Unwritten is over. Fables has one more issue before it will be complete. Sandman gets a new mini-series once every ten years or so. Lately it feels like there aren't a whole lot of comic series that I follow that are still current.
Enter Saga, a series I had heard a lot about over the last couple of years, but never got around to reading. Part of it was the unavailability of the first collection. It was out of print the few times I thought about seeing what all the fuss was about. I saw the hardcover edition of the first eighteen issues, but I wasn't quite willing to go that far into the series without getting a taste for it first. I knew Vaughan's name from Y: The Last Man, but didn't like that one much at all, despite all the rave reviews for it. I wanted to enter Saga with a touch of caution.
Saga Volume TwoLast night, I read the first collection, and then went right back out to Barnes and Noble to pick up volumes two through four. That's caution for you.
Saga follows the story of Hazel, the daughter of Alana, from the planet Landfall, and Marko, from the moon Wreath, which orbits Landfall. Their planets have been at war for a long time. Marko starts out as Alana's prisoner, but over time they fall in love, and once their romance takes shape, they both become fugitives. And when I say Saga is about Hazel, I mean it's about her entire life; the story starts with her birth.
Hazel narrates parts of the story from a distant future, so the story is essentially one long recollection. Why Hazel is narrating the story is a bit of an unknown. Is she telling the story to herself, or to someone else? If it's to someone else, why? Is someone interrogating her? Is it an internal recollection? Is she telling it to a biographer? Is she famous or infamous or completely unknown in her present time?
Saga Volume ThreeThe questions create an engaging dynamic, but the real story is in how Alana and Marko leave their homes in order for their family to survive. Some of the dramatic tension is eased by Hazel narrating parts of the story, but given the existence of spirits and ghosts in the story, there's no real guarantee that Hazel survives the story she's telling. Hazel also spoils parts of the story by telling us certain things that we don't know yet through the development of events, but in most cases she's telling us what we've already suspected.
The story has its roots in lots of other literature -- Romeo and Juliet is the most obvious -- but it's also something original. The creativity of the creatures and worlds of this story are reminiscent of Clive Barker and China Mieville. There is a race of beings with television sets for heads, one with wings, another with horns, one with eight eyes and eight limbs . . . there's a lot of imagination here. Vaughan throws them together easily, until the story looks like the cantina scene Star Wars (which is another influence).
Saga Volume FourFiona Staples' artwork is a large part of the story, as well. I tend not to notice the artwork in comics unless it's distinctive in some way, and while Staples doesn't do anything impressionistic or abstract with her artwork, there's something distinctive about her style that makes it the perfect fit for the story, like Eddie Campbell's style with From Hell. I think the best graphic storytelling takes advantage of a unique story and unique art, and Saga seems to be doing just that.
If you've been hesitant about reading Saga, rest assured that there's a fantastic story here to reveal itself to you. It's a new enough series that you won't have to go back too far to catch up (it's not The Walking Dead, for Christ's sake). This is the comic to fill the void of smart, engaging titles for grown-ups to enjoy.