Last year, I lost track of the number of people who told me to read Saga by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Fiona Staples. I finally bought the first volume of the graphic novel, which includes books 1 through 6. I fell in love on the first page.
The first page.
That’s Alana. Never before have I instantly connected with a character upon meeting them on the first page. She’s giving birth, but throughout the pains of labor she is really concerned with her husband seeing her shit herself. Alana is me. I too wondered if I had just shat myself while giving birth to my first child. My doctor warned me that I’d be so focused on delivering the baby I wouldn’t care about people seeing me a drop a deuce. I told my doctor he hadn’t been paying attention.
Alana is foul-mouthed, gutsy, and smart. Alana is me and I loved her from page one.
The fact that I came to love the rest of the characters in Saga and its universe was just gravy.
Alana and her husband are on the run. They come from two species who have been at war with each for as long as anyone can remember. Alana is from Landfall, the largest planet in the galaxy and her husband, Marko, is from Wreath, Landfall’s only moon. Once they realized that their war would destroy both their worlds, the people of Landfall and Wreath began to outsource the fighting to other planets. While they were chilling in relative peace, their war damaged the worlds and lives of others.
Alana was in the military, guarding prisoners of Wreath on a planet called Cleave. That’s where she met Marko, a Wreath solider who surrendered. At this point, no one is sure how it happened, but the two ran away together, got married, and had a baby girl, Hazel. Of course, these star-crossed lovers won’t be left in peace. Neither side can have word getting out that these two have run away and conceived a child together, something no one thought was possible.
Landfall enlists a member of their royal army, Prince Robert IV (Yes, his people have televisions for heads), to track them down, while Wreath pays several freelancers (bounty hunters/assassins) to find them, kill them, but return the baby unharmed. Two of the freelancers are The Will (who travels with a large cat who can tell when you’re lying) and The Stalk, ex-lovers with a rocky history.
One of the many great things about this first volume is getting to see how this war has damaged the innocent people/worlds caught in the middle. When The Will stops at a planet that is basically one giant brothel, he’s appalled to find a young girl of six being offered as a sex slave. The people in charge reason that she was saved when her home was decimated in the war and at least with them she is fed and kept safe.
As Marko and Alana travel through Cleave with the hopes of finding a spaceship off the planet, they encounter The Horrors, who turn out to be the ghosts of the children of Cleave whose only mistake was getting caught in the crossfire.
By the end of the first volume, our newlyweds are on their way to Quietus so Alana can meet her favorite author. Unfortunately, Prince Robert IV has spent his time getting to know the runaways via people they encountered and figures out where they’re headed.
Vaughan has created a story that gives you the same feeling you had when you first saw Star Wars. The universe is vast and the possibilities are endless. The dialogue is sharp and definitely for adults. The conversations between Alana and Marko feel real, like two people who are madly in love, yet still getting to really know one another – when she learns about his first fiancé, it’s hilarious. Hazel’s narration from some point in the future is delightfully snarky.
Staples’ illustrations are wonderful. You will find yourself staying on every page long after you’ve read it, just to soak in all the details of her work. At times these books can be extremely violet and sexual, and you’ll wonder where the hell Vaughan came up with these characters. But they are all so fully developed you’ll find something to connect to with all them… even if they have horns, or wings, or multiple eyes.