Comic Review: Saga #1
Artist: Fiona Staples
Review: When “Saga” opens up, we see a woman, Alana, going into labor while being looked after by her boyfriend and baby-daddy, Marko, except that they are not just a regular woman or man. Alana has a punk rock hairstyle and a Jedi cloak with 2 bug looking wings on her back. Marko has a set of ram horns coming out of his forehead and curling around his big floppy ears. She gives birth to a little crying girl with her own horns and wings already showing signs of development. They are holed up in a mechanic’s garage while authorities outside bang on the door demanding they come out. And when I say authorities, I mean a robot with a tv head, his angel winged sentries, and an anthropomorphic monkey in overalls yelling about his garage. Obviously, this world is not our own.
Near as I can tell, the two lovers belong to 2 different races. One is a group of winged humanoids who seem to have embraced technology and come from a planet named Landfall, the biggest planet in the known galaxy, and the other one is a race of horned humanoids that have committed to magic and more archaic weapons who originate from Landfall’s single moon, Wreath. These 2 races are at war (as if there was any other choice) making Alana and Marko pseudo-Romeo and Juliet protagonistS. The tension explodes from the get-go playing to the comic community’s natural curiosity. If you just start lecturing them about your world, they might not respond, but if you tease them and make them curious about the world than they will follow the narrative when it becomes information heavy.
Nevertheless, the lecture cannot be bland and boring either, but this is where “Saga” really ups its game. There is some added sense of passion because the narrator is the baby born in the first pages retelling the story of how she was born. She is captivating without being overly poetic. She has a realistic slang-ridden casual nature that gives it a youthful sound without losing any amount of the respect one would have for parents who braved a war zone to guarantee her a life. Even the way that the narration is placed into the panels is interesting. They are simply doodled into any open space without a dialog box. And there is always character dialog to fall back on, like in one scene where 2 people from Landfall discuss Marko and the means of his escape.
It just doesn’t really work when you are presented with a provocative new world that you just cannot wait to sink your teeth into only to have aspects of the new reality disappoint. I mean, to have a winged humanoid complain about a cellphone app giving him some trouble and have another armed with a gun called a “heartbreaker,” that leaves whoever is shot with it feel a deep sadness, I couldn’t help but groan. At one point our heroes are given a map to a spaceship so that they can escape, but it looks more like something you might find in a happy meal with some of the most unimaginative landmark names I have ever read. Worst of all, it seems to lean on those classic Image Comic mistakes. That is to say it is far too casual with its curse words and sexual situations, and you can’t blame them for being a little graphic-trigger-happy when they finally get away from those editorial mandates and comic codes. Nowhere near as crass as when Image first came on the scene, but there was something about it that seemed like it was trying too hard to be considered “independent” or “edgy.”
That said, writer Brian K. Vaughn makes it work. There is an easy to read flow without dumbing down the material for the audience. Like any comic reader, he seems obviously interested in the gamut of genre options from fantasy to horror to science fiction. He combines them in a near-perfectly balanced hodge podge of ideas with an especially strong influence from Star Wars, with its combination of technology and magics and epic-scaled multi-planet setting.