I’ve had friends trying to get me to read Saga since the first trade paperback came out in 2012, but at the time I was knee-deep in first infant stress and had to ignore the recommendation in favor of doing schoolwork for the day job. Then I sorta just lost track of it after my husband read it. Ironic then that I decide to pick it up just after the birth of my second child. But good timing as far as the story goes.
Image offers this description:
From New York Times bestselling writer BRIAN K.VAUGHAN (Y: THE LAST MAN, EX MACHINA) and critically acclaimed artist FIONA STAPLES (MYSTERY SOCIETY, NORTH 40), SAGA is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in a sexy, subversive drama for adults. This volume collects the first arc of the smash hit series The Onion A.V. Club calls “the emotional epic Hollywood wishes it could make.” Collects SAGA #1-6.
So here’s a review of Saga vol. 1 from the perspective of someone who has given birth very recently and who is almost never apart from her infant due to the whole breastfeeding thing.
The cover is an amazingly beautiful image. A woman, upright, full of strength, breastfeeding her infant. A man, who turns out to be her husband and the baby’s father, stands close to her, arm around her shoulders. They are looking off into the distance but in different directions, suggesting that both where they are heading and who might be following them are of importance. Also perhaps suggesting some parenting/marital conflicts–they don’t have the same focus. I remember this cover being somewhat controversial because the woman is breastfeeding, but the image itself shows less of her breast than your basic Vampirella cover. And maybe it’s because I’m personally doing this exact thing (though I tend to lounge while I breastfeed for comfort reasons) upwards of 6 times a day, but this cover shouldn’t be shocking or offensive to anyone. This is, in fact, what boobs are for.
And Brian K. Vaughan takes an intensely practical perspective on birthing and baby-rearing in the wild. The opening page is a close-up of the woman on the cover, Alana, asking if she’s defecating (her word choice is NSFW). It’s pretty crass, but I knew immediately what was going on. She was in labor, and it was time to push. I suspect every mother who has delivered vaginally remembers that same moment when that same question crossed her mind, if not passed her lips. It’s a moment of character and tonal definition. Alana is bold and forthright, and this is a book that pulls humor from base and ironic sources. I knew immediately I was going to love it.
The opening panels depicting the birth of their daughter endeared these characters to me. When they become threatened by two warring factions they’ve deserted from, I was deeply concerned for them, though it had only been a page and a half since meeting them. But I dare say there’s no requirement to have recently birthed to care about these two and their child. They are likable underdogs, rebels against a war that is being fought for seemingly xenophobic reasons and with immoral tactics. And their pairing is antithetical to the hatred their people harbor towards each other. Their child is an abomination to those who have drunk the Kool-Aid for the war. However, there’s at least one person who wants her alive, though the reason for it is left unstated. Now, under normal circumstances, I’d shy away from anything with an infant in danger, but thankfully this book is narrated by the daughter, so she must survive in some form or another.
The universe these three inhabit is, simply put, crazy awesome. There are fantasy elements–Alana’s got wings like some sort-of fairy-nymph thing while her husband Marko has horns like a demon or satyr. There are sci-fi elements–the royalty are robots who engage in human-style sex but have television screens for heads. There is a “pleasure” planet called Sextillion. Then there’s the unclassifiable bits–a cat who can tell if a person is lying, a bounty hunter who is part arachnid and part Venus de Milo, a spaceship tree. Fiona Staples’ artwork depicts it all gloriously.
So mark me in the camp that hails Saga as one of the great graphic novels of this century. It has pretty much everything I want in a comic: strong women, complicated men, dark humor, social commentary, practical parenting, and a talking cat. I can’t wait to dive into volume 2.
RECOMMENDED MUSICAL PAIRING: The Cardigans’ “You’re the Storm”