Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Saga (2012-present)

AN EPIC SPACE OPERA ABOUT WARS, STARS, AND PARENTHOOD. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, SAGA.

Piotrek: Brian K. Vaughan came to my attention years ago, with his Y: The Last Man series, an very original and altogether excellent comic book series from the early 2000s.

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It tells a story of the last human male on an alternative Earth, where all the mammals with Y chromosome died suddenly in 2002. The mechanics of this event were, to me, a bit disappointing, but the series was exciting, full of action, romance, and politics. I’ve heard great thinks about Runaways, but haven’t read that. When I’ve read about his new series, Saga, I was pretty sure it’s going to be great. I’ve read the first volume, and it confirmed my suspicions. It was great! But, I didn’t want to wait anxiously for each volume. I bought the first deluxe hardcover, and the second, and the third, and never read beyond volume one.

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There’s quite a lot of violence, and sex, but probably the most controversial thing is that they dared to put a boob on the cover!

I have to say the series shines not only in the script department, but is also beautifully illustrated. Fiona Staples definitely is a co-author of this experience, and I mention her after my paragraph about Vaughan mostly because it was my first encounter with her work. Exactly how splendid that work is, will tell you in the review itself.

Recently, I learned the series is on hiatus, and we will have to wait a good while to see its second half. Saga also popped up, now and then, on many of the blogs I follow. I decided to finally read it, and I wolfed down all three 500-hundred-page volumes within a week. It was so good!

Ola: And I read it all once Piotrek had his shiny hardcovers πŸ˜€ Oh, the joys of borrowing books ;). I’m not a big fan of Runaways, and Y somehow never got to the top of my TBR, but I can fully confirm Piotrek’s opinion on Saga – it really is a very good, stunningly illustrated story. Hats off to Fiona Staples, because without her art the story wouldn’t be half as good, or half as crazy. And while the main characters hold the majority of readers’ attention, it’s the side characters that add that elusive secret ingredient that makes Saga such a memorable read. By now The Lying Cat has probably more fans than Marko or Alana πŸ˜‰

Saga Lying Cat

Piotrek: I quite like the main heroes themselves, but among my favourite supporting characters I definitely count Upsher and Doff, two relentless journalists who add another perspective to the story. They represent the audience, trying to get to the bottom of the events, and, regardless of what happens, I hope what they started will influence the endgame.

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But perhaps we should paint a broader picture before we go into details (all the time omitting major spoilers). Saga has great characters, but it also has an epic plot, great worldbuilding, big scale stuff.

In a galaxy far away (but aren’t they all?) a planet of Landfall is home to an advanced civilization of winged people. Landfall’s moon, Wreath, is inhabited by horned people proficient with magic. The two races were always fighting and now, when they both ventured into space, their war heavily impacts vast part of neighbouring space. Other planets are caught into a web of alliances, proxy wars, or at least espionage. Regardless of their inhabitants wishes they are turned into battlefields of this eternal conflict.

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And our protagonists come from the opposing sides. Marko is one of the horned wielders of magic, and serving in the war he gets captured. Alana, a winged grunt, is his guard, and they fall in love, defect and have a baby, Hazel who shares the features of both races, and who is the main hero of the story – as you might have guessed, seeing her on all three covers πŸ˜‰

Ola: Let’s not forget the power of literature (good and bad) in breaking the boundaries and overcoming all limits – the one thing that originally binds Alana and Marko is, after all, a book. Love for A Night Time Smoke, a romance by a once famous author D. Oswald Heist, alternately reviled by some as “piece of trash” or considered a pacifist masterpiece, was the one thing the two soldiers from opposite sides found to have in common. Hazel came only after ;).

Piotrek: This is one of the things that make Saga pretty unique. It’s not about a heroic orphan discovering the truth about his heritage and destiny. Nor a story about young couple falling in love in a middle of epic events. It’s about a young family, on a mission to raise their kid in very difficult circumstances. We witness very hard childbirth, various stages of little kid’s development, while powerful enemies are after our protagonists, who find friends and foes in many parts of their universe.

Ola: Well, right now we can only take for granted the fact that Hazel is the protagonist of the story, which in itself is a bit tongue-in-cheek approach. For as of the time of readers’ encounter Alana and Marco, and witnessing of their desperate, unending fight to create a safe and more-or-less happy family amidst blood, hatred, and chaos, and assassins, Hazel is just a small kid. She’s the narrator of the story, so at least we know she lives till she’s old enough to spin it with irony, precision and panache, but we don’t learn much about her – she’s the mirror through which we see the others and their stories.

