Review: Saga, vols. 1 and 2, Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

Upon finishing the second volume of Brian K. Vaughn’s most recent series, Saga, I have decided to be excited about Vaughn. This could have happened sooner, except unfortunately Runaways was my introduction to him, and it is not great around race and it put me off him. But having read Y: The Last Man and Saga, I think that Vaughn’s writing is great, and I like that he creates comics with end-dates in mind, so I’ve decided to hop (at last!) on board the Brian K. Vaughn train.

My favorite thing about Saga is the relative tininess of its stakes by contrast with the hugeness of its scope. The story is about a world called Landfall that has been at war with its moon, Wreath, for as long as anybody can remember. Though the two planets are no longer directly at war with each other, they have spread their conflict across all the known planets, forcing the entire universe to take sides. Marko and Alana fought on opposite sides of this battle in their lives, before falling in love and getting married. When their baby is born, interested parties on both sides of the interplanetary conflict hire mercenaries to track them down (and presumably kill them).

Typically, I’d be out as soon as I heard “interplanetary conflict”, but the thing Vaughn has done here that I love is to make the comic all about finding a home. Alana and Marko and baby Hazel are searching for an Ithaca that may not even exist: a quiet place in the universe where Hazel can grow up untouched by the war that has torn apart so many lives.

In particular, I would love to call out the fact that Hazel is not (and please Brian Vaughn let’s keep it that way) any kind of Chosen One. Her birth hasn’t been foretold, she doesn’t have magical powers, and apart from being the product of two races that don’t tend to intermingle, there appears to be nothing special about her at all. I strongly strongly hope that persists. It’s one of the things that keeps the stakes of this story feeling urgent but small, as opposed to urgent and global.

Vaughn is also managing the trick of making Marko and Alana’s opponents interesting(ish) in their own right. The Will and his Lying Cat (a large cat that knows and says so if you lie in front of it) are among the bounty hunters who have been hired to track and kill Marko and Alana. So far so dull, but then he gets a subsidiary motivation that has the potential to be interesting, and for his mission, he teams up with Marko’s former fiancee and a little psychic girl he rescued from slavery, and they… Well, I do not know what their deal is going to be just yet. But I do know that I am a sucker for a team of unlikely allies.

Fiona Staples’s art is fantastic — detailed and weird without feeling overcrowded. She also hand-letters the narration of the story by Hazel (speaking from some undetermined point in the future), which is very very cool. I can’t say enough about her. Below is an example of just one of the many awesome things that Fiona Staples does.

I love knowing that Vaughn has an endgame in mind for this comic, and I can’t wait to see what it shakes out to be. Check it out!

Position statement: Hawkeye should have won at least one of the Eisners that Saga won this past year. Hawkeye is easily as good as Saga but probably better. My growing affection for Saga has in no way swayed me on this point.

14 thoughts on “Review: Saga, vols. 1 and 2, Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples”

  1. OMG! I read the first volume of this, loved it, then totally forgot about it! What is wrong with me??!?! I’m so glad you reviewed this, to remind me. Going to check RIGHT NOW if the library has it.

    1. Aww, his hair’s fine, he just has ram horns. Don’t judge. But DO overcome your fear of graphic novels for this book. It’s good, and I think that you particularly would like it.

  2. Hmmm… I read the first issue or two of this and it didn’t click with me, while Y: The Last Man grabbed me immediately. Maybe I’ll give it another try with at least a whole volume.

    And now I realize that I accidentally let Hawkeye fall off my radar. I need to check right now to see if there are any new issues. It was getting TOO intense when I last read it.

    1. Really? How come? What weren’t you interested in?

      Hawkeye is still pretty intense right now. But I think the November issue should be less intense. It’s about Kate! Kate solving crimes!

      1. It was just one issue, so the problem might have just been that it was all exposition. There was no single hook to make me want to seek out more.

        I got all caught up on Hawkeye yesterday (the Pizza Dog issue!), and set up a subscription on Comixology so I don’t fall three issues behind again.

          1. Sometimes I read them on my phone–there’s a Comixology Android app and I assume an iOS one too. But I also read on my laptop. They have a guided view feature that works really well on phone or computer, and although I wouldn’t read regular books on my laptop, I like reading comics on it.

  3. My library is not very good about getting new comics, so I’ve let my comics reading fall off quite a bit. I need to get back into it. I love what you’ve written about this (and Hawkeye), so those are the ones I’m starting with!

    1. Do! Comics are so tricky because very often libraries don’t have a good selection of them. The New York libraries have a bunch of comics but they’re always checked out, and holds take weeks and weeks to come in. :/

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