Friday, 2 May 2014

Saga (Volumes 1-3) by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Publication date: Vol 1, 23rd October 2012
                              Vol 2, 2nd July 2013
                              Vol 3, 25th April 2014
Published by: Image Comics
Genre: Science Fiction / Fantasy (Graphic novels)

Saga is a popular series of graphic novels about a couple trying to protect their newborn baby from a war between their two homes.  The narrator is Hazel, a much older version of the mixed-raced infant.  In volume one, Hazel introduces the reader to her parents, reveals some of their backstory and tells how, while on the run, she comes into the world. 

My Synopsis
Landfall is the largest planet in the galaxy.  The inhabitants are humanoid creatures with wings.  The planet is orbited by a moon known as Wreath.  The inhabitants of Wreath are also humanoid but with goat-like features and magical abilities.  The inhabitants of Landfall and Wreath are sworn enemies and have been at war for generations.  Attacking each others' homes has an adverse effect on their own, so they have taken to fighting 'off world' on other planets, thus drawing other species into their battle and forcing them to choose a side.  Alana (pictured on the left of the cover) is a Landfallian soldier who has been sent to one of these planets, Cleave.  There she is assigned the job of guarding prisoners of war. She meets Marko (pictured to her right), a Wreathian soldier and prisoner.  Against the odds, they unite and go on the run together...

My Review
My initial feeling about volume 1 was that, although it has adult content (nudity, sex, swearing, violence and dark areas to the story that may not be suitable for under 15s), the writing is rather juvenile and would appeal mostly (but not exclusively) to teenage boys.  While reading it I thought it was just okay, nothing extraordinary; although it is peppered with humour, which is always good. But after I completed it I found myself coming back to the plot several times - and the more I thought about it, the more I contemplated the serious issues and came to realise it's hidden depths.  For example, while reading it I didn't get why Izabel the ghost had to appear as half a body with her intestines hanging out.  I put this down to appealing to teenage boys who like gore.  But, on reflection, I considered that Izabel was a teenager who died when she accidentally stepped on a landmine and the gore is a constant reminder of the horrors of war. 

The juvenile writing is absent in volume 2, which is probably why I enjoyed it even more than the first.  Being a huge sci-fi fan, the plot is one that appeals to me.  It reminds me most of The Terminator, as this couple and their baby are constantly on the run for their lives (from both machines and mercenaries alike). Also, Marko reminds me of Kyle Reese, the brave human soldier who travelled back in time to protect Sarah Connor from 'termination' and ends up fathering her child (John Connor who grows up and leads the rebellion against the machines).

Most of the time I find it hard to understand how readers can find fictional characters attractive.  (I never got the appeal of Fitzwilliam Darcy or Christian Grey.) The notion seems rather ridiculous to me - and yet I get it where Marko is concerned. I am not sure what the formula is for creating such a character but Staples and Vaughan clearly do. Staples' animation + Vaughan's personable character creation = Marko dripping with sex appeal. (Don't snigger, I kid you not!)  Of course, it does depend on what 'floats your boat' and rather than being the usual over-protective alpha-male, Marko is a combination of 'knight in shining armour' and sensitive 'new man' (yum yum).

If Alana is anything like Sarah Connor it's the transformed one - the one who first appears in the second film; the tough, ruthless, and brave one. I suspect there is a formula that makes her appealing, too (that is, unless one prefers a 'damsel in distress'.)  I did wince at some of the stuff that came out of her mouth (particularly when she and Marko are 'getting down and dirty'); to say some of what she says is 'unladilike' would be an understatement, 'bloakish' would be a more accurate discription. [sexy? funny? outragious!]

Alana discovers, in the most unlikely of places, the idea that there is a better way to live.  Both she and Marko share a sensibility to D. Oswald Heist's philosophy, i.e. war is stupid. It leads them to start thinking about the possibility of peace between their races; an idea that is unthinkable to everyone else.  But the idea results in their very union and the birth of their child, a symbol of future possibility. 

I have now come to appreciate that the Saga series is a combination of slick written and pictorial story-telling.  Graphic novels are known to be generally aimed at [and appeal to] men.  Not this one: Saga is mindful of gender equality, suggesting it would appeal to men and women alike.  The sex and violence is never gratuitous but instead a relevant part of the story-telling.  I have become quite addicted and will be following it with keen interest.

Very highly recommended (to adults).

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