If you aren’t already reading Saga there are a few things that I can assume about you without ever having to meet you.
1. You just straight up aren’t a comics person, or, if you are, you aren’t a good comics person. Or a good person. Or possibly even a person at all.
2. You’re sick of hearing about how good Saga is from all your friends who are comics people and how much you really need to pick up the first trade because it’s only $9.99 for six issues, and no you can’t borrow my copy because I’ll never get it back, come on, you know how you are.
3. You have some weird guilt thing about enjoyment, probably having to do with your deeply religious upbringing.
This was supposed to be a review of Saga, the latest comic book series by Brian K. Vaughn (Y The Last Man, Ex Machina) and Fiona Staples (Jonah Hex, THUNDER Agents), but I feel like if I write anything other than “OMG SO GOOD” over and over until I hit a decent word count, it would be dishonest. So this will not be a review. Sorry. Honestly, though, the last thing the internet needs is another raving fanboy gushing about how great the series is. It is super great, though. For reals.
One of the things that makes Saga such an interesting series is that it really can’t be summed up in a sentence. I guess you could say something like, “Romeo and Juliet in space with a baby,” and not be too far off but that really doesn’t give any indication as to what the actual plot of the book might be, and after fifteen issues, I don’t think I could explain it without sounding like a crazy person. Plus, it wouldn’t do any sort of justice to what the book is actually about — the core ideas of the book — which is the most important part. That’s what I’ll be writing about.
Oh, also? OMG SO GOOD.
The most obvious thematic overtone in the series is war. The main conflict of the series is a result of the longstanding war between the planet Landfall and its moon, Wreath. Marko, the Wreath-born prisoner of war and Alana, the Landfallian prison guard meet, fall in love, and have a child on a planet far from their respective homes and spend basically the entire series (so far) on the run from forces on both sides AND in between that want them dead.
Their family is an offense to two societies that have been at odds for as long as either can remember and the idea of peace or reconciliation or even non-hostility toward each other is unforgivable. The two societies have each successfully removed the humanity (for lack of a better term) from the other so that there is only the enemy. Their cultures are so entrenched in the ideology of us vs. them that it no longer matters why they started fighting in the first place, it only matters that they fight. It may not be a completely original idea, but it’s effective if only because of how easy it is see parallels in certain real-world prolonged conflicts with murky origins.
But that’s not what the book is really about.
This book is really about family and how amazing and terrible and wonderful and insufferable it is to be stuck with somebody no matter what. It’s a book about finding out every terrible secret about a person and staying with them anyways. Because no matter how awful a person is or has been, the alternative is being alone and that’s always worse. As Marko says to Alana in issue #5, “What would I do without you?” And that’s just it. Amidst all the science fiction, fantasy, theater of war, over the top, high concept tornado of ideas, this is a book about people. Plain and simple. And that, to me, is where the book excels.
It would be very easy — and still extremely entertaining — to let the world/galaxy/universe these characters live in take the forefront. It IS a fascinating universe; one in which suicide cults perform rituals to hatch planet-sized eggs and the ghosts of dead children are the final psychic defenders of their war-ravaged planet. The only other comic I can think of that is as full of nonstop ideas is Brandon Graham and Simon Roy’s Prophet, which is another legitimately amazing book, but it makes a very conscious effort to build its world instead of its characters. Saga could do that. But that’s not the story Vaughn and Staples are trying to tell. And their universe doesn’t feel any smaller for the scope of their tale.
I just re-read all fifteen available issues of the series, and I think my favorite is issue #14. In it there are two amazing scenes that, in my opinion, say everything that the series has had to say thus far. The first scene (without spoiling anything) shows Klara, Marko’s mother, and D. Oswald Heist bonding over a shared sense of loss. The second is hands down my favorite page in any comic book ever. It shows Sophie and Lying Cat enjoying the weather on a nice day, and it makes me cry every time I see it. Yes, I am being purposely vague in an effort to get you to read the book and find out what I’m talking about. It really is every bit as amazing as everybody is saying.