One of comics’ most beloved writers, Brian K. Vaughn of ‘Y: The Last Man’ fame returns, teaming with penciller Fiona Staples to deliver ‘Saga’ a fascinating mixture of science fiction and fantasy. In this opening issue, we are introduced to Landfall, the largest planet in the galaxy, home to winged, technologically-based beings and its sole moon, Wreath, populated by magic-wielding beings with various animal horns. Landfall and Wreath have been at war for as long as anyone can remember. Initially the war was waged on either entity, but due to the destruction, the political leaders moved the war to other populated planets. (Out of sight, out of mind, apparently.) Other species across the galaxy were dragged into the conflict and forced to take sides, including one race of robots with televisions for faces and Earth-like animal creatures.
On the planet Cleave, somehow, two soldiers on either side, Alana from Landfall and Marko from Wreath fell in love, the first time that’s ever happened, and this issue opens with Alana giving birth to their daughter, just before they are discovered by Alana’s people’s forces. (They were sold out by a “grease monkey” who is an actual, humanoid monkey!) The monkey was greedy though and actually betrayed them to Marko’s people as well, who teleport in and the pair find themselves caught in the crossfire between both sides. (It is also revealed that they speak different languages. The Landfall people speak English, which they call “Language” while the Wreath people speak a different language.) The opposing forces slaughter one another, but somehow Marko and Alana along with their baby survive. The monkey is mortally wounded, but tells them how to escape to the sewers and gives them a map, which is what he bought with the money he got for selling them out.
News of their pairing is communicated to various political figures. In Landfall, a Special Agent assigns robot Prince Robot IV to “deal” with the situation. The Prince is stunned at an image of them, Alana pregnant, the pair wearing wedding rings. He finds it completely plausible for him to have raped her and impregnated her, which is a common occurrence in rape camps. The hybrid children only live about a year, typically. But the thought that one of the Landfall people willingly having sex with a Wreath person is unbelievable.
In the sewers, Alana examines the map, which looks like your typical treasure map. She wants to locate a place called the Rocketship Forest, which apparently grows actual rocketships! They could use one to try and escape this war and raise their daughter in peace.
On Wreath, a mercenary named The Will is hired to find the pair by a woman with a huge unicorn horn. She wants Marko and Alana eliminated and the baby brought to them alive and unharmed.
Alana and Marko find The Uncanny Bridge which leads to the Rocketship Forest, but it has been smashed and the area is currently embroiled in a fire fight between the two opposing sides. Marko vows to find an alternate route as the first book closes.
It’s certainly too early to say whether this will live up to Vaughn’s typical level of excellence, but it’s a strong opening! It’s complexly written, so it wasn’t a breezy read. The book is narrated by Marko and Alana’s daughter in the future, so it jumps back and forth in a way. The back story about the war is unveiled slowly, so in the beginning, it’s a tad difficult to really get what’s going on, but answers are supplied eventually. You just have to be patient with it. It’s a huge departure from ‘Y’ but the thought of a people of magic warring with a people of science is a nifty idea and the execution, with so many crazy-looking creatures makes it entertaining.
Even in the first issue, the characters are all engaging! I’m always excited to read a story featuring a married couple. So often, fiction is about falling in love or breaking up, but rarely do people depict loving, devoted couples who also happen to kick ass. Even the supporting characters are fleshed out, like Prince Robot IV, who has just returned from an arduous mission on another planet, yet now must leave his wife again, on this new quest. The Will is instantly engaging and you can just tell this is a man with principles. How he handles this dark mission should prove interesting.
Fiona Staples painted the cover, pencilled, inked and colored the interior artwork and even hand etched the narration! It’s all very lovely! I liked the contrast between using heavy outlines on images in the foreground and no outlines on images in the background. I’m not sure of her medium, but it looks like watercolor and is very pretty. Her actual style, however, is somewhat rough. I think it fits perfectly, but it is pretty stylized, so others may not feel the way I do.
I also like that this is a comic book for adults only. There’s profanity, nudity, robot anal sex (yes, you read that right) and it just flows naturally. The fact that I didn’t mention the robot anal sex until now shows that it wasn’t jarring or sensational. It was just a part of the story. A story for mature, intelligent grown ups. Now, we’re only one issue in, so I can’t say this is going to end amazingly, but with a start this strong, I have high hopes.
SAGA CHAPTER ONE
Written by Brian K. Vaughn
Art and Cover by Fiona Staples