Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 06.20.2012 – Saga #4

What did the
iFanboy
community think?

1391
Pulls
Avg Rating: 4.7
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 80.5%
 
Users who pulled this comic:
Story by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples
Cover by Fiona Staples

Size: 22 pages
Price: 2.99

In last week’s Pick of the Week, Conor talked about Batman in regard to the “Captain America Problem”, meaning that when a book is so good month in and month out, we have a hard time talking about it in a new and different way. Ironically, this week I find myself in the same boat while laughing to myself that another name for this problem is one we coined years ago, which was the “Brian K. Vaughan problem.”  5 or so years ago, when Vaughan was regularly working in comics, his books like Runaways, Y The Last Man and Ex Machina were so good that ultimately we got to a point where all we could say was, “Yep, another great BKV book.” With just 4 issues in to Saga, I fear that we may be in familiar territory.

Now, I’m not sure exactly what it is with Saga that’s got me so over the moon about it.  You’ll excuse me if it’s the hyperbole speaking, but as of right now, I think Saga is my favorite of Brian K. Vaughan’s work.  I know, it’s only 4 issues, but already I’m so mesmerized by the world that he and artist Fiona Staples are building, that I can’t help but to sit back in wonder after I finish reading the issue, take a deep breath, and dive back in and read it again.

As this year has progressed and every three weeks or so, I sit down and write this review, I’m forced to think about what I want out of comics. And let me tell you, I really think about it. A few weeks back I talked about how, while I always hold Marvel comics close to my heart, I’ve been wanting something new and fresh from my comics.  Additionally, I’ve been reveling in the Science Fiction boom that seems to happening amongst comics with books like Glory, Prophet, Higher Earth and more.  Saga has been leading the way on both counts.  When I sit down to read Saga #4, I have no idea what’s in store for me.  I mean, of course I know the characters that have been introduced and what the gist of the story is, but with every issue Vaughan and Staples are able to surprise me in the most delightful of ways.  Whether it’s a story element, or a character design, or a new setting, Saga is full of surprises.

A big part of Saga that has me so engaged with the book, and it’s one we’ve discussed with the previous issues, is that it’s probably one of the most personable books I’ve read in a while.  By personable, I mean that Vaughan has created characters that are incredibly relatable.  Sure, they’re kinda aliens and weird in some respects, but their personalities, problems and emotions are human.  I think that while the Sci-Fi elements of Saga are a big draw for the book, it’s really the characters that make it so damn engaging.  Vaughan has made a career out of writing great characters, that’s been clear from the get-go even in the pages of something like Runaways.  You always could share in the emotions that his characters were feeling, but Saga takes it to another level.  It’s this balance between the unknown and alien and the relatable characters that makes this book such a powerful read.  Then factor in the unexpected world that’s being created thanks to Fiona Staples beautiful art and you have a thing of beauty.

Saga #4 grabs you from the first page with yet another familiar, yet crazily ridiculous scene as we see the enigmatic bounty hunter, The Will, arrive on the planet Sextillion and be greated by two women that can only be seen to be described.  Creating a pleasure planet isn’t a new concept, but the manner in which Vaughan and Staples do it in a way that’s amusing, entertaining and again, relatable.  Through this interlude we get a sense of who The Will is.  In addition to being a ruthless bounty hunter, we get a glimpse into his humanity and his views of right and wrong in a scene that I doubt anyone didn’t find themselves cheering The Will along during.

