SAGA, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples — a Review

SAGA has been generating a bit of buzz since it came out, and rightly so in my opinion. Brian K. Vaughan’s and Fiona Staples’s (Twitter) work is a bizarre, beautiful, magical space opera that may turn off some readers for being too strange. But those who are willing to jump in despite that strangeness will be rewarded.

SAGA is the story of Alana and Marko, lovers from two sides of an intergalactic war who have deserted and sworn off violence. They are looking for a place of refuge, not only for themselves, but for their newborn daughter as well. That search is going to be tricky with two armies and a couple freelance bounty hunters hot on their trail.

On one side of the war is Landfall, the largest planet in the galaxy, and home to winged creatures, high tech weapons, and robot royalty. On the other side is Wreath, Landfall’s moon, home to horned creatures who wield a mighty magic. As the destruction of a planet or its moon would have disastrous consequences for the other body, the two sides have taken their war to other planets in the galaxy, killing, destroying, and laying waste as they go. Think of it as a more violent, cosmic form of colonization and imperial warfare. Operating on the fringes are bounty hunters, called “Freelancers,” monsters who live by a code far different from the Moonies and the Landfallians.

And don’t forget the rest of this very colorful cast of characters, from a lie-detecting cat, to a planet-sized brothel, to a planet protected by ghosts, and a rocket ship forest. Here’s where artist Fiona Staples really shines. If Vaughan had written this story as a novel, it would have seemed a little bent, but Staples’s imaginative, out of this world artwork really warps your mind.

This is a summer action popcorn movie in comic book form. But it’s not all laser rifles, magic swords, and spaceships. There is a heart and substance here that grounds the story in a very genuine place. I felt for Alana and Marko. Their love is real, even when they fight. And you want them to find a safe haven away from the death and destruction. But man is it a weird trip. It’s not for everyone, but if you are looking for something different, start with SAGA.