Stormtrooper Terry

Stormtrooper Terry

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Saga: The Best Comic You Really Should Be Reading

About a year and a half ago, I enrolled in a class on how to write comic books. I stopped going after one session because the class sucked and the "teacher," an actual comic book writer, seemed just horrible, but as prep for the class I had to come up with three ideas for my own comic. One of the ideas I came up with was for a superhero adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. I would have changed the character names to heroic derivatives and given them powers to much, like turning Mercutio into the superspeed hero Mercury, or Benvolio into the electric-powered Volt, etc..., and would have had the Montague side be heroes and the Capulet side be villains. I mention all of this to prelude the fact that there is a comic out there right now telling it's own Romeo and Juliet story way better than I ever could.

Our heroes: Alana, Marko, and Hazel.

Saga, written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Fiona Staples, tells the tale of Alana and Marko, two lovers who are literally star-crossed; their home planets, the Coalition of Landfall for Alana, where people have wings, and Marko's world of Wreath, where they all use magic and have horns and antlers, are at war. You can see the Romeo and Juliet aspect right away, as well as bits of why many people have described the book as being sort of Star Wars meets Game of Thrones. You'll notice, by the way, that everything the book has been compared to is awesome, and the book definitely deserves those comparisons.

Hazel meets The Stalk...

When the story opens, Alana and Marko are on the planet Cleave, and Alana is giving birth to their daughter Hazel. As it happens, Marko was being held as a POW on Cleave, where Alana was a prison guard, and the two fell in love. This, of course, is frowned upon by both of the warring kingdoms. The Coalition of Landfall send Prince Robot IV from their allies the Robot Kingdom after the lovers and their baby. The Robot Kingdom's subjects, by the way, are anatomically correct humans in every way except they have TVs instead of human heads. Wreath, on the other hand, employs bounty hunters: the first is The Will, a bounty-hunter with principles who travels with a Lying Cat, a talking cat who can tell when someone lies. The also send a bounty hunter called The Stalk, who is half-human, half-spider... and also The Will's former lover.

Those of you who know  of my arachnophobia can imagine how little I care for her.

Izabel. I'd still take her over Fran Drescher.

While trying to escape from Cleave, our hunted family finds help in Izabel, a ghost of a girl who died in the war, who helps Alana and Marko find a way off planet in exchange for being allowed to come with them as little Hazel's nanny. And that covers all the main characters, although most recently Marko's parents were introduced, which I can only imagine will end anything but well.

The Will and his Lying Cat.

Getting down to an actual review, well, Brian K. Vaughan has always been a great writer... just look at Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, or Runaways if you don't believe me... and he's brought his A game to this one. The writing is sharp, the characters' voices are all strong and the dialogue all feels natural. There's drama and comedy and some intensely disturbing bits as well. And having the series be narrated by Hazel is, in my opinion, a stroke of genius, because it really is the only way to make a baby a main character and still get to know her.

See? TV heads!

For a book to be truly great, though, great writing needs to be paired with great art. I have to admit to being completely unfamiliar with Fiona Staples' work before reading Saga, my only prior exposure to her being the covers she did for a series a few years ago that I absolutely loved, DV8: Gods and Monsters. Her art here though is pretty much perfect. It's both realistic and fantastical at the same time, while being absolutely gorgeous. But if I have her to thank for the creeps The Stalk gave me, well, maybe I'll take all this nice stuff back... which is, in and of itself, a compliment!

Not gonna spoil what that is, but it's pretty damn cool.

Saga really has it all. It has the political intrigue of Game of Thrones, as well as the weird, graphic sex. It has the space battles and clash between technology and mysticism of Star Wars. It has the romance of Romeo and Juliet, and, I suspect although I hope I'm wrong, a similarly unhappy ending... and ending I am in no hurry to reach. I'm sure Saga is the kind of story with a finite run, with a definite end in place, but I for one hope that end is nowhere near (and I doubt it is, the seventh issue only came out yesterday, after all), because I'm looking forward to reading this book for what I hope will be years.

And so should you.

And there's The Stalk, who pretty much speaks for herself. Shudder.

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