Saga

Saga made by the creative duo of Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples is one of the hottest selling comic book series on Comixology. There is a reason for that. It is a damn good comic book.

Few months ago Comixology was running a promotion and giving away the first issue for free. I think that was before they got acquired by Ammazon and forced to rip out in-app purchases from their iOS reader. Either way I was able to snag it for free and file it away for the future. I didn’t read it back then because I was busy working my way through Prophet. Even as it was on my backlog, it was never really forgotten. Panels, quotes and costumes based on the comic were constantly showing up in my Twitter and Tumblr feeds suggesting it wasn’t just another popular series, but rather something akin to a cultural phenomenon sweeping through my corner of the geekosphere.

Saga Volume 1 Cover

Saga Volume 1 Cover

Few days ago I finally decided to check it out. It was probably a mistake considering that it was the middle of Summer Steam Sale and that my credit card was already on the table ready for electronic purchases. Needless to say, I now own the three collected volumes and all the loose issues of Saga that are currently available for purchase. I get it now. I fully understand why everyone is so obsessed with this series.

Saga is SF-Fantasy

Saga is a mix of SF and Fantasy

It is all about the characters. I would say that they are the main draw. Saga does the Game of Thrones thing where there are no real villains, and the antagonists are just as interesting and fun to follow as the protagonists. They are vibrant, colorful, beautifully penned by Fiona Staples and masterfully brought to life through Vaughn’s dialogue. More importantly they are all strikingly original. Almost every single named character has something about them that makes them instantly memorable. Vaughn eschews the classic kick the dog tactic of establishing villains and instead gives all of his antagonists interesting back-stories and endearing qualities that make them easy to empathize with if not intensely likable.

Favorite Characters

My favorite characters: The Will, Gwendolyn and the Lying Cat

At it’s very core, Saga is a story about an unlikely couple of star crossed lovers. Their home worlds have been at war for longer than anyone can remember, and their species hate each other so intensely they have co-opted most of the galaxy into a war effort to genocide one another. And yet, with a help of one trashy romance novel Alana and Marko find enough common ground to fall hopelessly and recklessly in love, elope together and have a baby. Seeing how, prior to their desertion, they have both been heavily decorated front line soldiers in the war, their romance is seen as a potentially damaging political statement by intelligence agencies on both sides of the conflict. Nearly simultaneously, but independently they decide to quietly eliminate the inconvenient family without alerting the public or creating political martyrs. The story is narrated by Alana and Marko’s daughter, who recounts the circumstances of her birth and the many hardships, dangerous adventures and narrow escapes her family endured.

The Stalk

The Stalk is probably one of the most iconic and memorable villains of the series.

Their pursuers are often more interesting than the main cast. There is a robotic prince with a PTSD and a midlife crisis, a ruthless freelancer/assassin whose strong moral fiber and a big heart constantly get in the way of actually doing his job and a slew of other minor players all of whom are beautifully fleshed out.

One of my favorite parts of the series is the effortless, organic way in which it treats diversity. It is a big topic because of the fact that a lot of our media severely lacks it. Saga doesn’t really have any human characters (except maybe The Will, though it is never established if he is actually human or some human-proxy species) most characters are very human like. Marko’s race, for example are basically people with horns, and Alana’s are people with wings. But instead of making all of them look like white folks (or white folks palette switched to blue or green as it is often the custom) the authors instead create a vastly diverse cast. For example, Marko and his family have distinctly Asian features whereas Alana seems vaguely Hispanic. Marko’s ex-fiance who becomes a prominent (btw, Gwendolyn & The Will OTP) antagonist is unmistakably black.

Alana and Gwendolyn

Alana and Gwendolyn

Saga is one of the few qworks of SF or Fantasy that actually acknowledges there can exist ethnic variations among non-human species, and uses that fact to enhance it’s character designs. The fictional people who populate the pages of the series not only come in all shapes and colors but also orientation. The two investigative reporters who are trying to cover Alana and Marco’s story are gay lovers hailing from a culture that is very prejudiced against homosexuals. The newest freelancer mercenary introduced in the latest issue is a fairly androgynous looking woman who dresses and carries herself like a hard boiled Film Noir detective sans the permanent five o’cock shadow.