Piotrek: In our politically turbulent times it’s worth mentioning this is quite a progressive story, told in a way where all the elements fit together naturally. We have a gay couple, a trans character – and their respective societies treat them with as much scorn as our societies used to, and in some cases still do. But they are fully fleshed characters with their own agendas and deep humanity. To the readers they are presented as equal actors on the scene of this story, not a token minority. They are part of this universe just as they are part of ours. I find it important, as right now in my country the situation of the LGBT+ community is worsening under the increasingly autocratic regime, and just a few days ago pro-LGBT demonstrations were met with police brutality unseen in Poland since the days of communism.

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Ola: Yes, that seems to be the preferred response in “democratic” countries lately, from the US to Belarus. Saga’s world is similarly not free from prejudice, bigotry, hatred, corruption, irrationality and greed. And yet, among all that carnage and ill will, the story remains valiantly optimistic. Differences can be overcome or overlooked, if we find a common ground. However trashy that may sound – and the authors are fully aware of the postmodern need for irony in that regard, as evidenced in the story of Heist’s book – love in its many forms in the end remains the one force that allows for understanding, selflessness, and becoming a better version of oneself. As a consequence, all – and there is an amazing variety of beings in Saga’s galaxy – the ghosts, such as Izabel above, Cyclops authors, spider assassins and robotic princes – are treated with a surprising amount of empathy and understanding.

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Two fathers on a quest

Piotrek: It’s a great comic book saga. It’s visual component is an integral part of the product, it’s not an adaptation of a novel or a movie. Vaughan and Staples appear not to be interested in adaptations, and I applaud their choice. Maybe, one day, when it’s all finished, there will be time to go beyond one medium, with this story or some spin-offs. I definitely feel comics are enough though.

The size of the story is impressive, giving the authors enough space to flesh out the world and characters and give us intricate plot. 54 issues already, and it’s only a half of it. I can’t wait to read more (but I will, I’m going to continue to only buy the big deluxe hardcovers πŸ˜‰ ).

Ola: Seeing as I’m half a world away, I will now have to figure out whether to buy my own Saga omnibuses, $100 each ;). But it’s definitely worth it, for Saga has it all: an incredibly complex world, inhabited by wonderfully imagined creatures, a fascinating perspective on many important problems of our world, from thorny relations with in-laws to the difficulties of simultaneously working and raising kids, dealing with addiction, self-doubt, assassins and prejudice, to finding one’s own place in the world and picking one’s own battles, and on, to heartbreak and death and – maybe – acceptance. A family’s quest for normalcy that sets an entire galaxy on edge – that’s a promise for a really great story, a promise fulfilled in the first half of Vaughan’s and Staples’s work. Is it without a fault? No, but then – what is? πŸ˜‰ I had a blast with Saga till now and I can only hope the rest of Staples’s and Vaughan’s story will keep on delivering!

Score:

Ola: 10/10

Piotr: 10/10

47 thoughts on “Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Saga (2012-present)

  1. πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ So happy you both like Saga so much! I love it! I need to complete it though, and I didn’t know they were on hiatus. Thanks for the info.
    I agree that it is an optimistic story despite the characters’ ups and downs in it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. πŸ˜€ Yeah, Saga is really great, glad to know it has so many fans πŸ™‚ It’s heartbreaking and sometimes utterly ruthless, yet still idealistically optimistic – and like all fans of Fitz and Fool series know very well, that’s a winning combination! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Iβ€˜ve read the first two paperbacks (vol 1-12) some six years ago, and remember the stunning art and some crazy ideas. Thanks for remembering me!
    I loved your conversational review and plan to do that with my ten other selfs soon. πŸ€ͺ

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hahaha, you go, all of you Andreases! :D:D:D
      Yup, Saga is definitely worth reading – there are more crazy ideas along the way, and lots of heartbreak and sweetness and gore, too! πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow, 2 times 10/10.

    You two should do a favorite post on your favorite illustrated stories. I haven’t read much in this department, what would you recommend as the first thing to check out? This? It something else?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’d say Saga is a very good entry into the world of comics πŸ˜€ It has great art, intriguing premise, it’s equally heartfelt and calloused, ironic and naive. I think the story/art combo works so well here because there are no formal experiments, but rather a seamless cooperation between the elements. While the art is on the robust side – very colorful and “active” – it constitutes a key element of the narrative, so it’s not difficult to follow the flow of the story. And you can fully enjoy it on its own, as it doesn’t have that element of meta-critique that some other great graphic novels have, such as “Watchmen” or “Marvels.”
      Though if, as an art connoisseur, you’d like to check out the comics notable more for the art than stories, I can give you some recommendations also! There are some amazing artists out there! πŸ˜€

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      1. Yes please to those recommendations!

