Saga: What Makes Comics Special
Writer: Jarrett Crepeau
Image Comics / Fiona Staples
Saga is a graphic novel series written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples and published by Image Comics who publish The Walking Dead and McFarlane's Spawn. The series takes heavy inspiration from Star Wars as its vast alien races, planets, and politics unfold in full color on each page of every issue. While rooted in George Lucas’ multi-billion dollar franchise it does quite a lot to separate itself from its inspirations. The series tackles racism, sexual and gender identity, and the horrors of war through characters that are full of life and personality. Dealing with those controversies doesn’t come without criticism however, as it has come under fire for its use of swearing, sexual content and violence, and was even on a top 10 list for “most challenged” books in 2014 by the American Library Association.
Vaughan is a seasoned comic book and television writer, well known for his writing on seasons three through five of the hit series Lost. He has also written for DC and Marvel, most famously with X-Men and creating the Runaways series which has recently been developed into Hulu original series. However it could be easy to argue his original series have garnered him the most fame, with Saga and Paper Girls. But the series wouldn’t be the same without the breath taking illustration by Fiona Staples. Most well known for her work with Saga and the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents series, but she has also worked on panels for other series as well as cover art. Together I think they have brought a new life to the genre, and are one of the many creators showing the world that graphic novels are more than superhero stories.
Without spoiling too much, I’ll share some of the premise. The two main characters pictured above on the cover of the first volume are Alana and Marko. Alana comes from the largest planet in the galaxy, where its people are born with wings and the ability to fly and are very technologically advanced. Orbiting Landfall is the moon, Wreath, where its people have the ability to cast spells and are born with horns. The two races have been at war with each other for centuries and while their home planets are peaceful, the war is fought on other planets and have forced everyone in the galaxy to pick a side. Along the way Marko is captured by the Landfall Coalition and is sent to prison where he meets a guard, Alana. They escape together hours later and the first issue opens with the birth of their hybrid daughter, Hazel. Not only have they committed treason against their nations, but pro-creating together is a bigger sin, and gives everyone in the galaxy a reason to turn them in.
After reading the first volume I was absolutely hooked, it reminded me of when I first saw Star Wars, between the characters and the world building I understand why the series has won over 32 awards since it started in 2013. Comics and graphic novels have always pushed the envelope when it comes to storytelling, especially those published by Image because while being number 3 after Marvel and DC, when McFarlane created the company he wanted it to be a place of creative freedom so that writers and artists didn’t have to deal with corporate setbacks that he ran into with Marvel. I’m sure without McFarlane we wouldn't have great stories like Saga coming out. If this article has even remotely sparked your curiosity, check out the first volume, or even the first issue which you can pick up digitally through Image Comics for just a dollar. You surely won’t be disappointed.