With the upcoming release of the thirteenth installment of Brian Vaughan’s Saga, now seems as good a time as any to briefly review the previous twelve issues.
As someone relatively new to comics in general, I was pleased to start Saga right at the beginning, before realities split and the universe has been reimagined with a new history four or five times (I’m looking at you, DC Comics). Fiona Staples’ artwork in the book is simple, but not overly so. Action is clear and it is easy to understand what is happening.
The story is narrated by the infant who is being born in the first frames of the book, as a memoir. This makes the entire issue (and subsequent ones) feel like a prologue to the main storyline, but no main storyline ever actually appears. Instead, the narrative follows the exploits (sexploits?) of Alana and Marko, two creatures who are defying a centuries long feud between their species to fall in love. Alana gives birth to their daughter, Hazel, the story narrator and then the pair begins a mad dash to get somewhere that they and their daughter would be safe.
Alana is a winged creature from the planet Landfall. She seems to be undereducated and has a brash attitude that has helped her survive a hard life, but makes me concerned for the survival of her marriage. Her husband Marko’s character seems likeable and a little bit ordinary. His people are from one of Landfall’s moons, called Wreath, and sport mountain goat horns growing from their heads. He is disillusioned with violence and warfare but is torn between a pacifist life and protecting his new family.
The characters are all fairly believable, considering that the main couple has either wings or horns, and that the supporting cast includes an enormous half woman/half spider, and a race of humanoids with old fashioned tube television sets for heads. The writing style is clear and concise. The problem that I have is that there is no discernible plot line. The adventures are told in a rambling fashion and feel as though they are leading up to some main plot, which never materializes.
I appreciate the effort Vaughan makes to flavor Saga with unusual elements; and some of the strangeness of the characters and locations really appealed to my sense of whimsy. I liked the idea of a spaceship forest, where the fruit of the trees is not edible, but rather rocket fueled. Another interesting character was the Lying Cat, a large jungle cat who hisses, “Lie!” at anyone who attempts to twist the truth in its presence.
While the artwork is crisp and easy to follow, I did find that the art was occasionally unnecessarily graphic (read: lots of gratuitous sex). Considering that the writing was not lazy and that the stories progressed well on their own, it seemed ridiculous that the book would work so hard to shock its audience. The cover art especially seemed chosen to be deliberately controversial.
All in all, I enjoyed Saga, and I look forward to the next six issue story arc, but I do not see that it merits the critical acclaim it has received. From me, it gets four out of five Death Stars.