Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga, Volume 1

The very helpful and knowledgeable young man at my local comics store directed me to Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, which is one of the more bizarre examples of graphic lit I’ve run across recently.

Marko and Alana are — or were — soldiers on opposing sides in a war between Landfall and its moon, Wreath, that has been going on roughly forever. Marko was a prisoner; Alana was one of his guards. Well, you can guess how that worked out. They escape. Alana is pregnant, and the story opens with Marko delivering their child, a little girl, in the back of an auto body shop. She’s adorable — she has her mother’s wings and the nubs of horns, from her father. They’re discovered by a group of guards from the Landfall army, and are just about to be eliminated when a group of Marko’s countrymen materialize. Marko, Alana, and the baby are the only survivors. Relying on a map given to them by the dying creep who sold them out, they begin a search for a safe refuge.

How is this one bizarre? Let me count the ways:

It’s space opera with magic. Everybody, it seems, has a spell or two up his or her sleeve, and Marko’s sword turns out to be something pretty special.

It’s narrated by the baby, although we don’t know what point in time she’s speaking from. However, this is obviously a girl with a great future, if she and her parents can survive the next few days.

As noted, her mother has wings — although we gather that, because of some cultural ritual, she can’t use them — and her father has a nice set of ram’s horns. The guard contingent that tracks them down is led by Baron Robot XXIII, whose natty uniform (reminiscent of an eighteenth century British redcoat) is topped by a computer monitor (which looks a little old-fashioned — it’s a CRT). The two refugees are soon being tracked by The Will, a Freelancer, accompanied by a Lying Cat (it doesn’t tell lies — it calls out those who do). On their way to the Rocketship Forest (which is just what it sounds like), Alana and Marko encounter the Horrors, who wind up helping them.

Vaughan’s script for this one is just right — he doesn’t hit you over the head with exposition or backstory, but it’s there, delivered in bits as you need it. The story is well-constructed and more than a little engaging — there are enough surprises and twists to keep it moving and the reader engaged. The characters are well-rounded, displaying a multitude of facets that start to build some real people. The language and situations are fairly earthy — this is not a kid’s comic, by any means.

Fiona Staples’ art is wonderful. The style is a little sketchy and rough but very clean, and there’s a degree of elegance here — I can’t think of another word — that moves it well away from anything that might even remotely be considered run of the mill. And the character designs, even the more outlandish aliens, are appealing.

All told, it’s a very well-done volume, and bodes well for the rest of the series. (Note: This volume was the winner of the 2013 Hugo for Best Graphic Story.)

(Image Comics, 2012)

About Robert Tilendis

Robert M. Tilendis lives a deceptively quiet life. He has made money as a dishwasher, errand boy, legal librarian, arts administrator, shipping expert, free-lance writer and editor, and probably a few other things he’s tried very hard to forget about. He has also been a student of history, art, theater, psychology, ceramics, and dance. Through it all, he has been an artist and poet, just to provide a little stability in his life. Along about January of every year, he wonders why he still lives someplace as mundane as Chicago; it must be that he likes it there.

You may e-mail him, but include a reference to Green Man Review so you don’t get deleted with the spam.