Saga may well be the best comic currently being published.
Written by Brian K. Vaughan, and illustrated by Fiona Staples, it is a sci-fi/fantasy epic, telling the very human story of Marko and Alana, a married couple trying to keep their newborn safe, while on the run from armies they have each deserted. Alana comes from the technology advanced winged people native to Landfall, the largest planet in the galaxy, while Marko is a member of the horn-headed, magic users from Wreath, Landfall’s only moon. These two civilisations are at war with each other, a war that spans the galaxy, and has been raging as long as anyone can remember. Each army considers their newborn, Hazel, an abomination, and try to destroy her. The series has just won Eisner awards for ‘Best New Series, Best Continuing Series, and Best Writer — every category it was nominated in’, a reflection of its quality.
Saga provokes a sense of wonder. Clearly influenced by Star Wars, Saga succeeds in giving a sense that we are only seeing a tiny fragment of this vast, wonderful world. Anything can happen here: a prince robot can meet a ghost; a seal can have a pet horse-walrus, and the earth can remember a brutal battle. This is where Fiona Staples’ art really comes into play. She not only gives enough detail to show how truly huge this world is, but also shows how beautiful, how funny, how terrifying and how brutal it can be.
What is most impressive is that Saga accomplishes this epic scale without forgetting to be grounded in the relatable. There may well be a robot kingdom, but its citizens need to have sex and go to the toilet like the rest of us. At the heart of Saga is Marko and Alana’s relationship, and them learning how to be parents. They are one of the best written couples in comics, each clearly being independent characters, who also belong together. They fight, they make mistakes, they have sex and they clearly love each other.
Make no mistake, this is a mature comic. The sex is frankly depicted, the language is that which you would expect from a bunch of soldier’s in a war zone, and the violence is brutal. Sextillion, the hedonistic hellhole of a planet, is a disturbing place, as shown by characters like Slave Girl, the six-year-old sex worker trapped there. This comic, however, is not just ‘mature’ in that it deals with R rated material. Thematically, it explores ideas like parenting, coming to grips with your mortality, learning to accept you will always let your loved ones down. This makes it a terrific companion piece to Runaways, Brian K. Vaughan’s earlier work, which told the story of a group of teenagers who discovered that of an evil crime group.
The reason Saga succeeds on both the large and small scale is that it focuses on the small, and sees how it is affected by the large. Rather than telling us the story of powerful decision makers, those who shape the galaxy, we see the story of the most affected by those decisions. We focus on where the ripple in the pond ends, rather than the rock that caused the splash.
Special mention must by given to the character of Lying Cat, a large blue cat, that spits the word ‘Lying’ whenever someone fails to tell the truth. It is as irritating and magnificent as it sounds. Saga is filled with so many other wonderful, magical, unique things. It pulls on the heartstrings without being sentimental. It provokes and shocks and inspires in equal measure. It is definitely work reading.
Published by Image, Saga can be bought here, in both single issues and collected paperbacks.