Review: Saga — Volume 1

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Saga: Volume 1
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

★★★½☆

2012 • 160 pages • Image Comics

I think I read this too fast.

Saga has been relentlessly talked up to me ever since its inaugural issue in 2012. I’ve read the reviews. I’ve heard the good word. I’ve clapped eyes on the cosplay. Hell, I danced with a Prince Robot IV cosplayer at con once. Hype is such a hard thing to balance; some things are hype-proof (Hannibal wail okay that obligation is done for today) and some things… well, some things collapse like a flan in a cupboard, to quote Eddie Izzard, when exposed to such high hype levels. And that’s not to say that the hyped texts are undeserving of their hype, per se, but just that expectations and execution have unpredictable chemistry.

Saga is the story of Alana and Marko, two soldiers from different worlds at wars—Landfall, an empire rooted in science, and Wreath, Landfall’s moon, whose inhabitants practice magic. The two worlds have been at war since time immemorial, but because the deconstruction of either planet would destroy the other, the war has been outsourced to other planets. Landfall soldier Alana falls in love with her captive, Wreath soldier Marko, and the two escape… and have a baby, in a society where Landfall’s people and Wreath’s people loathe each other. The concept of them having viable offspring is offputting, but valuable. So we’ve got two soldiers on the run from their respective governments, desperate to protect their new family and escape the war, and the forces on their tails: the forces of Prince Robot IV, Landfall’s heir apparent, and the Will, a mercenary sidetracked in this volume by the discovery of a child sex slave ring.

Objectively, Saga has so much that we should have and desperately need in speculative fiction and in comics. We should have fantastical leads who are firmly people of color; we should have casual discussion of colonialism and its brutal damages; we should be exploding the way sex work is depicted in mainstream media; who should be focusing on everyone’s inherent humanity; we should have Lying Cats; we should have young families shown as being composed of whole human beings. (Saga gets a cheat here, since baby Hazel’s adult self gets to narrate from time to time.)

But subjectively? I’m just not feeling it and it’s not Saga’s fault. But I am aware that I would have felt it a year or so ago—perhaps even three years ago, when it debuted. I can have sometimes have a very striated temporal relationship to media. It happens mostly with music; all of my major playlists since late high school correlate to a season of a year. (I’m actually a little frustrated right now; now that I don’t have a car, I don’t discover music the same way I used to, so I feel somehow musically stuck in last summer.) But Saga—especially its first volume—has everything that I would have needed during my first forays into comic book ownership: namely, being focused on other areas of speculative fiction rather than the usual superheroics. This is how The Unwritten lured me into comics, lo those many years ago.

(I mean, the Marvel Cinematic Universe certainly helped, but The Unwritten definitely helped a little more. I should finish that.)

It is frustrating, because I want to like it more than I do, but I’m also not going to force the issue. (Ha.) Maybe, over time, it evolves into a series that I would respond really viscerally to, but, you know, that is not the text’s job. It clearly works for people, and that is great.

It just does not work for me.

I rented this book from the public library.

10 thoughts on “Review: Saga — Volume 1

  1. I love Saga because of its originality, design, and solid characterizations. I admit to being one of the people who call Saga the best comic currently on the market, but I’ve enjoyed it from day one.

    Clare, you bring up a good point in that the best of things don’t appeal to everyone.

  2. I read the first several issues of Saga not long after it came out, and it didn’t click with me either. When I stepped back, I could see that it had lots of great stuff and did everything well, but I just couldn’t make the connection that made me want more. It’s weird how that happens sometimes. I’ve been thinking I might try again, since the problem could have been one of timing.

  3. I read Saga back when the first trade came out, but I had no expectations for it going in–I was browsing the library’s comic section and went “Wait there’s a comic with someone breast feeding on the cover?” And it was magical.

    Whereas now it seems it would be very difficult for much of anything to live up to the amount of love splurged all over the internet.

    • No expectations going in is really the ideal scenario, which is kind of impossible living on the Internet and participating in fandom, which got very panfandom very fast after the tumblr migration.

      There are things that I think can survive it… but it depends on the text and the reader.

  4. Expectations are such a bitch! I’m sorry they messed up Saga for you, although of course it’s perfectly possible you wouldn’t have liked it anyway — no book is for everyone.

    YES to not discovering new music when you live in New York. That made me so sad when I lived there, because driving around with music playing is one of my favorite things in this life. I used to sometimes take my ipod and a portable speaker and a picnic blanket up on the roof of my building and lay out in the sun and listen to music and read, but it’s not really the same, and there aren’t, like, THAT many days where the weather’s conducive.

  5. Unwritten was the first comic to get me to like comics too! But then Saga was the second. Sucks to the expectations aspect of it, but like Jenny said, maybe it would have been a no no matter what, who knows. I am also really in love with Rat Queens these days.

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