Originally published on January 30, 2012
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples
44 pages / Full Color / $2.99
There’s already been a ton of attention paid to the upcoming series Saga from Image Comics. First when it was announced at the San Diego Comic-Con last summer, heralding the return of Brian K. Vaughan to comics after several years of being off in Hollywoodland and teaming up with Fiona Staples. And then again when the first images started to emerge from the series, which set off some discussion which looking back on, seems kind of silly. But now, as the release date inches closer, I finally got our hands on an advanced copy and wanted to share with you my thoughts, in a spoiler free fashion of course.
Before I get to my review, I’d just like to reflect on how great it is to be able write about a Brian K. Vaughan comic book again. We all know he’s good, but man, he is really good. If I were a comic book writer, I’d probably want to break my pencil in half after reading a BKV book, because he just makes it look so easy. BKV has earned a reputation for a great first issue, and Saga #1 is no exception, and yet it’s like nothing I’ve ever read from BKV before.
In terms of describing Saga, I have to give it up to my retailer, James Sime at Isotope Comics, as he summed up eloquently in his monthly email to customers describing Saga as “Romeo & Juliet meets Star Wars.” I’ve sat here trying to come up with some original way to say the same thing, But I just decided to share that with you because it’s pretty spot on, and yet it’s so much more. As we’ve seen, the protagonists of Saga #1 are displayed proudly on the cover, Marko and Alana and the book starts off with the birth of their child (as seen having lunch on the cover of issue #1.) With the birth of this baby, the story of Saga begins and we’re introduced to a vast and elaborate world in space, consisting of a never ending war between two sides of humanity. Marko and Alana are a union that cannot be and thus from the get go, are on the run. As we’re introduced to that as the main plot of the book, Vaughan also seamlessly introduces us to the players on the chessboard of this universe. Political intrigue and cosmic war emerge as the supporting plot to Saga as we are introduced to the specifics of this world which is filled with a balance of technology and magic. BKV and Staples come together to fully realize a world that mixes the genres of science fiction and fantasy along with a political thriller where the stakes are high.
But above all things, Saga #1 touched me in that while it’s successfully establishes the science fiction/fantasy world the story is set in, that even amongst all the war, and violence and magic and the like, Saga is an emotional story. With each introduction of characters in the story, Brian K. Vaughan is able to build an emotional connection, even amongst what appears to be the villains of the story. Each page oozes with emotion, drawing you in even further. When describing what reading Saga #1 was like to a friend, I compared it to how I felt after watching Firefly or the modern Battlestar Galactica TV Shows. Both shows, while unique in their own right, have 2 things in common with Saga that immediately brought them to mind. First off, they’re both very emotional shows, as the audience found themselves getting attached very deeply after watching their stories unfold. Secondly, while they’re firmly science fiction stories with outrageous and fantastic sci-fi elements, there was always an element that was relatable to me as a viewer. Whether it was the western themes of Firefly or the corded phones on Battlestar Galactica, these shows were at the same time totally out there and completely believable to me as a viewer. Saga works in the same way. While Marko has horns and Alana has wings, and there’s a whole host of other out there concepts around the characters, the world of Saga includes small touches that makes it a world that I felt comfortable in, an element of something to grab onto and relate to. It’s these two elements that, to me, made Saga something worth getting excited for.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the execution of visualization of the world of Saga by Fiona Staples. I had seen some of Staples work over the years, but as I finished reading Saga #1, all I could say was, “Wow, I had no idea!” To say Fiona Staples is excellent here would be a tragic understatement. Saga is, at the same time, beautiful and enrapturing as it’s daring and expansive. Staples characters are fully realized and carry that bit of wonder that is required when embarking on good sci-fi/fantasy. There are absolutely several jaw dropping moments in Saga #1, and I’ve purposely limited the art I’m showing in this review because I don’t want to spoil everyone’s chance to see it for the first time themselves. Let me assure you, after you read Saga #1, you’ll see what I mean and agree that Fiona Staples just catapulted to the top of the comic book game with the work she’s throwing down here. To add to the character design, amazing settings and action sequences, Staples hand letters key elements of the narrative, which in a visual manner helps to support the evocative nature of the story. It’s truly the merging of written word and visual storytelling that makes comics such a wonderful medium.
Unlike the previous first issues of BKV’s earlier work, Saga #1 delivers that “wow” impact in a different manner. Double-sized, at 44 pages, Saga #1 packs a lot into the first issue. I’m not spoiling anything by saying there isn’t a big cliff hanger moment like we saw in Ex Machina #1, but that doesn’t mean that Saga #1 isn’t as impactful. After reading Saga #1, I got completely caught up in the drama and lost in the world and immediately hoped for the next issue. Plus, at 44 pages (with no ads) for just $2.99, it’s a steal.
One of my favorite things about science fiction and fantasy, either in comics or TV or movies, is that feeling you get the first time you’re exposed to it. I remember the first time I realized how grand and amazing Star Wars was, or how imaginative Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson was, or how engaging and special Battlestar Galactica was, or how fun and exciting Firefly was. I’m excited for all of you to share in that “first” moment again like I just did when you read Saga #1, because it’s definitely one of those special moments in time.
It’s clear that Saga is going to be the kind of ongoing series that comic readers will love, with a personal story to connect with up front, on the backdrop of a war on an epic scale. Saga #1 has everything I would hope for in a modern sci-fi/fantasy comic and more. With one issue, Saga has already earned it’s spot as one of the best new comics series of 2012.
Story: 5 / Art: 5 / Overall: 5
(Out of 5 Stars)
Saga #1 goes on sale at comic books stores and digitally on March 14, 2012. If you haven’t pre-ordered it yet from your local comic book store, make sure you do. The last big release from Image Comics, Prophet #21 sold out in a flash, so don’t miss out.