None of this seems forced. Despite being a story of inter-species love Saga never really tries to be preachy or even appropriate. It is definitely R-rated, raunchy, violent, and irreverent comic. It does not pull it’s punches and it does not shy away from showing vice, brutality or prejudice. It’s characters are flawed, and they love, hate, make mistakes and sometimes do terrible things either by accident or out of spite. And that’s what makes it so great.

Saga Dialogs

Saga Dialogs

It is a roller-coaster ride of excitement and emotion and you don’t always know who to root for because you want the protagonists to succeed so that the story can keep going, but you can’t bear the taught of any of the antagonists getting hurt.

If you are in the market for a fun, exciting and strikingly original, fast paced story I highly recommend it. It is by far one of the best comic book series I have read in a while. Out of all the nerdy media I consumed lately, it was Saga’s characters that stand out the most. Plus I love the setting, which is a crazy mish-mash of science fiction and fantasy where magic, spaceships, anthropomorphic animals and robot royalty with CRT monitors instead of heads can coexist together without clashing thematically.

Also, can someone please tell me where to buy a Lying Cat, because I really want one.

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9 Responses to Saga

  1. MrPete GERMANY Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    You’re evil.
    After spending way too much money on Prophet (which I don’t regret, mind you!) and then Atomic Robo (historical accuracy? With a nuclear powered robot fighting a cloned dinosaur? Oh please! – so much stupid fun!) you now shove another series my way?
    And those summer sales… I gotta say I didn’t buy a single title on steam.
    But four on gog.com :), the good olde Settlers II among them. Figured it’d be a nice relaxing game for downtimes from what I remember…

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  2. IceBrain PORTUGAL Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    I can vouch for Saga, awesome series. Y: The Last Man, from the same writer, was alright too.

    You should also definitively check out TREES (on Image Comics); I’ve only read the first issue yet, but it’s playing out to be great, which is to be expected considering it’s by Warren Ellis:

    Ten years after they landed. All over the world. And they did nothing, standing on the surface of the Earth like trees, exerting their silent pressure on the world, as if there were no-one here and nothing under foot. Ten years since we learned that there is intelligent life in the universe, but that they did not recognise us as intelligent or alive. Beginning a new science fiction graphic novel by Warren Ellis & Jason Howard.

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  3. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ MrPete:

    Hehe. Glad I could help to separate you from your hard earned money. I bought bunch of cheep games during the Steam sale so it doesn’t feel like I spent that much money… But I actually did. :P

    I did check the Atomic Robo thing out – they had a free issue of that too. For some reason it didn’t really do anything for me.

    @ IceBrain:

    Uh, nice. Trees actually sound pretty interesting. I’m adding it to my list. :)

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  4. gimbar GERMANY Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    It seems like it’s not possible to buy it DRM free :(
    So it is disqualified for me. *puts away cc*

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  5. IceBrain PORTUGAL Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @ gimbar:
    All comics bought on the publisher’s (Image Comics) own website are DRM-free. ComiXology is just a reseller.

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  6. gimbar GERMANY Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @ IceBrain:
    I just looked at the Collected Editions which aren’t available DRM free. My bad. Thx for pointing this out!

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  7. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ gimbar:

    Yeah, IceBrain is right – you should be able to get them DRM-less.

    I was linking to ComiXology because that’s what I’ve been using lately. They kinda remind me of Steam but for comic books. It is DRM, but… It provides a central marketplace, a way to sync your purchased comics and their state between all your devices. So you can buy a comic, start reading it in your browser, then pick up the iPad, download the title and resume reading from the same point you were on your computer. It kinda works for me.

    As long as DRM platform is designed to provide some added value and doesn’t get in my way I’m willing to tolerate it. But I totally get why others might not have this sort of tolerance. :)

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  8. gimbar GERMANY Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @ Luke Maciak:
    He’s right: I just bought, downloaded and read the first 10 issues :D
    And trying not to buy the other 10 right now.

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  9. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Google Chrome Linux Terminalist says:

    @ gimbar:

    Hey, not sure when they added it but I logged into Comixology today and most of the comics I have bought so far (especially the Image titles like Saga and Prophet) now can be downloaded DRM free in both PDF and CBZ format. :D

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