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Comicscape: SAGA

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Comicscape: SAGA

Brave New World

By Joel Rickenbach     April 10, 2012
Source: Mania.com

We live in an age where film studios won't green light a project unless it's based on an existing property and already has a built-in audience, television networks creatively and financially slash the talent and budgets of their most popular and biggest earning shows, and book publishers are suddenly worried more about demographics than the aforementioned two. Geeks like us? We just want to dip our toes in the magic waters and be swept away by the storytelling we've always held so dear, but it's increasingly tough with the "business" getting in the way. Suddenly we open our eyes, ready for the magic, only to find our films are based on board games, our favorite shows no longer feature our favorite creators, and every other book on the shelf is written for teens and features some variation of a dangerous (yet dreamy!) vampire. Seriously, Dracula wants his castle back.
What does all that have to do with comics? Well, it's a set-up for the thing I love most about the medium- It may just be the last great frontier of new ideas and storytelling avenues. Anything you can imagine can be absorbed by the blank page. You can have two people talking at a table, or a five story, fire-breathing tortoise fighting space ships, both are equally at your grasp. Now, did I exaggerate a bit in the above paragraph? Of course I did. There's still plenty of great stories told in all the above mediums, but comics always get the same stories out, and the results always feel much more pure.
Now, this is not to say comics don't have their share of editorial edicts and demographics, they do. But comics will always have a bedrock of independent and creator-owned books that let their writers and artists unleash their imaginations without worrying about casting a bankable actor, effects budgets or being a perfect piece of "four quadrant" entertainment.
Would you be surprised if the book all this preamble is leading up to has been described by its creator as "Star Wars for perverts"?
Have you ever wanted a book that graphically opens with a bat-winged woman giving birth to a horned baby? How about two television-headed humanoids engaging in a hot and sweaty game of "hide the remote"? Giant, lie detecting cats? Alligator manservants? Well, whether you wanted those things or not, Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples are giving it to you, and trust me when I say it is one of the most exciting and interesting books to hit the shelves in a long time.
It's hard to show us something new these days, it really is. We're so bombarded with new content in so many different mediums it becomes increasingly difficult to separate the catchy melodies from the white noise. However, when we do find something unique we are wont to let out the patented Keanu Reeves "Woah." When I picked up the first issue of Saga I let out my best Ted "Theodore" Logan. Sure, the book has roots in everything from Star Wars to Romeo and Juliet, but taken as a whole it definitely gives you the feeling that you discovered something unique, and you will be spending an awful lot of time with.
At an undisclosed time, in a galaxy most definitely far, far away, there is a planet named "Landfall" which is orbited by a moon called "Wreath". The inhabitants of Landfall all have a pair of wings, and prefer to live their lives through technologically advanced means. The inhabitants of Wreath all have horns of some sort, and live their lives using magic. As the book states- These two factions have been at war so long no one can even remember when it began. They quickly realized the destruction of either world would be a bit of a problem for the other, so they outsourced the war to the rest of the galaxy, and every alien race caught up in the conflict  is forced to choose a side. Alana and Marko are both deserters, they're in love, on the run and about to give birth to their first child. The catch is Alana is from the Coalition of Landfall, and Marko is from Wreath. You can see how this would make life slightly difficult for our couple.
What makes this book so wonderful is that Vaughan gives us so many new and interesting ideas to consider and puzzle over, yet never takes the route of being overtly abstract that many other writers would. There's nothing worse than being introduced to a new world only to find it impenetrable. Even with the Television-headed Robot Kingdom, and rocket ships that supposedly grow on trees, everything in Saga makes perfect sense. Vaughan gives us just enough to understand, but holds enough back to keep us thirsty for more. Another contributing factor is the fact that the first issue is 47 pages. Saga isn't the first book to employ a larger page count for a first issue, but these days it should be mandatory. The length is the pitch-perfect amount to introduce us to this new world, and attach ourselves to Alana and Marko, who have the necessary room to be fleshed out.
A huge amount of praise needs to also be heaped on artist Fiona Staples. Her sharp, free-flowing lines mixed with the soft depth of her digitally painted backgrounds gives Saga an instant identity. The book is partly narrated by Alana and Marko's daughter "Hazel", and all her recollections from the future are hand lettered into the art by Staples. This adds so much to the organic quality of the book, and plays into the light dusting of fairytale that Saga exudes.
The more I think about the word "organic" the more it seems to perfectly describe this book. Everything is handled so deftly it just feels natural. Hell, even the letter column only accepts traditional letters. No Emails, texts or tweets.
Saga is not the little engine that could. It is not some indie book I rescued from the depths. Brian K Vaughan is one of the most popular writers in the business. His last two books (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) are considered some of the best comics of the last decade. Hell, he even wrote for Lost. Saga had launch parties, and got coverage from Entertainment Weekly and The Hollywood Reporter. Yet despite all that hype and pre-ordination, Saga delivers. In fact, it over-delivers. Vaughan returned to comics with Saga because he wanted to let his imagination run wild, and he knew comics was the only medium that could do it justice. His intention is to keep it solely as a comic, his contract with Image gives him the right to never sell the property to any film studio or television network. Does this mean in ten years there won't be a Zack Snyder movie that gets every bat wing and ram horn panel-perfect, yet completely fails to understand the story? Never say never, but until then Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples are proving why comics are the most exciting frontier for storytelling.
The second printing of Saga #1 is released today along with the much anticipated Issue #2.
 
