Review: Saga #1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Cover image for Saga, issue one (#1)
Produced: Image                                   Cover price: $2.99
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan                      Art: Fiona Staples
Star Wars-style action collides with Game of Thrones-esque drama in this original sci-fi/fantasy epic for mature readers, as new parents Marko and Alana risk everything to raise their child amidst a never-ending galactic war.

I want to start by saying I wasn’t personally a fan of Game of Thrones, but I am a fan of this comic so don’t let the synopsis lead you into believing it’s overly similar. Saga was an unexpected hit when it came out a few weeks ago – it sold out in the first week, got sent back for a second printing and before it even went back on sale, stores complained it wouldn’t be enough. So, three printings in almost as many weeks – Vaughan & Staples must be doing something right.

Saga, for me, is an honest comic – it’s pure storytelling at its core and doesn’t hold back while it does so. You’re introduced to two young lovers from different waring races, very Romeo and Juliet, and follow them as they try to escape everything around them to live a safe, normal life like any family. Marko and Alana are very likeable characters and are written so intimately it’s hard not to feel for them and immediately be drawn into the story. They aren’t cool, lightsaber-wielding heroes; they’re normal, everyday people caught in the middle of a war they don’t believe in and that’s what makes this story so engaging. Far too often the protagonist is an all-knowing, combat-ready hero, so it’s refreshing to see a sci-fi/fantasy story through the eyes of someone you can relate to.

Saga issue one (#1) page 13Now don’t get me wrong – that doesn’t mean there isn’t action. Throughout the larger-than-normal forty-four page issue, you’re introduced to a few different characters. My favourite is a rather cool Han Solo/Boba Fett style bounty hunter, who without batting an eye lid takes down an enormous creature ten times his size. Which brings me onto just how large the scope of this story is – as you follow Marko and Alana’s story, Vaughn introduces third person narration by their child, Hazel, which aids the incredible fluency of the story. As you switch between different characters, not only are you learning about what happened in the past and what’s happening in the present, but you can imagine what lies on the horizon. Vaughn obviously has a detailed picture of this universe he’s envisioned, and you can’t help but be reminded of, in all the best ways, the other great sci-fi/fantasy epics like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

The art Fiona Staples delivers is amazing. When drawing alien races, artists often get carried away and create inhuman creatures that don’t resemble us in anything more than dialogue and with that, lose the audience’s ability to relate to the characters. Marko and Alana are the perfect blend of humanistic characters with alien features, so throughout the story the characters expressions are ever changing to suit the dialogue and it’s a perfect marriage of fantasy and reality. Far too often, artists get lazy and produce base expressions throughout panels of talking, as if to get it out of the way until they can go crazy on the action scenes. Fiona Staples doesn’t, thankfully – each panel gives the characters different expressions to suit the scene and when the action scenes come, they deliver. It’s also coloured beautifully, with each scene displaying a different colour palette – you’re not being shown the same humdrum backgrounds panel after panel.

Saga issue one (#1) battle image, pages 40-41What can I say, other than Saga is a perfect example of when a writer and an artist work in perfect harmony to deliver an amazing story. Vaughn has stipulated in his contract that each issue can be no less than twenty-two pages long and be charged at no more than $2.99 an issue. The first issue is forty-four pages long with no advertisements for a low $2.99, so you know it was created to tell a great story, not squeeze every last penny out of you. I have to say that it is definitely a mature read, as in issue #1 there’s sex, violence and childbirth, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen already in shows like Game of Thrones.

I highly recommend this to anyone who loves the sci-fi/fantasy genre, either as a book reader or a comic reader and even those who aren’t. It has that much to offer that I think it’s got something that appeals to everyone. Vaughn himself said in an interview, “My goal is always to make comics that you’ll hopefully like enough to force on your significant other, especially if he or she isn’t into comics yet.”
Those new to the comic genre, bear in mind the mature content – some people can be put off by seeing quite explicit scenes. I would recommend checking it out now, as this series has the potential to go far. As the third printing of issue #1 is due out at the end of April, there’s still time to catch it at the beginning and be able to say “I’ve read it since it first came out!” and we all love that satisfaction.


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