Monday, June 16, 2014

Saga (Volume One) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Saga, Volume 1 I do not think I can adequately describe the plot of Saga (as I know it so far, having read only volume one thus far) or how great it is, but I will give it a shot.  It is a fantasy story told in graphic novel format involving a war between a planet called Landfill and its moon, which is known as Wreath.  Due to the fact that the destruction of either orb would send the other orb spiraling out of control in space, the beings of Landfill and Wreath decided to outsource their war, forcing species from other celestial orbs to pick a side and fight while the inhabitants of Landfill and Wreath enjoyed a degree of peace.

Alana, who is from Landfill, and Marko, who is from Wreath, are soldiers in this never ending war.  Marko has horns like a ram and ears like a deer.  Alana has green wings growing out of her back, suggesting a Tinkerbell relative, but she is no gentle wish-granting fairy.  Alana and Marko meet, fall in love, decide to opt out of the war, get married and have a baby.  Most everyone else is of the opinion that a coupling between these two is an abomination and seeks to kill them.  

Multiple people recommended this to me and I am so grateful they did.  The artwork is amazing.  I wonder how it worked – if the author had an exact idea of the creatures and world he wanted to create and commissioned the artist to do exactly that or if the artist came up with the artwork after reading the script.  In any case, it looks really good.  The drawings are really sharp.  Admittedly I cannot draw at all and am no art critic, so this may make sense to no one but me, but in some comics I've come across the artwork has lots of shading and indistinct lines such that it takes an effort to figure out what I’m looking at.  I suppose this is a matter of preference and technique.  In any case, I really appreciated the crispness and clearness of the artwork in Saga.  Added to the crispness of the drawings are the colors.  Together they really brought the story into focus for me.

As for the story, it is a mix of fantasy, action-adventure, with a surprising degree of romance.  Alana and Marko are in love and they fight like it, yelling at each other one minute and  making up the next.  There are also ghosts, magic, and all sorts of fantastical creatures.  Reading this back it sounds kind of crazy and out there but it all works.  I bought into the story immediately.  Speaking of immediately, I loved the opening scene where Alana is giving birth – it is better than it sounds.  Alana can't tell if she's about to deliver a baby or go to the bathroom.  Marko is overwhelmed to the point of tears when he first sees his newborn daughter.  It is funny and sweet.  But then, just when you are lulled into the romantic cuteness of it all, soldiers break into the birth room in an attempt to capture the couple and their newborn baby.  From their the story jumps back and forth from funny and romantic, to violent and bloody, with a few trips to the utter absurd.  Case in point: The character known as The Will visits planet Sextillion where he is greeted by two beings whose entire body consists of a head atop a pair of legs clad in fishnet stockings.  

Fair warning, this is truly a graphic novel, as in graphic sex and violence.  That wasn’t all that surprising, but it also touches of uncomfortable issues like slavery and child prostitution.  I don't know where this is going yet but one thing I like so far is that this is not a story about a hero coming to win the war for one side or the other, but about two people trying to escape a war that may be important to the political leaders but really doesn't matter to them.  (The war has been going on so long it isn't even clear anymore what the two sides are fighting about.)
I wisely bought the first three volumes of Saga and so have the next two to look forward to.  It started on a high note.  Here’s hoping the next two volumes are as good or better.

I will be reading these next:
Saga, Volume 2   Saga, Volume 3

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