Why You Should Be Reading “Saga”
It’s rare in recent years (not totally nonexistent, but rare) for a comic book to come out with a story on an epic scale that has nothing to do with superheroes and/or isn’t from Marvel or DC. The trend recently has been toward post-apocalyptic interior narratives and indie-style short stories and illustrative styles. There’s nothing wrong with any of that of course, but it’s a notable trend. It seems that recently the grand epics have been reserved for big budget blockbusters like Pacific Rim and for television serials that have the same big budgets and more time to stretch the story out (Defiance comes to mind, and Once Upon a Time).
Saga, written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples for Image Comics, stands out amongst recent titles as a true spanning epic. What makes it an epic exactly? A perfectly crafted combination of large scale world building and charged adventure, with the art and writing chops to carry it. The universe of Saga is entirely new, with surreal alien races (one with TV screens for heads, for example, heads with legs and no bodies) and two humanoid alien protagonists trying to survive in a war torn society. Their adventure is familiarly poignant, one of love between enemies as they run for their lives to escape the forces that would rather see them dead than happy in their unity. It is a story with heart and no lack of innovation.
Saga is also, according to Brian K. Vaughan, meant for the comic book community and for no one else. There are no plans for it to ever become a movie or a TV show, and Vaughan and Staples are intent on keeping the Hollywood bigwigs away. It is, in its own way, a love letter to grand epic comic books, intent on remaining only a grand (and pretty damn epic) comic book.
It helps too that the art is spectacular. It is detailed, illustrative art that tells the narrative without getting too hung up on being stylized while simultaneously not ignoring the importance of proportions, anatomy and some sense of tangible realism. In a way, it reminds me of the old Dragonball art, with an almost Tibetan-style bright color palette and attention to detail. It is simultaneously fresh and familiar, a winning combination in my book.
I can’t recommend Saga enough. Volumes 1 and 2 are in print, and Issue #13 will be out next month. Keep an eye out; it’s absolutely worth the time and money.