This article is part two of a 100-part series centered on reading and reviewing NPR’s 100 Favorite Comics and Graphic Novels. For part one of the series, read our review of Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol.
This review should begin with a caveat. If you’re seeking clean, wholesome entertainment, Saga is not for you. This graphic novel, while beautiful and artful, is rife with sexual imagery, violence and other adult themes. But really, all the best graphic novels are.
The Story of Saga
This absolute juggernaut of a graphic novel tells the story of Alana and Marko, whose love for each other transcended the potent racism associated with a long-standing war between their respective planets. Given their races’ violent hatred for one another, their love is as unusual as it is forbidden, and if the general public on either side of the war were to catch wind of it, the combative pulse that keeps their planets beating would come to a brutal and sudden halt.
We follow these lovers through the birth of their child and beyond as they scatter themselves across the known universe to evade the powers that want them dead. Along the way, we encounter a babysitting ghost, a transgender soldier, a disgraced screen-faced prince, and an innumerable cast of similarly colorful characters.
The Beauty of Saga
Remember how excited we all were when No Man’s Sky promised boundless worlds, each vastly different from the last, fraught with danger and exhilarating new species?
That’s exactly what writer Brian K. Vaughan (Ex Machina, Runaways) and artist Fiona Staples (Archie, DV8: Gods and Monsters) have gifted to us. As Alana and Marko jump across the vacuum of space to protect their child, Hazel, we’re presented with new locales and gorgeous new races every few pages.
Staples is magnificent, spinning entire globes from her pen. The raw scope of the story’s setting, impossibly vast, feels effortless in Staples’ hands. From the gently rolling hills of Quietus to the swampy slums of the comet Phang, the art helps the readers immerse themselves in a fantastical, soaring story.
The art style communicates emotion precisely. Where many comics feel inclined to isolate emotional gut-punches into hyper-detailed closeups on a character’s features, Staples puts forth the effort to grant every individual with detailed expression in every panel, whether they are the focal point or not.
This moves in delicate tandem with Vaughan’s sweeping space-odyssey storyline. While the concept is tried-and-true (star-crossed lovers run from those who would see them separated), Vaughan ornaments the infallible story with gold filigree that moves the reader. Despite the lack of humans, each page renders human moments in painful detail. The result is a river of narrative that pulls you along with a gentle insistence of pure human curiosity.
To call Saga anything less than page-turning bliss is to do it injustice.
The Final Verdict
While NPR’s original article does not rank the graphic novels, it’s hard not to try and associate a value with something like Saga. While I still have quite a few texts ahead of me, I say with confidence that Saga will likely fall somewhere in the top ten. The silky-smooth art style and compelling narrative make for hearty reading. I call Saga Well Worth The Purchase.
For more suggestions on page-turners and page-burners, check out Geek Guy Buys: Read!