        For reference: 20, 15 years ago I did read the Worlds of Aldebaran series, The Metabarons by Jodorowsky, the Nikopol Trilogy by Bilal, and a bunch of others whose titles do not spring to mind.

        Also Paying For It and I Never Liked you by Chester Brown – but those are not speculative.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well, I’ve got some absolutely favorite graphic novel artists that I keep recommending to all and sundry πŸ˜€ – Alex Ross and Gabriele Dell’Otto are simply amazing, but I also love Adi Granov (Iron Man: Extremis, a pretty neat comic even if scientifically flamboyant ;)) and Alex Maleev (Daredevil comics). Andy Kubert (Marvel 1602 and Wolverine Origin) can do amazing job as well. Tim Sale has an interesting style, and the comics he had made with Jeph Loeb are really good. But all of these artists are involved with the two big comic book houses – Marvel and DC.

          If you want something more unique and less superheroic, I can recommend Mike Mignola and his Hellboy series – just great! There are a few storylines there that got 10s from me as well πŸ˜€ There’s also Monstress – the storyline is rather predictable and a bit too sweet, but Sana Takeda’s art is lush and very detailed.

          I’m also partial to some European comics – you can check out Piotrek’s review of Thorgal and The Rabbi’s Cat. If you’re into Greek mythology, you might want to check out the SF version ofthe Hercules myth, Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens – Looky’s art is simply jaw-dropping.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Really glad to see such a positive duo-post on this saga. πŸ˜‰ I was completely enamoured by it since volume 1 and have been keeping up with it as they released. I was a bit sad that they went on a hiatus, especially with the final issues leaving us on a huge cliffhanger that could kill any bit of joy we had while reading it hahah I also agree that the art in this one plays as huge of a role as the story and I’m glad that Staples nails it from start to finish. This post does make me want to reread this series again though. Hmm.. Maybe when they’re on the verge of releasing the next issue I’ll binge through it again haha Great review, guys! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lashaan! 😊
      I feel a similar urge to read the whole thing once again πŸ˜‚ but with so many unread books and comics it’s probably more sensible to wait before the next release with Saga-binge πŸ˜„

      Who are your favorite graphic novel artists? We had a bit of discussion about it and I realized I never asked you about it! 😁

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Tell me about unread books hahaha especially unread comics which seems to never end with my lack of self-control regarding those. πŸ˜€

        Ohhh, I agree with many of your own choices mentioned to bormgans hahah I absolutely love Jorge Jimenez, Jock, Alex Ross, Stjepan Sejic, Jim Lee, Clay Mann, Jason Fabok, Mike Mignola, Lee Bermejo, Tim Sale, and Frank Miller. Just kidding for Miller hahahahaah

        Your question reminded me that I’ve always wanted to make a top artist kind of post someday hahaha I should look into the idea a bit more now. πŸ˜›

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That would be a post I’d love to read! πŸ˜€

          Yeah, I feel that pain of unread books and all those shiny new comics and books calling out to me – it’s really hard not to get seduced by them πŸ˜‰

          I thought you were kidding with Bermejo! πŸ˜›

          Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a great review of this series- which happens to be one of my favorites. I also loved Y: The Last Man though. I think Vaughan is pretty awesome as far as graphic novels/comic books go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sarah! 😊

      Glad you enjoyed it as much as we did! I do wonder what they have in store for us for the after-hiatus releases, but I’m fairly certain they’ll keep that amazing quality we got so used to with Saga. πŸ˜„

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  6. High praise indeed! I haven’t read this yet, but have often heard it is very good. You have both tempted me to pick it up so I will give it a try. I also enjoyed your “conversational” reviewπŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Wakizashi! πŸ˜€
      So, are you a Japanese swords fan? πŸ™‚

      Saga is worth reading – even if it would turn out not entirely for you (though I doubt it, from what I can infer about your reading tastes you’d actually enjoy it a lot :)) it constitutes a very timely and yet quite universal conversation about our world’s many woes and marvels – from war to gossip, from PTSD and various addictions to in-laws, first teeth, with ghost nannies and assassins along the way :D. Hope you’ll enjoy it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha ha! When I was a young teenager, I got really interested in all things Japanese. I liked the classic art with its depictions of samurai, sumo wrestlers, and Japanese landscapes. I read stories about old Japan, watched Kurosawa movies, even trained in ninjutsu for a while. I don’t have a Japanese short sword or a katana but I think they are beautifully made.😁

        Thanks again for the tip. I will try the first volume and let you know what I think.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I used to train kung-fu, and then karate for some time, got to 7th kyu πŸ˜€ And I do share an appreciation for finely made white weaponry πŸ™‚ There is something alluring in Japanese culture, especially the art (Hokusai woodblocks are simply wonderful) and mythology.