I found it interesting that this issue’s storyline of The Will was balanced with our protagonists, new parents and star crossed lovers, Marko and Alana are still on run and taking a pause as Marko recovers from his injuries, just in time to explain to Alana why he muttered another woman’s name in his delirium. This mini-conflict during the major conflict of being on the run is just a prime example of what Vaughan is doing so well in this book.  This is an argument that you may have had with your current lover, or one you’ve had in the past.  Sure, these are alien races, but they have feelings and emotions just like us and it’s easy to imagine yourself in a similar spot.  Now, I know Vaughan is a very good writer, so who knows if this insight into Marko’s past will have any bearing on the future of the story. Maybe his ex-girlfriend will return to his life and affect things, and maybe she won’t.  But Vaughan has given us a glimpse into Marko’s past and in the process, giving us a glimpse into his present as he deals with the mother of his child, Alana.  It’s a wonderful way to give us even more insight to these characters as we follow their adventure.

All of these ideas and scenarios would just be ideas and words if not for the amazing talents of Fiona Staples.  When she first emerged on the scene, we talked about how she was good. When Saga #1 came out, we raved about how she’s great. Four issues in now, it’s just ridiculous how good she actually is.  There’s something to the way she draw people that is just so welcoming and draws you in, and then paired with the events of the story, really bridges the gap and makes you feel what the characters are feeling.  If you look closely, it’s the eyes. It’s all about the eyes.  When you turn the page and see the Slave Girl that The Will saves, and those big eyes are just looking up at you, you can’t help but have your heart go out to her.  As you watch Marko and Alana fight, in what’s pages of dialogue and not necessarily interesting visually, Staples is able to bring an element of acting to the characters as they make their way through the conflict.  I can’t imagine this book looking any other way than what Staples is doing to the visual feel of the book.  It’s an amazing treat to be able to see it all unfold.

We praise the work of Stan Lee and the pantheon of artists he worked with at Marvel in the 1960s for making comics about characters we can relate to. Those stories were placed in the real world, with fantastic things happening to them.  Vaughan and Staples have worked together to make Saga a success in a similar manner, but they flipped the script. Saga takes place in a strange, alien and slightly fantastic world, but with real problems and real things happening to them and it’s such a delight to read.  I’ve been yearning for something new in comics and to scratch a Science Fiction itch that I didn’t even know I had and Saga #4 continues to deliver on both counts, with a ton of heart while doing so.

Ron Richards
That first page was wonderfully demented
ron@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. Awesome. Getting my books tomorrow. Can’t wait to read this as usual. Saga truly is something special.

  2. Great review, Ron! This book is truly amazing and I can’t wait to read it every month. And yes, that first page (and even the rest of the first scene) was really crazy.

  3. I couldn’t agree more Ron. What draws me into SAGA is that I don’t have any idea what’s gonna happen every issue. I’ve never read anything like it… hmmm… (I’m reminded of the Manga “Lone Wolf and Cub” all of a sudden). Only 4 issues in and I can’t wait for the trades. Might show some extras/concept art by Fiona Staples.

  4. Downloading now! Great review Ron, you sum up the instant love I feel when I read Saga really well

  5. Not only that, did you guys read the letter column? BKV could write a grocery list and still it would be fantastic!

  6. How do you do The Best Week in Panels without posting nearly every page of this issue?

  7. I think the woman on the left on that opening page could be described as a ‘Leggy Blonde’.

  8. If we are lucky this could usher in a new era of sci-fi, and loosen the strangle hold of superheroes in comics.

  9. ifanboy = the BatFFDDSaga podcast & loving it!

    Matthew

  10. oddly enough this was the first issue I feel in love with the comic. 😀 insecure relationships! so many sexs @_@…

  11. Great review Ron. I totally get how this scratches that itch you didn’t know you had, I feel exactly the same way. Sci-Fi is really asserting itself well this year, and it’s smart, creative, engaging stuff like Saga and the other books you mentioned that are really helping it succeed.

  12. This looks like a great comic to me (haven’t picked up yet). Just by being from K Vaughn for me is already enough to get the first trade.

    • It deserves all the hype. Have you thought of maybe trying digital? I only ask because I know I could never wait that long!

