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Thursday, 2 October 2014

Saga volume 1

Today's review comes to you courtesy of Phil May - AHA @ReadItDaddy.  Phil is a technical wizard mashing coder by day, drawing fantastic characters and creatures by night and also reviewing children's books with his daughter over at http://readitdaddy.blogspot.com and grown up stuff at http://daddyafterdark.blogspot.com. 

Writer: Brian K Vaughan
Art: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics

What's it about?
Space operas don’t come any weirder than Saga, and just when you feel that you’re comfortable that science fiction comics are mined out and the mighty reign of the superhero comic is unshakeable, Saga spins your head around and embroils you in a graphic universe that is sprawling, chaotic and (sometimes) darkly funny.

Saga kicks off slap bang in the middle of its narrator’s birth, setting the tone for the series stock-in-trade method of shock followed by quick explanation. This is set against a background of a huge intergalactic plot involving space war, marginalization, bounty hunting and sheer unadulterated bizarreness.

We meet Alana and Marko, who once standing on two sides of the aforementioned intergalactic conflict but became lovers, and accidentally became parents while on the run from their military overseers. It takes a very long time for the story’s narrator, their baby daughter Hazel (yep, let that one mull around in your mind for a moment or two) to dig into the rich backstory of her parents and the two warring factions that spawned them. That's by-the-by as the story switches pace and location between the fugitive family and a cast of truly stunning supporting characters.
Alana, midst labour

Saga was conceived by Brian K. Vaughan while window-staring as a kid, bored in maths class but quietly world-building in his head. Recalling the world and the characters he created when all grown up, Vaughan spent a surprisingly short time selecting the perfect comic artist to bring his crazed vision to life.

What's good about it?
For me, “The Will” and his ever-present sidekick Lying Cat are both absolute genius pieces of characterization and are my personal favourite characters in Saga. They are tasked with hunting down Alana and Marko by Marko‚s embittered ex but we rapidly find out that “The Will” is more complex than just another bounty hunting thug. He's drawn into a moral conflict of his own while sidetracked on a villainous scum-world.
If you’re looking for something new that’s reminiscent of surreal sci-fi like Lexx  or Farscapebut possibly even more adult than that, then this dose of hugely original storytelling should find a way into your collection. Now if you’ll excuse me, just talking about it again has made me want to re-read the whole collection from start to finish. It’s that good.

What's bad about it?
Saga Volume 1 feels like it ends all too abruptly, as Alana and Marko find unlikely allies in their flight to seek wisdom and protection from a burned out pulp author, but meet up with possibly their most dangerous foes in the process.

I won’t spoil anything for you but Saga Volume 1 leaves you wanting more, craving more. Luckily for those of you new to the series, you’ve got another two volumes of Saga to be enthralled by and a fourth on the way early in 2015 as the collections catch up with the comics, expanding on Vaughan and Staples’ richly created tapestry and introducing more characters to dazzle and amaze.

What's the art like?
Fiona Staples’ artwork is clean, unique and a perfect fit for Vaughan’s writing, wholly adult in both theme and plot but the sort of comic series I’ve been hoping would emerge in what’s being described as the new “Golden Age” - where comics are no longer limited to a few big publishers rattling out the same tired old heroes with very few plot twists or shake-ups.
More information
Warning: The scenes where Alana gives birth is more accurate than other fictional depictions of labour (although Alana doesn't seem tired or crazed enough) a,nd we see Hazel as a bloody newborn. If your childbirth experience wasn't good you might find this upsetting.

Saga volume 1 collects issues 1-6. The Amazon listing has a look inside feature so you can check it out before you buy.
ISBN: 1607066017
Price: It looks like you can get a second hand copy for about £5, which is a bargain.

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