“This is how an idea becomes real.” That is the opening line to one of the best comics in recent memory. Saga is a science fiction fantasy comic written by Brian L. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples, and it is so very good. Saga launched six years ago, and it broke records. It was the biggest launch for the publisher Image Comics, with the first issue being reprinted five times and becoming a New York Times bestseller and winning numerous awards in the process. Even all these years later, it was the highest-selling graphic novel of 2019 through Diamond Distributions, which pretty much handles the shipping of all comic books and related merchandise to stores. Since issue one, Saga has gone on to produce over fifty issues and eight collected volumes and three omnibus style editions that collect around twenty issues per volume. Saga is massive. Though not a lot of people know about it, that’s where I step in.
Seeing as we may be stuck indoors again for some time now is a good opportunity to dive into something new. So….what’s it about? You may be asking, that’s a difficult thing to explain, but I will try my best. Saga follows a couple by the name of Alana and Marko, one being born with wings and the other horns (weird I know, but that’s not even scratching the surface of how weird it gets) with the winged race hailing from the main planet and the horned race from its moon. The two races have been at war for centuries, and the war has spiraled out to the rest of the galaxy.
Alana and Marko have a child which is forbidden. What follows is their insane journey to get their baby to a safe place where they can be happy. Along the way they are chased by assassins, ghosts, monsters, a prince who is a robot and has a TV for a head, a giant cat that can tell if you’re lying and Ghüs (Goose) who is the cutest thing in the universe and if something happens to him, I will riot.
The story turns into a tale of family, the one you are born with, and the one you choose yourself with some characters starting as villains and becoming allies to friends and back to villains again. Some good people die, and some bad people live. I have gone from laughing on one page only to turn it and gasp in shock with what just happened. That is a super bare bones explanation of the framing because I don’t want to spoil anything should you want to read it yourself, so I’ll go into what makes it so great.
First, the universe is so fleshed out, it feels well lived in but new, small and cozy but still infinite. On one planet you may find a cyclops who writes cheesy romance novels, and on another, a grand castle surrounded by an advanced civilization of robots and yet they all feel like they belong in the same story and a lot of that is because of artist Fiona Staples who has a loose almost scratchy style to her lines but an insane imagination for character and creature design. Some are so outlandish while others are down to earth and gritty. The art is just beautiful, and it’s; it’s so just, the colors and the…it’s perfect that is the easiest way to explain how her work complements the story. She finds a way to have these wonderful splash pages like a tree that turns into a rocket and blasts off into orbit, it just works. That’s not to say Vaughan is being carried here oh no no no, his characterizations and dialogue are on point as always. He just keeps getting better with every new project he does.
The characters talk and respond so naturally, just like how a real person would in the situation, and yes, that does mean there’s cursing, like a lot. There is a lot of cursing, and while we’re on the topic, this is not a book for kids. While it looks brightly colored and the characters are cool looking so you may think “oh my son likes comics, I’ll get this for him” DO NOT DO THAT. Saga is very much uncensored, and by that, I mean there are scenes that would make HBO blush. People get shot, eaten, blown apart, and even a planet that traffics in uh, something I can’t put here without getting angry letters in my inbox.
As I said, it’s a big universe, and there are some unsightly parts in it just like real life. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but that’s what makes it feel all the more real and enjoyable to read. I love the book’s openness and its willingness to talk about anything and everything. Very little is taboo in this story.
Vaughan, in an interview, said he came up with the idea because his wife was pregnant. He was terrified to be a first-time father, and he channels that into the writing and uses the characters to express his fears and worries. Still, the great thing is when he does have his kid in real life, you can feel it in the book. There are moments where you can tell he is happy to have a baby, and it’s right there in the book for all to see.
I guess we’ve reached the crux of my little spiel here, and that is Saga is real, thanks to not being told to hold back Vaughan hits some heavy notes and feels all too real at times and at other times not much goes on. The characters are simply living their lives going about their routines; it feels very human to say it bluntly.
If you’re willing to be challenged on your morals and what you would be willing to do to protect those closest to you, I wholeheartedly recommend checking the book out. If you’d like to check it yourself as of this writing volume one, which collects issues one through six can be ordered on Amazon for $9, that’s such a steal, and if you don’t like hey, you only spent nine bucks that’s basically skipping the take out for a day. Everyone stay safe, and I hope I fought your boredom for a minute or two.