Writer Brian Vaughn and artist Fiona Staples, have created something interesting with SAGA. A familiar background story mixed with familiar elements of another story but with a new coat of paint is how I would describe it. I stumbled upon the first issue a few days after it came out and I was intrigued; after reading the second issue, I was hooked. Recently, I suggested it to my esteemed coworker, Matthew Kim, and after he read an issue, he was hooked too. Hit the jump to see why this is definitely a comic you should be reading.
If you were to take Romeo and Juliet and throw it in a blender with two different alien races, robot men, anthropomorphic animals, wizards, and an intergalactic war, SAGA would come out of the other side. That explanation doesn’t really do it justice but that’s the only way I can explain it. Two of the main characters, Marko and Alana aren’t officially introduced to the reader until midway through the issue. The third main character of the story is their daughter Hazel, narrating from sometime in the future. Marko and Alana’s people have been at war for as long as anybody can remember and the fact that they deserted their respective armies to marry each other and have a child together has painted a target on their backs from their respective governments and from mercenaries hired to retrieve their baby, Hazel. You can’t help but root for the couple especially when you see how much hardship and danger they have to go through to protect their little family, which seems to continue to grow as the story progresses.
One of the best things about the book is how seamlessly and fluidly Brian Vaughn switches focus between character groups and timeframes. There are points in the comic where Marko and Alana are shown before they were married and on the run, followed by them dealing with all the craziness in their lives during the present. Then, within the span of a few pages, perspectives switch and there is a mercenary talking to his boss who is a giant seahorse, a discussion on the flavor of breast milk, a spiderwoman with a shotgun, and a bunch of ghost kids. This constant flipping between past and present and the different characters’ points of view keeps readers hooked by making you constantly want to know what happens next.
The other reason this book is so compelling is the humor. I’m constantly finding myself chuckling at panels like the one above. That’s not to say that there aren’t moments of seriousness or tenderness, but even those moments have some sort of humor in them. Vaughn is skilled in writing in clever jokes that you have to think about for a bit but isn’t above throwing in a groin shot or two. Most of the humor comes from the interaction between Marko and Alana but also from Hazel’s spectral babysitter, Izabel. The wide variety of characters inhabiting the universe each have their own little funny quirks, like the Lying Cat, which is a giant space cat that can tell when someone is lying to it, or Prince Robot IV, who has a television for a head that broadcasts whatever he is thinking. Each of the characters have some sort of humorous flaw that makes you invested in their story.
The artwork is interesting because of how easily it switches from looking solid and tangible to ethereal and cel-shaded. With as many elements as it throws together this flip-flopping seems to be the only way to capture the full range of familiarity and strangeness within the overall story. I could have lived my whole life without seeing what a space ogre’s…junk…looked like but the ensuing nutshot made up for it…a bit.
If you’re still on the fence about it, do what my friend Matt did and download the first issue from HERE for free. I can guarantee that you will have an EXTREMELY hard time finding a more interesting, charming, funnier comic out right now.