Saga, vol. 1, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

by Sigrid

Saga is one of the best science fiction stories I’ve read in the past few years. Not merely the best in comics, mind you, but simply one of the best.

I’m not going to recite the plot, here. But there will be spoilers.

the cover of the graphic novel Saga

People argue, constantly, over what science fiction is. Over what it should be, what it’s for. I believe that science fiction is a set of rhetorical tools used to examine stressors in the human present-day. We take a thing that concerns us and we look at it obliquely, we look at it askance, we fictionalize it until we can see the threads of possibility removed from the mire of immediate circumstance. All fiction does this, of course. It’s one of the things fiction is for. Science fiction is one set of tools for the job.

a panel from Saga, a character on the toilet

Saga uses those tool brilliantly. The nature of humanity is prodded and questioned in the various aliens, particularly Prince Robot IV. Friendship is interrogated in the relationships between bounty hunters. Love is examined and defined as the young couple, Alana and Marko, carve (sometimes literally) a new life for themselves and their infant in this war-riddled universe.

a panel from Saga, a character and his large pet cat

But a story isn’t merely a collection of deep, self-important themes. A story must be told through specific characters about whose fates we, the readers, care. And the characters Vaughan and Staples have created are fantastic. They are richly imagined takes on archetypes. This is important. We need the archetype so that we know something of where we stand in this science fiction setting. Yet we need this particular rendition of the type to be new and fresh in order to make the story worth the time spent reading it. To call SagaRomeo and Juliet in Space” gives you some, limited, information. But that does nothing to tell you how likeable, strong, and engaging Marko and Alana are.

a panel from Saga, Marko and Alana

Saga is a story about parenting, about how having a kid is an undiscovered country that no-one can explain to you ahead of time.

Saga is a story about the rank stupidity of war, about how self-sustaining cultures of conflict can be.

Saga is a story about principles, about what we do for them, with them, and what having them does to us.

Saga is a wry, quirky, flippant surrealist story about the possibilities of the Science Weird literary subgenre.

Saga is a brilliantly-realized work of serial graphic art, full of stunning visuals I hadn’t known were missing from comics until I saw them.

Saga is laugh-out-loud funny.

Saga is a train-wreck story of fore-ordained doom from the first lines of narration.

I highly, highly recommend you give Saga a try. (The first volume is available as a collected edition both in print and digitally.) It may not be to your taste — it is strongly science fiction, it is strongly visual, it does not stop to explain anything you might not get right away. Nonetheless, I ask you to give it a chance. Vaughan and Staples are telling a story of astonishing scope and depth, of intimate detail and nuance. You, Gentle Reader, will want in years to come to have known about Saga from the beginning.

a panel from Saga, Alana and her baby, the words "I want to show our girl the universe."