Saga – 2015 Weekly Writer Challenge – Brian K. Vaughan (Part 2)
52 weeks. 52 different writers. 2 trade paperbacks or hardcovers a week. Each week I’ll take a look at a different writer and read two different collected editions from within that person’s repertoire to help in the examination of their work.
Brian K. Vaughan
Brian K. Vaughan is a well-known writer across both the mediums of comics and television. Vaughan is most well-known for being a writer, story editor and producer on the hit television show Lost, as well as penning some of the most critically acclaimed comics to have ever been produced. With books like Y: The Last Man, Saga, The Runaways, Ex Machina, and today’s featured book, Saga, on his resume, you know Vaughan is no slouch. His style of writing is grand in scope but still remains simple and accessible for new readers, making him a perfect writer to introduce to people who are looking to get into comics for the first time and find seriously great stories whilst doing so.
Saga Volume 1
Saga follows the story of star-crossed lovers Alana and Marko, parents to a newborn child, fleeing for their lives in the midst of an intergalactic war. Both Alana and Marko fight for opposing sides of the war and are hunted for deserting their respective armies. The brutal war is waged between the largest planet in the galaxy, Landfall, and it’s satellite, Wreath. When the war becomes too damaging to either locations, the battles begin to get outsourced to different planets, resulting in widespread violence all throughout the galaxy. Cornered and hunted, the two lovers give birth to their child on the planet Cleave with seemingly no way to break for freedom. When they are given a map detailing the different areas of Cleave, Marko and Alana quickly realize that they may have a way to escape the planet after all. With everyone from Freelancers to members of the Robotic Empire hunting them down, the path off Cleave couldn’t be more treacherous for the new parents.
Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga is aptly named, presenting the reader with immersive worlds, fascinating characters and an epic story unlike anything ever done in comics before. From the opening issue right to the finale of this arc, every moment serves well to present exciting characters or increase the scope of this massive tale. Most people would readily compare Saga to Star Wars meets Romeo and Juliet but that comparison in my eyes just feels off. The tragic romantic elements of Romeo and Juliet are ever-present but that’s where the comparison should stop, as the story is more of a coming of age tale about experiencing parenthood with the backdrop of something similar to Star Wars in scope. To put it simply, Saga is a woefully unique comic book that can have comparisons drawn but at the end of the day, it’s its own body of work that is different from anything you’ve probably ever read.
Here comes my favourite part of doing these articles: Confession Time! I first read Saga volume 1 about two to three years ago at the ripe age of twenty and hated it. I absolutely, unequivocally hated the comic. Maybe I just wanted to be that guy who hated the book everyone loved but I found the characters flat, the story dull and the world building uninteresting. A few years later and with a seemingly infinite amount of comic reading experience now under my belt, I revelled at the challenge of returning to this one comic book that I absolutely loathed, all for this weekly challenge. This right here is a post I’ve been rather excited to tackle. Not many people think about it but even as comics mature, so to do its readers. Sometimes a reader needs to catch up to a certain level of comprehension to thoroughly enjoy a comic. In this instance, I humbly acknowledge that my reasons for hating Saga now seem to be dramatically misplaced. Upon reading this book for the second time, I found so much more joy that I ever thought I would have. There’s still things I dislike about the book, but it’s now a book I’d not only readily recommend but one that I may continue on with reading. It still not anything close to as good as something like East Of West, but it is a great book that every comic reader should experience at least once.
Brian K. Vaughan does an excellent job of easing the reader into his narrative, doing some seemingly seamless world building to truly immerse anyone along for the ride. Choosing to have the story narrated from the perspective of a newly born child is a fun little touch that is perfect for the reader, as you are introduced to this world and these characters through a character who is brand new to all these worlds themself even though they speak with a past tense, as if they’re recollecting instead of dictating. Establishing the intergalactic war as the backdrop for the story is great work by Vaughan as it gives the story a sense of scope, making it feel as though it’s all so massive that it can’t be contained to just one world or follow one set of characters.
