It isn’t often where I feel compelled to talk about specific comic books. In an age where most comics appear to be going back over the same material again, be it Civil War or writing/drawing like it’s still 1994, finding something new and fresh is a true rarity.
Brian K. Vaughan is one of the modern masters of comic book writing. His tales are always unique and engaging. Aside from The Sandman, Vaughan’s Y the Last Man is the most acclaimed book DC’s Vertigo imprint has ever released; Y is easily the best comic of the past decade. He started a truly original teen comic for Marvel in the form of Runaways, which is about the children of a supervillain organization. Vaughan’s even written for the acclaimed TV series Lost.
With that kind of resume, hearing about a new series written by Vaughan is enough to get a lot of people to buy at least an issue. Thus, we have the new series Saga.
I’ve never seen anything likeSaga.
It’s science fiction. It’s fantasy. It has a Heavy Metal sensibility with a loving heart. It has factions and wars spreading across the cosmos. It has ships and monsters, magic and robots. At it’s heart, this is a story about birth, not just of a child, but of love and hope.
Speaking of birth, here’s how the first issue begins:
You might think there’s nothing subtle about this, but look again. Look at the words above Alana’s head: “This is how an idea becomes real.” In an age of computer-assisted graphics and frequent captions, Vaughan has done something unique. He’s surrendered control of his text to his artist, Fiona Staples.
Staples brings real life to her characters, from sweat and tears in the opening, to the vast reaches of the galaxy and space. There’s a two-page spread that, for me, redefines just what such an image is supposed to do. I won’t spoil it here, but it pays off everything that’s come before in the story. And while the designs should conflict since this is, in a lot of ways sci-fi vs. magic (but not), it all meshes together in a natural way.
I can’t say enough about those words. The text I pointed out isn’t the only time this happens. In fact, a great deal of back story comes from this text, which is an embedded part of the art. This is our narration, alluding to some things, describing others, and informing us of a simple fact that can’t be forgotten: this is someone very old telling us the story of their birth and survival.
I applaud the fact that Hazel is such a rich character even though we don’t see her except as a newborn–and what a newborn she is. Everything about her birth and her nature will keep this from ever being translated into a movie or a TV series, but that’s the way Vaughan wants it. Honestly, if Saga can’t entertain you, then comics probably aren’t your thing. This is excellent storytelling from a pair of great talents.
I can’t wait to see the next issue.