          By the way, have you seen Batman Ninja?? πŸ˜€

          Liked by 1 person

  7. What a tantalising review. I was becoming won over right up to the moment when you mentioned the cost of each volume. Paying $100 per copy suggests a lot of trust. I think I’ll continue to enjoy it vicariously, through you, for now. I’ve yet to be convinced on graphic novels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cath!

      To be fair, that’s the cost of an omnibus edition, not a single issue πŸ˜„ Omnibus collects up to 15-18 issues, so it’s actually a pretty hefty thing with over 500 pages in hardcover. Single issues are much cheaper, and if you have access to a library I recommend borrowing a few comics and checking out if it’s something right for you 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve heard so .any good things about this so I’m not surprised ut got top marks from both of you.

    I bet that breastfeeding cover lit a fire under all those people who find it strange that women do that in this day and age πŸ˜‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you have a chance, take a peek at Saga! You might really enjoy it πŸ˜„

      Yeah, the breastfeeding cover was unique and served we’ll both as a PR tool and as a way to differentiate Saga from other series πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love this “double format” for the review! And even if I saw Saga around a lot this was the first time I really considered it. Since now I wasn’t interested in it, and all the review or things I have read about it didn’t move me, even if they were quite enthusiastic, but now I am curious. I don’t think that I’ll never read it, because comics aren’t my favorite medium and with a limited amount of money and space and an unlimited TBR sometimes is necessary to make some hard choices, but maybe one day…
    Thanks for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! 😊
      And we’re very glad you enjoy our double review/discussion format! 😁
      Saga is an unusual graphic novel, but if you don’t particularly enjoy the format it may not change your mind – the text is indivisible from the art, and only together they form a whole. And it is very expensive, that’s true. But if you have a library that has comics, you may try it out without a cost πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Saga Vol.1 (2012) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples | Who's Dreaming Who

  11. S.D. McKinley

    Saga! Okay I’m new here and think I understand. And apologies my reading eyes are fading or take me out back and shoot me, but this is new to me, you have two different people talking in one post? If so that’s pretty cool way to switch it up. Who is Piotrek? πŸ˜‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, two people talking in one post! 😁 We co-author the blog: Piotrek and I. Usually we write reviews individually, about books each of us has read, but for some books we both have read we do a double feature – a discussion of sorts πŸ˜€. That stirs things up nicely, especially when we don’t fully agree πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Friday Fun Links – S.D. McKinley – thoughts from an indie author

  13. This sounds like a great series! Blondie and I are really enjoying the Amulet graphic novel series. I need to do a worldbuilding post on it sometime. Have you ever read it? There’s no boob on the cover, but it’s a fascinating story thus far…

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  14. buriedinprint

    I can see where collecting the omnibus editions of this series would be highly desirable; I’ve reread the first couple of volumes a few times (when a new volume was later released) and the rereads have been every bit as enjoyable. In some ways, even more enjoyable, because you can absorb different details. Such a great cast! Now you’ve inspired me to see how much has been published since I last looked (volumes eight and nine, it seems) and of course i want to rush to read and reread them right now, thanks to your shared enthusiasm.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. buriedinprint

        Hah, just your having said it that way reminded me that I had written up a post for the same reason. (Here, if you’re curious.) But it’s only me talking to myself…mostly!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Lovely review!
          I don’t know why I can’t “like” your post – I do hope my comment will appear, though (the first time it didn’t, for some unknown reason I couldn’t hit the “post comment” button).

          Like

          1. buriedinprint

            I had the same problem with a comment on one of your posts today, too, actually, I just kept clicking the like button but it never did register; on the next post/comment, I hit it once and waited for a bit and then it changed to “like”. That’s so weird. It’s like the interface doesn’t want us to be friends. :> (Your comment does show!)

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I wonder if the interface is called Skynet? 🀣
              Whatever its intentions, it won’t succeed! We’ll overcome those pesky informational obstacles through good old-fashioned communication πŸ˜„

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  15. Pingback: SAGA: Book One – Vaughan & Staples // HERE – McGuire (2014) | Weighing a pig doesn't fatten it.

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