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Joel Rickenbach is a curator of cult cinema at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA, and can be heard every week talking film, TV and other geekery on the You’ve got GEEK podcast. Follow him on Twitter and hilarity will no doubt ensue. 

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 15
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jedibanner 4/11/2012 6:01:30 AM

Funny I never saw this book come out, I always love to try new books and this one just past by I guess.

Will give it a try.

Roqueja 4/11/2012 7:00:09 AM

This is why I missed Comicscape.  I loved Y - The Last Man (C'mon HBO, make it a series) for the writing, and ex-machina was worth the time and money spent.  I will definately give this a shot to see if Vaughn hits again.  The images look like a great pairing with the odd storyline.

shac2846 4/11/2012 9:38:54 AM

 Once again as a long time reader of cinescape I mean mania, thanks again for keeping the comicscape coming. 

The first issue was excellent. Newsarama has been pimping this thing out since last year but as all things you never really know until you actually experience it. Saga has a lot of old storytelling devices employed but uses them in unique ways and by the end of issue one as Joel stated it all seems fresh and exciting. 

I have always thought comics are the place where really good ideas go to flourish. It's somewhere between writing and art but yet uniquely it's own. But more importantly it's never constrained by budget, actors, effects that technology hasn't caught up to, etc. The only limits comics have are the imagination. I hope Saga continues to be the storytelling treat it promises in these first few issues. 

Wiseguy 4/11/2012 10:16:02 AM

Sounds cool but I'll wait for a trade if my interest is still there then I may check it out. I'm a creature of habit and love to follow my regular Marvel U.

RobertTrate 4/11/2012 10:32:47 AM

 I saw it and asked why can I buy only one copy? The owner of the store told me the reason (eBay upselling) and he wanted everyone to get a copy. That got me interested and Vaughn's name.

jedibanner 4/11/2012 1:00:00 PM

I didn't know stores could limit you to one copy. I got # 2 9THANKS AGAIN MANIA FOR RUINING MY WALLET) but couldn't find # 1.

Big comicon coming to Ottawa for the first time this year in May so, will look for it for sure.

Can't wait for May, first it's Free comic book day on the 5th, then the Avengers movie the week after, then it's my birthday a week after and then it's the comic con a week after....can you say geek month!!!

karas1 4/11/2012 2:31:21 PM

I've found that the free comic books usually aren't very good.  They are just promos for other projects, not actual books in and of themselves.  I remember when retailers gave away slow selling back stock on that day.  Sometimes they weren't very good (hence the not selling part) but they were complete stories.

joelr 4/11/2012 2:34:06 PM

It's good to see some people are going out and picking this up, I've had some Facebook friends checking it out as well.

@shac2846 I'm glad you share my belief that comics are the hot bed of imagination.

@Wiseguy Wait at your own risk!

@Jedi The second printing of issue #1 should have been avaiable at your shop today, unless they didn't order any... or are selling them on Ebay!

Roqueja 4/11/2012 3:54:45 PM

@ Kara - I just have the free ones for supplemental reading after my pull list.  Archaia and Dark Horse are usually the best presented story one-shots, with Image and IDW doing a decent job of showing off their properties.  My kids will pull in the Bongo and Boom Studios titles, which are very good for their age group, just not my cup of tea.  Spongebob doesn't do it for me, and it shouldn't for the reason that they aren't meant to.  My 9 year old girl is smiling the whole time she reads it.  Marvel is just filler, as I read many of their titles on a monthly basis, and I pick up the DC to keep abreast of their current events and characters.  All of this for free rocks.  I hope that you find a couple that meet your expectations.

RobertTrate 4/12/2012 12:49:54 AM

 The Comic Book Store I went to was Earth2 in Sherman Oaks, CA. You could buy more than one copy of #1 you just had to pay the current eBay price for it. the MGR didn't want people to miss out. Way cool of him. 

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