“Saga”: A Fun Space Opera

I’ve never been into love stories. I’m all for the real-life version, but when put on paper, they just don’t look interesting to me. That’s why I don’t read romance novels and chick lit — I don’t care about meet-cutes, superficial situations, and Happily Ever After. There’s much more to life than those plot devices; and I don’t have that many fucks to give.

But I do make a few exceptions. The trick is to throw in elements that keep the love story compelling and fun, and to avoid all things sappy and corny. And no overly tragic tricks, please.

I first heard of Saga a year ago, during one Humble Bundle promo with Image Comics that offered Volumes One and Two. Now with four Volumes out, I can say it’s probably the only comics series about love — sorry, space opera — that I’m fully invested in.

Warning: This post may contain spoilers. Ayan, ha. Klaro.

Here’s the deal. Saga‘s saga revolves around Alana and Marko. They fall in love, make a baby, and then figure out how to raise their baby. Sounds simple, right.

Nope.

The saga begins.

Alana and Marko hail from opposite sides of an ongoing “outsourced” galactic war: momma’s from Landfall, pops is from the Landfall moon Wreath. They’re both deemed traitors by their respective armies and allies for fraternizing, sexing and living with the enemy; and along with little Hazel, ghost nanny Izabel, warrior mother-in-law Klara, and (later on) pet walrus Friendo, are currently hunted down by Freelancers and their sidekicks, a Slave Girl, a fritzed Robot Prince, and a jilted ex-fiancée. The story unfolds through all these characters’ perspectives, and in different planets and hideouts. Whew.

I find Brian K. Vaughan‘s characters interesting and unique. Alana and Marko may start out as your typical star-crossed lovers, but they quickly evolve into worthy main characters. They love each other from the get-go, but they also differ significantly on certain issues. They go through rough patches, they argue and fight and make up and reach their breaking points, they fight alongside and for one another, they make stupid decisions and commit regrettable actions, they encounter problems that all or most new parents have. In short, they’re relatable, and you probably know a few people just like them, or maybe see yourself in them in some way.

I really like the other characters as well. Hazel, as a narrator, has a dry humor, and talks like any kid would. Izabel’s a reliable babysitter; and reminds me of a typical teenager, except for her pink color, power of illusion, and the fact that she’s missing the entire lower half of her body. Klara’s not your typical mother-in-law: she’s been to war, she’s seen shit, and she has absolutely no time for any nonsense. If you misbehave, she’ll probably gut you before you even think of apologizing.

Saga‘s also one of the few series that can make villains sympathetic and unvillainy — and even give them their own love story, albeit a truncated one. I get why Gwendolyn’s pissed off at Marko; aside from the whole “traitor” thing, let’s see how you feel if your fiancée suddenly hooks up with someone else and starts a family with her, not to mention giving the new chick one of your translator rings. And we, the readers, also get characters I can only wish I thought of first: an armorer father-in-law, TV-headed characters with literal blue blood, a witty and scary boobs-baring spider-like assassin, dart-shooting dogs and feline lie detectors, druggie Open Circuit performers, a Red Light Planet, in-the-closet journalists with one hell of a gag order, and one-eyed novelists putting hidden messages in his work.

Basically, space is fucked up. So are the people and creatures you’ll meet in it.

The story’s fast-paced throughout the four Volumes, and Vaughan keeps readers engaged with multiple arcs that give just enough information and properly set up the next panels. The problems the characters face are all too familiar, and there will be a lot of #truth moments while reading the speech bubbles. Just when you think the protagonists are in the clear… BAM! They have a new huge problem to deal with, more twists to go through. There’s also plenty of humor and profanity, things I fucking like in my reading material.

And then there’s Fiona Staples‘ artwork. I can only think of one word for them: amazing. Every character and setting is done beautifully, and it does make you feel as if you’re right there with everyone in their ships and planets. This world is colorful, vivid, and highly detailed. Sometimes, no words are needed to describe a situation or push the story forward; the drawn expressions do all the work in some panels.

With all the comics titles and graphic novels making the transition to screens big and small, you’re probably wondering when Saga would join the bandwagon. The answer: it won’t. That’s a relief, to be honest. We already have a full slate of adaptations until 2020! Unless Vaughan changes his mind…

Here’s another fun fact, this time from the publishing side. Image Comics, Saga’s publisher, also handles big titles like The Walking Dead and Spawn; and interesting series such as Sex Criminals, The Manhattan Project, Morning Glories and East of West. Titles published under Image (including Saga) are creator-owned and DRM-free. It also likes to run promos with Humble Bundle, so if you get your digital comics through there, your payment also supports several charities and organizations. As someone who’s just getting into comics, I love that I have many non-superhero options for titles, don’t get saddled with DRM, and that the comics I read are fully owned by the people who make them.

Love, war and politics, family, unlikely alliances, survival and isolation from being on the run, space. Saga‘s got me hooked. The only things I don’t like are that I’ll have to wait a while for the next collected edition to come out (since I don’t buy individual issues), and that there’s no actual Lying Cat available for purchase.

Saga (Volumes 1-4), Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
E-Book (PDF; DRM-free) and Paperback, Image Comics
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