The saga of Saga: Rising above foolish controversy
Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples made quite a splash with the comic press and fans when Saga first debuted in March. Mostly because of the cover to the first issue, this was also used for the collection cover. The noise that people made was silly. Far more racy things have appears in comics, and the simple image of the breastfeeding baby was all people wanted to talk about. Never mind that mixed into this image is an undercurrent of tension and potential for violence. Note the couple’s troubled expressions and the weapons they carry?
Violence is just not an issue in the U.S. We are a country built on it, so we tend not to care about depictions of it in our entertainment, but add the merest suggestion of something sexual, and we freak. Never mind that there is nothing even remotely sexual here. We see boobie on a comic cover and we lose our minds. Except again, there is no visible boobie here. Nope. I checked. Several times. I counted them. Twice. Came to exactly none. My boobie search was very thorough. Maybe it was a slow news day. Or maybe the simple honesty of the art here, showing something natural and normal (albeit in a fantasy context) was just too much for fan boys accustomed to seeing huge melons wrapped in spandex to get past this.
The interior of this book is the real issue here. This is a very violent book. Lots of hack and slash mixed in with a healthy dollop of nudity. Staples art is fairly loose and rough in places, lending it the air of sci-fi fantasy needed, and the violence as presented is even rougher. Like real violence would seem, it is sometimes hard to follow. Mix that with the color palette here and this book is completely engrossing on a visual level.
Vaughn’s story is very different from some of his other works like Y the Last Man or Ex Machina. This is not a wordy book, especially compared to those others. The style of storytelling is sparse like the art, but full of subtext and hints at what is to come in later books. I cannot say this was a great book, but it was an engrossing one. More and more often the trade collections become like the first issue of a book. They are all set up with not enough substance to really get you deeply into the material. All salad and no steak is marginally acceptable in a single 20-something page issue, but in a 160 page trade collection of the first 6 issues, I was hoping for more. Granted, this is part of the style they are going for. Rather than give you everything you need in one chunk, this is a story that will unfold over many collections and only be complete with the final page. That is fine, but if they want to hook more readers right away, these kinds of books need to jump in with both feet. On balance, I like what they are doing here, but I have not finally decided to pick up the next volume.
The story itself starts off with its most interesting part, the birth of the narrator. Essentially this entire thing is told as if narrated from the future of this girl’s life. With parents on the run from both sides in an interplanetary war that has gone on seemingly forever, there is a lot of story potential here. The touch of humorous family drama at the end of this book is just fun enough to bring me back for more. Vaughn is likely setting this all up with an end point in mind, and issue 7 is due this week. This is a different kind of book and may not be everyone’s idea of a good read, but if you want more than spandex covered heroes, this may be worth looking into. It is a challenging book at times, but well worth looking into.
What do you think? Leave a comment.