Saga, Vol. 1
by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples (Illustrator)
Paperback, 160 pages
Published October 23rd 2012 by Image Comics (first published March 14th 2012)
ISBN 1607066017 (ISBN13: 9781607066019)
Collects: Saga #1; issues 1-6
Literary awards: Hugo Award Nominee for Best Graphic Story (2013)
This has to be one of the best comic series I have ever read so far. As a story it has a feeling like a Romeo and Juliet romance set in space and if instead of killing themselves they end up having a baby. The only difference is that they are both of a different alien species whose species is at war with each other across the whole galaxy. What makes this series a brilliant comic is that it is not focused on saving the galaxy or ending a war as opposed to many sci-fi, fantasy or superhero comic series. Instead, the main protagonists have a simpler or harder goal to achieve, depending on how you view things. They just want to survive and start a family together with their new baby born and try to live a normal life as much as possible.
Granted, that it is not going to be easy. After all, one has wings and one has horns and each is wanted by their respective race for just being together. However, this story has deeper themes which if one pays close attention show that it is more a story about tolerance, multiculturalism and love. The characters all feel real and relatable. Each individual reflects a stereotype in its own way but the clever way of setting the story in space and using alien species as characters makes this story less offensive and more tolerable. It is a way to explore social and traditional differences through the lenses of fiction learning from the mistakes of fictional characters which in turn we can use for our own societies. The reader even feels that some characters will get to develop more in the next volumes and have a greater meaning in the story.
Without spoiling anything the story revolves around a soldier from a planet which is at war with the people of a satellite moon. She ends up falling in love with a prisoner of war and ends up having a baby with him. The story starts at the moment the woman is giving birth. Looking more closely to the races waging war and some of the dialogue, I can assume that the creators are basically using science and religion as the main reasons for the conflict in the galaxy. However they are basically representing an intolerant species fighting against an irrational one. You see, one race uses magic and is very fond of traditions and values while the other race is seen in very high tech gear flying in spaceships and allied to robots. This makes an interesting background for the main protagonists to try and raise their child. It also reflects the different heritages families in our society have. It is not uncommon to find families with parents coming from totally different backgrounds which put stress on the family and especially the children.
As a matter of fact things go bad from the start as both sides of the conflict want the parents killed for the horrendous crime of fraternizing with an enemy and for some reason want the child alive. One side commissions freelancers, while the others, are using their alliance with the robots to get the job done.
Once you start reading, you immediately forget the sci-fi aspects of it all, as you are quickly drawn in into the character dynamics of each and every person that you encounter. Sure there are elements in the story that are science fiction, but they are not the highlight of the book. From the beginning, the reader realizes that this book is all about the characters. The underlying message I get from this first volume is the difficulties parents find when starting in their quest to raise a family. The modern setting and language make this feel like something that reflects our society perfectly. It includes themes of tolerance and sexual liberation but it also cherishes old values of love and marriage. I look at this as a blend of the above where the parents decide on how to raise their child. This, in my opinion, should always be like that. The parents are to decide how they want to live their life and not society, especially when it comes to how they love their children.
The part of the freelancer’s story also touches on some delicate morality towards pleasure. At one point a Freelancer by the name The Will, who was hired to track down the couple and their baby, decides that, since there are other freelancers on the job, he heads to a planet renowned for prostitution. Once there, we see him going across all kinds of perversion but upon a closer look at his face we realize that he is not satisfied with what he sees. In fact one particular character notices this and suggests something more decadent. Once in an underground room, The Will is presented with a child slave for him to do as he pleases. At that moment we see the freelancer coldly killing the person who brought him there and decides to save this girl and take her with him. This, however, does not end well and gets him into a complicated mess.
These are all complex ideas which by no means make this book suitable for children under a certain age. This book has the potential to become a contemporary study on the 21st century society and where it is headed. I can’t wait for the next volume of this ‘Saga’, as I found it serious and funny at the same time. The way it is written gives it depth and in none of the scenes did I find anything out of tone with the whole book. In fact I had my few moments were I literally laughed out loud by the simplicity of the jokes and the way the characters reacted to certain situations.
Having said all that, this first volume has action, magic and a sense of mystery. This makes it the perfect beginning for a series as it intrigues readers to keep following the story. There is a sense of something mysterious related to the new born hybrid as both sides want her alive. Also the reader gets the feeling that certain characters have a bigger role in the overall story. This makes for compelling story telling and a more complex story with a very good sense of characterization.
A book like this feels like a breath of fresh air from all the other books out there. It is simple in its idea but deep and complex in its way the characters and themes are handled. For a comic book fan and a geek like me who is now 23 years old, engaged to a beautiful woman and waiting to build a family of my own, I recommend this book to anyone who likes comics, drama, comedy, and simply a good saga that has the potential to become an instant classic.