Writing cosmic stories must be incredibly difficult. On the one hand, it seems a nearly impossible challenge to execute a storyline that doesn’t borrow from Star Wars, Star Trek, John Carter of Mars, etcetera. On the other hand, if an author does somehow deliver an original plot, the characters must also seem familiar yet different. We don’t expect space characters to sound like us, to look like us, or to talk like us, yet if they stray too far into that for which we cannot connect, they lose our engagement.
Brian K. Vaughan certainly had his work cut out for him with the first volume of Saga.
The storyline is tried and true: two soldiers from opposing sides fall in love, have a baby, and must now escape the wrath of their respective armies.
As a huge Vaughan fan, I couldn’t wait to read Saga. After hitting the jackpot and winning a free copy on GoodReads.com, I devoured the book the day it arrived.
My feelings about this first volume are mixed.
As with Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina, Vaughan has given us some charismatic, interesting characters. Marko, Alana, baby Hazel, as well as various bounty hunters, ghosts, and television-headed royals, create a cast for whom I want to know more. There is plenty of conflict, both external and internal, and the interpersonal relationships are rife with both passion and hatred.
But here’s where Vaughan loses me a little: this is a story that, for the most part, is full of very human characters that happen to be … well … not human. They love to use the “f” word, they take God’s name in vain a lot, and they apparently rode school buses. Now, if this were on Earth, I wouldn’t be as distracted by it, but why in the world do “aliens” know the “f” word? How are they familiar enough with “God” to take His name in vain? And school buses? Really?
And though I’m far from a prude, there’s a lot of nudity and sex in this thing. Vaughan has always pushed the boundaries within this medium, and, for the most part, I’ve always found him to put the story first and remain tasteful. In this case, though, I get the feeling some of it is just for shock value. There were times when I wasn’t quite sure how the overall story was being served by some of the things on the page. I
So that’s what bothered me a bit about Saga.
However, make no mistake, it’s a fast, entertaining read, and the characters are extremely layered and charismatic. Vaughan has several plots going, and I don’t doubt for a minute that Saga will soon be epic in nature. Furthermore, Fiona Staples is extremely talented and her artwork is both beautiful and horrific. Her particular style suits this story well. Her humanoids are organic and plausible while her monsters maintain an air of biological credibility. And, if you’re familiar with my reviews, you know a good colorist always gets my praise, and Staples is yet another example of an artist that deserves our commendations. Her colors are muted, but they are still so pleasing to the eye, and when she does give us some bright colors, watch out! She doesn’t miss the opportunity to make those vibrant colors count.
All in all, Brian K. Vaughan seems to be an author who works best when his fantasy is rooted on Earth within the here and now, but I cannot fault the man for trying something new and putting himself out there. Any artist who leaves his comfort zone will always have my respect.
Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll stick with Saga. For one, the sex and nudity were so graphic I wasn’t comfortable having it sit out on my nightstand with my little ones running around. Secondly, the very trendy human dialogue just proved too distracting. But, I admittedly want to know what becomes of Marko, Alana, and Hazel, so maybe I will stay onboard after all.