Something I have stated repeatedly and to anyone who would listen is that I'm not against "representation" at all, but I believe it should be done right. I've had multiple conversations with people who believe that this is tantamount to not wanting representation, but they're wrong. I'm all for characters in books/movies/games/whatever else who happen to be of whatever race/gender/orientation/whatever else that anyone out there would like to be. I'm just not for stealing someone else's hard work and pissing off an entire fandom by altering an existing character to fit a political agenda.
People point to Star Trek: The Original Series as a leader in representation and they're right. At a time when integration just didn't exist on TV, Gene Roddenberry added an Asian man and a black woman to the bridge crew of the USS Enterprise. They went on that five year mission. But here's what the Social Justice Bullies in the world always miss: Roddenberry did it right.
Right how? Right by inventing new characters (Nyota Uhura and Hikaru Sulu were never seen before characters) and new stories .(It's hard to believe for a guy in his forties, but there was a time when ST:TOS was still putting out new episodes.) Seriously, when a rumor surfaced that Sulu would be gay in a Trek movie George Takei, the actor who played Sulu and is actually gay and married to another man in real life came out against it. (Google the wedding pics. They both looked fabulous.) His response was simple: Create another character. It's not that hard to get and it would have been easy to do: The Star Trek have introduced many new characters over the years. That's the way it should work. Seriously. You want it? You got it. Just do your own work to make it happen. If you're wondering, this is why Wonder Woman made ginormous piles of cash and the Ghostbusters reboot didn't. Wonder Woman has always been female.
So why am I bringing this up now?
When I was at a book fair (I guess that's what you'd call it) over the summer at Detroit's own Eastern Market, I picked up a trade paperback. It was called Saga: Volume One. The woman working the table at the book fair was really excited when I bought it. I was attracted by the cover, which pictured a woman with faerie wings and a man with devil's horns. It wasn't until I got home that I realized that the reason she was so excited and thanking me so profusely for buying it was because they were both black and so was she. I guess she never realized that guys like me have been consuming entertainment with and by black people for decades. Seriously, if you had asked her I'd be she would've told you a guy like me had never seen a Blade comic or movie and never watched Independence Day either. Whatever, it's not like it was the first time I'd ever been stereotyped. I grabbed the book and headed home. Life happened and I didn't get a chance to read it until today. That sucks. I want those months back, because Saga is a good comic and I missed a chance to catch up on what comes up after this because I was screwing around reading other stuff.
Saga: Volume One is a good story in and of itself. Being the first trade means that you can easily read it by itself and enjoy it. Come to think of it, that's exactly what I did. I don't plan on stopping here by any stretch of the imagination, but it worked the first time. There is a lot in here. The book asks more questions than it answers, but that's what it's supposed to do. It's the first book and this has the potential to be a star spanning, galactic, epic magnum opus... But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The main characters of Saga are a committed couple Marko, the demon horned father and Alana, the faerie winged mother and their daughter, Hazel who is apparently going to grow up to have both. As of the beginning of the comic though, Hazel is just being borned. It's weird though, because Hazel also narrates the story. It's like the whole thing is done in flashback. I like it.
The world of Saga is a rough place. It is a galaxy where pretty much everyone is at war with everyone else. Marko and Alana come from opposite sides of that war. They're on the run from both sides because they're considered to be traitors. This becomes obvious on like the fourth or fifth page. That works so well. This entire TPB is filled with action. There is never a dull moment. You're constantly glued to it because there's no let down, no waiting point. By the time I realized I had turned the first page, I was done with the first of the original issues. It flows that well.
The art is gorgeous. This is the part where the guy who can't draw a treble clef unaided is supposed to provide you with all of the technical details, but I don't work that way. I just don't have the technical knowledge to do so. What I can tell you is that I've seen Hollywood movies with huge budgets that don't look half this good. I can also say that the art, like all good comic book art, adds to the story instead of being a distraction from it. I could stare at this all day.
Being a story set in space, there are a lot of aliens. I like aliens. I'm not sure if Fiona Staples came up with these appearance all by herself or if she had help but whoever did it and however it worked, they look awesome. It's always kind of nice to see aliens in comics because the artist isn't stuck with something that looks like a human in a costume and Staples did a damn good job making her original artwork look original. The cool part about the fact that I've only read the first one so far is that I still get to find out what she came up with after this. I can't wait.
But it's not just science fiction. I mean, it'd still be awesome if it was but why stop when you can add in more awesome? Marko himself is capable of some kinds of magic. That already adds a lot to the story and it's just starting. It also appears to be a rare gift. I don't want to give away too much here but it's obvious that magic is both uncommon and feared. There is a lot of potential here and I can't wait to see what they do with it.
The language in Saga is real. Marko and Alana talk the like the people where I grew up talk. What I'm saying is that they sometimes use a couple of those words that your mama always told you not to when you were growing up. I approve. I use the same kind of language at times. Marko and Alana both served in the military of their cultures and military personal have a tendency to use a lot of bad language. I bring this up as a warning to those of you who can't handle honesty in fiction. If you're offended by the occasional swear word I'm sure there's an old issue of Archie Comics laying around somewhere that you can get your hands on. For those of us who don't get all worked up over something that is quite frankly realistic, Saga is a real treat.
And part of the reason Saga is so enjoyable is because the characters act like real people as well Marko and Alana are two people in love who really just want to be left alone but can't be because of who they are and where they came from. They're both deserters from their respective militaries but they left because they couldn't be together. The villains in the book are chasing them because they've been paid to. It makes sense. I mentioned how gorgeous the book was earlier and I meant it but that's not all there is to it. Saga is a good story as well as awesome art.
All in all, I'm really glad I picked up Saga Volume One at the book fair. I wish it had been a little longer, but that's just me whining because I'm not ready to be done with it yet. It's probably the highest honor you can give to a creator. Seriously. Next time you see someone whose work you enjoy tell them you were disappointed because it wasn't long enough and you wanted more. See how disappointed they're not. I had a similar experience about something I used to write called "The Rules". You get geeked up when people tell you they want more.
Here's the good news: I'll be heading out to Great Lakes Comic Con tomorrow, on the campus of Macomb Community College. That's my alma mater. There is a good chance I'll be able to run into the same people that were at the book fair. It's only like fifteen-ish miles away. I'll be looking for a copy of Saga Volume Two and maybe three depending on how things look otherwise. I'm sure it'll be a good investment.
Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Swaddled Babies
Saga Volume One
Brian K Vaughan, Fiona Staples
Image Comics, 2012
Saga Volume One is available for purchase at the link below: