The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Review: Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Review of the epic space drama that has taken the sci-fi world by storm

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Brian K. Vaughan’s sci-fi/fantasy comic book Saga is what you would get if Romeo and Juliet weren’t the children of rivalling noble families, but alien soldiers fighting on opposite sides of a galactic war.

The protagonists, Alana from planet Landfall and Marko from its moon Wreath, fall in love despite the deep-rooted hatred that exists between their people, leading to nothing short of absolute chaos.

The Saga series captivates you as soon as you rest your eyes upon the very first pages of its first issue, which depict Alana giving birth. Before the happy couple can even agree on a name for their precious newborn they are ambushed by soldiers from both Landfall and Wreath. Though they surprisingly manage to escape, the attack sets the tone for the rest of the series.

The couple wants nothing more than to live a quiet life, but many will stop at nothing to destroy them. This is because their very union undermines a war that consumes the entire galaxy by showing that not only is it possible for the people of Landfall and Wreath to coexist, but even love each other.

Alana and Marko, however, are determined to stay together and raise their daughter, even if that means they will be forever on the run.

Creator Vaughan, who has helped write legendary comics such as X-Men and Runaways — which has recently been adapted into a TV series — says that he wrote the comic to make sense of the world he has brought his children in to.

This exploration of parenthood quickly blossomed into something of a phenomenon. Shortly following being published by Image Comics in October 2012, the first issue sold out. Since then, the series has gone on to outsell other popular titles such as The Walking Dead, and is a New York Times bestseller.

Saga is creativity personified. The world building is excellent and every planet has a distinct look and feel. Such as Sextillion, where no sexual fantasy is too perverse. Or the Robot Kingdom, where citizens walk around with TV screens for heads, which put their inner thoughts on display for all to see.

Fiona Staples manages to bring all of this to life through her beautiful artwork, with even the smallest details complementing Vaughan’s writing perfectly.

Since the series debuted in 2012, Staples has illustrated 42 of 48 issues completely on her own, which is practically unheard of and incredibly impressive.

But what is most impressive about this fictional universe is that it never allows you to forget that a war is taking place. Each planet and its inhabitants are scarred by the war in some tragic way, and none of the wackiness distracts from that.

There is a lot of graphic violence throughout the series, but it is dealt with responsibly. You can see how it negatively impacts the characters. They do not get to mindlessly end lives and skip off into the sunset.

Whether it’s through the ghosts of small children who haunt the planet where they were killed, or the introduction of revolutionaries who want to punish those that have fueled the war, you are reminded that violence is not something to cherish or glorify. In fact, it is the cause of many, if not all, of the bad things that take place in the series.

The characters in Saga are incredibly well written and complex. It’s easy to root for Alana, Marko and their charismatic daughter Hazel who grows before the readers’ eyes.

But thanks to Vaughan’s skilful writing, you become equally invested in some of the vicious adversaries that are intent on killing them — though it is wise not to get too attached to any of the above, as many beloved characters have ended up taking their exit in a very Game of Thrones-like fashion.

Saga starts off as a classicly romantic tale of forbidden love, but there is so much more to take away from it. In addition to dynamic characters and crazy adventure, the comic takes the time to address serious issues such as abortion, LGBT rights and racism — and it does so without it feeling forced.

When one of the main characters has a miscarriage, for instance, the unfortunate event does not seem distasteful or misplaced. It’s a heartbreaking moment in the character’s story arc which mirrors something that many people sadly experience in real life.

Vaughan explained his motivation for including this in his series to The Washington Post: “I wanted to explore the often unspoken way families deal with that kind of tragedy, which can be with humour and hopefulness.”

So with all that goes on in the world of Saga, Vaughan always returns the story to its core themes of love and family. Alana and Marko’s love is constantly tested, but it continues to flourish as they fight for their wildly unconventional family.

Saga is unpredictable, emotive and a lot of fun! The only downside is that you have to wait for a month to read each issue, instead of being able to indulge all at once.

The series is currently on hiatus, giving you plenty of time to catch up on all that has gone on. And the upcoming volume sounds very promising, with its focus being “fake news and genuine terror.”