen on science-fiction narratives.
In summation, if you’re not reading the Saga comics, what are you even doing with your life, chum? It’s so fucking brilliant and is one of the greatest things to come out of the medium in years. Plus, it just recently stopped being on hiatus, and this means new issues and volumes hitting shelves again soon! I cannot wait for it… I mean, literally after the way volume nine ended (future post rant), I need it like I need air and kitties and milo, right now and in my hand… or my lungs… So… HIGHLY FUCKING RECOMMENDED. Read it and be awesome-sauce or don’t read it and be lame-o-sauce.
Publication Date: October 2012
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: Science-Fiction, Space Western/Opera, Romance
Page Count: 160
Content Warnings: Graphic violence, blood, gore, and sexual content. Strong language. Depiction of imprisonment, displacement from war including refugees, and forced sexual work and enslavement. Strong depiction of death. Use of drugs and alcohol. Sexism and misogyny. Racism. Homophobia.