Saga vol. 1 – Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

I really need to stop reading comics. They’re REALLY hard to review. Or I guess I need to get better at reviewing, which would need practice, so I should read more comics… I like this logic better.

Saga is different from the other comics I’ve read so far because it didn’t come as a lend or a recommendation. I went in to buy… I can’t actually remember what I went to buy. I think I was looking for Pretty Deadly, and didn’t find it. Anyway, the vault of glory and doom that is the bookshop downstairs in Forbidden Planet lured me in, and I ended up browsing the comics section, just pulling out things that looks strange or pretty or interesting. Saga fulfilled the brief in all three, and at the point I was worried I might read the whole thing in the shop, I figured it was a safe purchase (I have previously read a whole book in a shop, and was sufficiently embarrassed that I try very hard not to let it happen again). I’d never heard of it before, and had no real idea what it was about. As far as I’m concerned, this is ideal book purchasing, and it went brilliantly.

The best blurb I can reasonably give you is “fairy space wars with robots”. It’s a blurb that would have totally sold me on the book, if I’m honest, because my tastes are simple and easy to define. And it’s not a bad blurb… but it completely ignores the other aspect of the book which is the fact that the characters are amazing. What I really enjoyed about it, even more than space-fairies, is the fact that you get a real sense of the characters as people from pretty much the outset. There’s no mucking about at all. I knew, pretty instantly, that I adored Marko and he was brilliant and I was going to be seriously upset if something happened to him. I’m not certain quite what it is, but there’s a definitely feeling each time you meet a character of “BAM” and there, you know them. It’s really really lovely, and means I was hooked from the first page.

The story, too, had me sucked in pretty much from the beginning. I mean, fairies in space, right? But it’s also… not predictable. It could so easily have fallen into so many “star-crossed* lovers” tropey pitfalls, and it really really doesn’t… almost feeling instead like it’s too caught up in the plot to have time for cliché**. There’s just so much going on, and so quickly, that there isn’t a moment to dawdle and go “ugh, right, yes, your peoples are at war but you fell in love”. And also, the actual story of how they fell in love is kind of left mysterious to us – the third lead is trying to unravel it throughout volume one, and we don’t get a satisfactory answer just yet. And I think with that core of the romance narrative hidden, it’s hard for it to feel too… mushy. And I do hate mush.

The only thing I’m not hugely sold on is the art style. There’s nothing explicitly wrong with it, and if anything, it’s technically really really good. But it just doesn’t appeal to me that much, in the way that the more stylised art of e.g. Rat Queens or Ody-C did. I suspect I also am put off by the slight grimness of the colour scheme (totally makes sense in context for it to be like that) because I am a bit of a sucker for bright, shiny things. But it’s a small niggle, and like I say, nothing is explicitly wrong. If I want an art style that sits quietly and lets the story be told, then this is definitely it… but I’m never going to be reading these purely for the beauty of the images.

Given that I’m very tempted to head into Forbidden Planet after work and buy volume 2, I would say I am pretty thoroughly sold on Saga. Hurray for random-browse purchasing.

*Look, shut up. Pun not intended at all, and I’d avoid it if I could, but it’s the best way of saying what I want to say.

**I don’t have to make sense. Codeine makey no sense make. Bleh.

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About readerofelse

A student of a redundant, useless and thoroughly interesting subject and reader of many books, particularly fantasy, science fiction and plenty else besides.
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2 Responses to Saga vol. 1 – Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

  1. Jack V says:

    Saga was introduced to me as “Starwars with breastfeeding, you have to read it” :)

    I’ve read several of the volumes, and I really really like all the things that were getting going in S1, the characters, the pacifism, the reaction against standard space opera tropes.

    I have had two partial reservations, that sometimes it feels a bit like it’s lurching from one cool thing to another, without thinking, how do these things fit in the same universe? And I wish it dwelled less on graphic violence, even if it’s arguing against it. But I really enjoyed it and recommend more :)

    • readerofelse says:

      I definitely agree with the “lurching from one cool thing to another” but I actually rather enjoyed that about it? I suppose it’s because I’ve only read volume one though… I think if that continues for a long time, I’d get a bit peeved.

      Also I just finished reading Rat Queens… so it didn’t feel like the violence was graphic at all to me, because the thing I was comparing it to was so much more… But I’m not particularly well-versed in comics as a genre. Where’s Saga in the general scheme of things, violence-wise?

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