Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Saga


   I don't really review many comic series on here, for a number of reasons- one, this is very obviously and primarily a movie blog, and two, comic series are so frickin' long that it's hard to review any ongoing title as a complete story. I'm very much used to reviewing the beginning, middle and end of a story as a whole. But, with comics, I have to sorta make an ongoing recommendation without knowing how the story is going to end. However, I have no qualms about recommending Saga right out of the gate. Author Brian K. Vaughan is telling a great story here, and I'd be remiss if I didn't tell all of you right now that you should be reading it too.

   Saga has been running for a few years now, so you've got plenty to catch up. Six full trade volumes are out and in a lapse of good sense and sound judgment I bought all six on my last visit to the comic shop. I regret nothing. I'd read a lot of Saga in the past, but I'd never owned any of it myself and I really wanted to revisit it and catch up on the story. And, speaking of the story, Vaughan has crafted a true epic. Saga's scope is sweeping, but the core of the story is its amazing characters. So many of these space operas, regardless of the medium in which they're being told, have seriously generic stock characters. Not Saga.

   Alana and Marko are soldiers from warring factions in a bloody interplanetary war, but against all odds they fall for each other and end up having a child together while on the run from both sides. The mess it creates is a hugely political one. You'd be forgiven for thinking this might be a typical romance story, but it's really not. Alana and Marko come from very different cultures, and the book doesn't ignore that- to the contrary, it explores it. Traditions, superstitions, stigmas, misconceptions and stereotypes. Alana and Marko have a lot to overcome if their star-crossed romance is going to succeed. This is one space faring romance worth following, unlike some...


   What's even better is that nobody in this world talks like they're in a 500 page 'epic' novel. Page one of issue one sets the tone for the rest of the entire series. The characters talk like real people. Their dialog isn't filtered through the dust of an old stuffy sci-fi movie. Alana is independent, feisty, and uninterested in being trapped in a safely cliche life that would insist she 'stay put'. She hates it when people insist that she can't do something because she's a parent now. Marko is a wide-eyed old soul who's upbringing is steeped in old fashioned traditions and rituals. He's crazy about Alana and sometimes- most times, they don't see eye to eye on things. Vaughan uses these clashes to generate not just tense drama, but also- at times, some genuine humor.


   Visually, Saga is stunning. Fiona Staples' art is absolutely great. Saga has a fascinating visual language and an impeccable attention to detail. No tiny background detail is arbitrary or overlooked. There's also some great sight gags, like how cameras have eyeballs for lenses, the royal aristocrats have TVs for heads, but some objects are plainly familiar. One character recalls an old flame, as he pops some home videos on his TV. It's little touches like that that are just great. Not everything has to be a stunning reinvention of basic things. Sometimes, a house is just a house, and an apartment is just an apartment. But in Saga, sometimes a spaceship is also a giant tree. Yep. A tree. Saga is wild like that. It's full of sci-fi and fantasy, but is also grounded in the most unexpected ways.

   Seriously though, I can't reiterate this enough- the characters in Saga are amazing. Alana and Marko are just the tip of the iceberg. From professional bounty hunters like The Stalk and The Will, to his trusty loyal sidekick- a giant hairless cat who calls people out on their lies- easily one of my absolute favorite characters in Saga.


   Vaughan writes his characters with genuine personality, and Staples makes sure that personality comes alive in every single panel. Saga is full of great storytelling, vibrant characters, intense action set pieces, human level drama, and some laugh out loud humor. This is the kind of book that I do believe everyone should read- comic fan or not. I can't say enough good things about this title, but it's gotten me back into my love of the medium twice. That should speak volumes about its quality.

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