Synopsis: Set against the backdrop of a long-standing galactic war, two star-crossed lovers from opposing sides fight to keep themselves and their newborn alive.
The Comic Spot returns with our first dip into a story that doesn’t involve the Caped Crusader. Saga is the epic space opera from legendary graphic novel writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man). It’s definitely a great departure for the column as well as my own comic reading. For the most part (aside from The Walking Dead, that is), my comic history has been limited to superhero stories. Saga is an incredibly epic story, which weaves its story across multiple galaxies. At its core, however, Saga is a simple story concerning two people determined to survive with their unconventional family intact.
As far as stories go, this isn’t as simplistic as your average comic book story. As good as the Batman New 52 has been, its plotline has remained uncomplicated. Here, while I wouldn’t call it difficult to follow, there are definitely intricacies that you don’t get with superheroes. From its main plot point of the story of Alana and Marko, the story webs outward, encompassing whole other planets, alien races, and characters.
Fiona Staples is the artist for this series and her work is pretty solid, especially when it comes to the backgrounds. Vaughan has created a story with widely different worlds and Staples manages to get the point across. The characters all have very unique designs and while maybe a little more simplistic and cartoony, I tend to prefer that sort of design. The characters are not overly detailed, yet you’re able to get a sense of character and motivation without too many lines or shades that ham-fist it your way. The backgrounds are lush and creative, allowing this story to create this encompassing universe that is believable.
Alana and Marko are the main characters and you couldn’t ask for two better main characters to base an epic space opera around. They’re a classic Romeo and Juliet dynamic with otherworldly characteristics. It’s also interesting what Vaughan does with the gender dynamics, as Marko, the father, considers himself a pacifist while mother Alana is not afraid to show her badass bitch side.
Along for the ride is a cast of interesting characters of all different backgrounds. You have a benevolent teenage ghost named Izabel that helps Marko and Alana escape Cleave, a robot prince with a TV for a head, a bounty hunter that keeps a large cat that knows when people lie as a pet, and plenty of other background characters with odd character designs and fantastical purpose.
In this aspect, Saga is very much like some of the best fantasy stories told. Like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, the world is populated by unique characters of all shapes and sizes and really gives the universe it inhabits a sort of credibility it wouldn’t have without it.
Superhero comics are usually black and white: you’ve got a bad guy and you have a good guy. While some of them delve into shades of grey, you usually don’t get a super-complex idea of good vs. evil. Saga is a little different. Sure, you’re supposed to side with Alana, Marko, their baby Hazel, and their fight to stay alive and in love, but there’s no clear-cut villain. On the hunt for them are a few bounty hunters named the Will and the Stalk, both of which show either humanity or an interest in self preservation. The closest thing to a true villain is Prince Robot IV, a television-headed prince of the Robot Kingdom who has been tasked by the Landfall Coalition to hunt them down. Even so, he’s not quite evil, more of a soldier, so even he has a little more complex character arc that pure baddie.
I really enjoyed the beginning to this story. The beginning thrusts you into the middle of everything without worrying about whether or not you’re going to be able to catch up. It allows the characters to play their parts and because of that, you pick everything up pretty quickly. With nice artwork, identifiable characters, and a solid story, it’s one that I recommend for someone looking for a different sort of comic to pick up.