Speaking of the characters, there’s a great mix of abstract cast members who seemingly don’t fit together now, even though there is a clear plan to intersect them at some point in the distant future. The two primary characters, Alana and Marko, brilliantly contrast each other as the leads to the story, with their differing personalities complimenting each other perfectly. Alana is a hard-nosed, tough woman who seems poised to take no-nonsense. Marko is a delicate, almost monk like character, renouncing violence and having a gentle personality with a hidden, dark temper. The two new parents balance each other out in such a way that the scenes they’re in work together when they play off of each other’s weaknesses. Marko’s pledge to abstain from violence leads to some equal exciting and hilarious reactions from Alana who seems confused why he won’t use violence to even protect his new family.
Other primary characters like The Will, Prince Robot IV or even Izabel all serve to only enhance the story, even though some of their places in the overall narrative feel a little less clear than that of Marko and Alana. The Will is a Freelancer, a hired gun tasked with the job of killing Marko and Alana but keeping their child alive. With his ally, the Lying Cat, The Will seems almost like a classic style of anti-hero, doing heroic things whilst still being an awful man. His intentions are good even if his methods are flawed, making him an immediately likable and interesting character. Prince Robot IV is another character who has a clear arc in place but it feels uncertain how he’ll factor into the long run of things. His father, the royal King of sorts, tasks IV with the job of capturing Marko and Alana as well, giving him a clear connection to the title characters. Vaughan adds layer to the character through subtle dialogue in the story, implying that IV has a form of PTSD following a two year tour in the intergalactic war. The stakes become personal for IV late in the first arc, giving him ample motivation to find the deserters and return home as soon as possible. Izabel becomes an unlikely ally to Marko and Alana, aiding them in their search for a way off the planet Cleave. Izabel is a character you can sympathize with easily due to the tragic nature of who she is, yet again she is another character who is closely tied to the leads but doesn’t have as obvious of a long-term direction. These are just a few characters sprinkled throughout Saga that give the story a great amount of depth.
Like I mentioned earlier in this post, although Saga has finally won me over, there are still some parts of it that I have trouble with, with the primary one being the dialogue. I found that even after a second reading, there were as many bits of solid work with the dialogue as there were parts that made me groan. For the most part is just boiled down to some of the ridiculous things some of the characters would say that just felt like they didn’t suit the moment. Vaughan has characters say things that are meant to lighten the mood from time to time but there are more than a few instances where, in my eyes, they fall flat. But then again, there are some moments where it works brilliantly and comes at the perfect moment. Even as I complain about the low parts of the dialogue, I have to highlight the high parts as well, like how Vaughan makes understanding the purpose of the story or who characters are incredibly easy. There’s something just accessible about how Vaughan tells the story through the dialogue of characters that you’re reading and it’s so nice to see in a comic market that struggles to find the balance between holding the reader’s hand and giving them freedom to engage their mind. With Saga, Brian K. Vaughan seems to find the near perfect balance of both and that might be why this comic works, even if it starts working for you years after you thought it would.
Collects: Saga #1-6
Best Character: The Will
Best Line(s) Of Dialogue/Caption: “This is how an idea become real. But ideas are a fragile thing. Most don’t live long outside of the ether from which they were pulled, kicking and screaming. That’s why people create with someone else. Two minds can sometimes improve the odds of an idea’s survival…but there are no guarantees.” – Hazel
Best Scene/Moment: Marko makes a meaningful sacrifice for the future and Alana has a perfect rebuttal – Issue 6
Best Issue: Issue 1. This is a bit of a no brainer really. Issue 1 could be about as close to a perfect first issue as you’ll find in comes today. It introduces you to the characters, the story, does a good bit of world building and has plenty of exciting moments mixed in. Everywhere you look in this issue there are just perfect examples of how to do the art form of comics justice.
Why You Should Read It: Brian K. Vaughan crafts an intergalactic saga with Saga and it’s something everyone should enjoy at least once. It’s a story about love, growing up, being uncomfortable, and making sacrifices. It’s hard to place in just one genre since it’s about love as much as it is about action, adventure, and mystery. You should read Saga because it takes the best parts of what make comics great and does it all so well. Take it from a guy who thought this was the worst comic on the planet three years ago, the story will win you over one way or another at some point. Better just to bite the bullet now and enjoy it while you can as it really is an exquisite body of work from Brian K. Vaughan.