Speaking of comics. On Tuesday I spoke about my second favorite comic book series, Atomic Robo by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener, a science fiction series about a sentient robot. While on the subject I thought I might as well also talk about the best comic I have read, Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. You have likely heard about Saga if you have put even a toe into the comic world – it has a massive following at this point and has pulled a plethora of people into the world of Image comics, its semi-indie publisher. Often when something is as popular as Saga, my inner hipster can be dubious – but this is one of those instances where something is popular because it’s just that good.
When I was at NYCC I attended a panel called “The Future of Fantasy” by Image Comics, which you can read a nice blog post about here. The unspoken premise of the panel seemed to be, “Saga has rocked the fantasy world because comics are the new evolution of fantasy storytelling, check out the next generation of fantasy comics”. While all the panels looked cool, I found that I was not sure that I bought their argument (I use argument loosely, I could have been reading too deeply into this) that comics are the evolution of fantasy, demonstrated by Saga. I noticed a reoccurring trend as I listened to the panelists talk about their work; all the comics looked really cool but seemed not to be that deep. Saga is not wildly popular because it has stunning visuals, which it does, but because it also manages to have the depth and feeling of a 700 page fantasy/science fiction novel in just 60 pages of art.
So for those of you unfamiliar with Saga, it is a science fiction/fantasy mash up that tells the story of two planetary races (Landfall and Wreath) locked in a conflict that spans the universe. These two races have slowly drawn every existing person and place in existence into their psychotic conflict, and reality has become a huge game of us vs. them. Which is why when a Landfallian and a Wreathin accidentally fall in love and have a hybrid child – the universe sets out to destroy them and what they represent. The plot follows this family of three as they run around the universe trying to escape the legions of people after them. The fact that the cast are constantly on the run gives Vaughan and Staples an organic worldbuilding method that allows them to stretch the bounds of imagination constantly. The number of places and things you will see in a single issue of Saga is astounding, and every panel feels like a new discovery. It makes reading the comic a visual delight, and that’s not even the best part of the series.
Saga’s characters are incredible. They are diverse, interesting, relatable, flawed, and unpredictable. The people that this family meets on their journey, friend and foe, will captivate and entrance you with their stories and struggles – and there are a lot of struggles. One thing I will stress is that Saga is not a happy story. This is not the tale of three plucky people traveling the universe and making friends with no consequences. The comic definitely argues that human (or alien) nature is, at the deepest level, to do good – but this is juxtaposed with the idea that sometimes terrible things happen to good people and that life is never fair. I read the comics in their collected format (one comes out about once or twice a year) and the end of the most recent collection (volume 7) left me emotionally catatonic to the point where I almost didn’t go to work the next day. Still thinking about it now I have this horrible sinking feeling in my chest when I think about the most recent events.
So why do I love it so much? Because Saga for its incredible and brutal sadness is a beautiful tale of how while life can be terrible, people are good in the end and it will work out on some level (or at least I hope that’s the moral, the comic isn’t finished yet). Saga has gotten me to feel a wider range of things (love, happiness, depression, friendship, etc.), with greater intensity, than a multitude of 700 page fantasy books, and it does it in the space of a chapter. This series makes me appreciate life and what I have, something each of us could always do more often. The Quill to Live’s entire staff unanimously and unequivocally recommends Saga to everyone, do yourself a favor and check it out if you haven’t.
Rating: Saga – 10/10