  13. This is THE comic series I have waited my entire life for. It could not be more perfect if ripped from my own head. No hyperbole, 100% seriously the best series I have ever read in 20+ years. It is exactly my sensibility, humor, interests, darkness, rawness, and even emotions. Loved the adult content and scenes and that they weren’t tamed down in the least, I felt like I was reading actual freedom from the inane censorship and neutered “edginess” that passes these days. Please keep this up and rolling along just as it is or even more insane and fun forever. Truly forever. I’m a hard one to please and I’m not one to gush, this makes me gush.

  14. This issue was so great.
    A little awkward when a friend at work walked past and saw a purple dinosaur dick on my computer screen but….LOL

  15. There were so many WTF moments in this book. I read it and then handed it off to my friend and just waited for his reaction to the “page turn” to the full page after The Will reaches the lowest level. His jaw drop looked how I imagined my face looked.

    BRILLIANCE! Could “The Will” be a good guy at some point in the future? At this point, I can only hope so.

  16. People have been criticizing Fiona Staples for her lack of backgrounds in these pages, but her character work is so great and draws ur attention so well, I never notice the lack of background details

  17. Fiona Staples is fucking amazing! Holy Shit this book was crazy. Can I please read more now I can’t wait a whole month?

  18. I truly believe that Saga is the comic that wll help get people trying more comics from other than the big two. I know it’s already happened in my case!

  19. Your last paragraph nailed it. These are strange characters in an incredibly weird alien world, but i can easily relate to them. They’re doing such a great job of making parallels to the real world, while indulging complete sci-fi craziness. Yeah it really works. A master class in how to write/draw accessible Sci-Fi if you ask me.

  20. There’s something so great about the pacing of this book too. For some reason, it really calls back the fantasy movies from the 80’s & my childhood for me. Marko & Alana trekking to the Rocketship Forest (so far) could be Princess Buttercup & the Man In Black trudging through the swamps.

  21. Ron, your enthusiasm for this book is so shared. 4 issues in & I’m an addict.

  22. I wonder how many protestant ministers like myself love this book? I joined the party late with issue 3 but it is absolutely amazing.

    Ron you have impeccable taste. Much of expanding pull list is due to your pick of the week articles and podcast. This and Uncanny X-Force in particular are bandwagons I’m glad I’ve jumped on.

  23. I’m so picking up this trade when it come out

  24. i’m too lazy to look this one up: when was the last non-image pick of the week for ron?

  25. ah, thanks. not that i’m complaining about a trend if image is killing it with their work.

  26. The Will and Lying Cat is BKV’s Calvin and Hobbes.

  27. There’s a very interesting universe being created here, but this month’s issue is nothing great. It’s still interesting, but not much is happening in Saga world this month.

    • I completely agree. I’m glad Saga got pick of the week because it’s an amazing comic, but I’m kinda bummed that it’s this issue. Even though it was pretty good, it was probably the weakest in the series so far. There were a lot of great comics out this week that deserved more attention. I just feel like this wasn’t the right week for Saga

    • Weakest issu…. Did you guys read the last 6 or so pages?! That’s some ‘give this man all the Eisner Awards’ material right there.

      Anyway, this series keeps rolling forward, and I’m still on board. Which is good, because Me and BKV… we have a bit of a problem. Historically speaking. Y-The Last Man? Dropped around issue 20. Ex Machina? Dropped around issue 9. Runaways? Read the first trade, then didn’t feel like continuing. Each series, has hit me hard out of the gate (I submit for your approval, the first issue of Ex Machina might be one of the greatest single issue comic ever made). But by the time the second story arc rolls around, I find myself losing more and more interest. Vaughn has a tendency to… meander around before getting to the point.

      Even with the first four issues of Saga rocking my world, I can’t shake the nagging feeling that its going to be yet another repeat of this trend. But… so far so good! This issue in particular has really made me feel like this book is going to be a long term keeper. I sure hope it can keep up this kind of energy.

  28. Did you guys not like Venom? I thought is was dark, sad, great and wanting more?

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