First off let me state loudly and proudly I am a comic book fan, using fan correctly, as a shortening of FANATIC. I have been collecting comics for over 25 years. I have over 75 long boxes, most of which comprise my bed. I had to build a section of bookshelves to hold my trade paperback collection. 90% of the décor in our home is comic related. My dog’s name is Timber and I have an Arashikage Clan tattoo on my forearm. In fact, I met my girlfriend at the comic shop where she works (Royal Collectibles = shameless plug), where I was a customer before she was even employed there.
I mostly read super hero stuff…it’s what I grew up on. It’s what I love. I’d say about 85% of my collection is straight up cape and cowl stuff. Even the Vertigo Stuff I collected was tied to the DC Universe, like Swamp Thing, Hellblazer and Sandman (yeah Sandman! Martian Manhunter was in an issue. Look it up Hipsters!). I followed some creators when they strayed from the superhero set, like Ennis on Preacher, anything Warren Ellis or Brian Azzarello wrote. I cried when I read Pride of Baghdad (and you’re a soulless monster if you didn’t).
I tried out independent books here and there. A few stuck, but as one becomes an adult and suddenly finds their comic budget dwindling due to stupid real world things like rent and bills, one has to stick with their true love. And let’s face it, when you collect the majority of what DC and Marvel put out, there’s little room left over for experimentation.
On the other hand, my girlfriend began her path into comics doing the opposite. Reading more Vertigo and independent books, like Sandman, Fables, The Walking Dead, Invincible, Cerebus, and the like. Sophisticated cerebral “Graphic Novels”…she does have an art history degree you know! She also “invested” in Silver Age books like an adult. She has Batman #3 for Christ’s sake. I lent her Staczynski and Coipel’s Thor run and she goes out and buys Journey into Mystery #83 (seriously, why are women so much better at money management then men?? Well at least we can kill bugs and parallel park).
I spent the first 4 years of our relationship secretly recruiting her to the fold.
It started with Deadman and Zatanna…you know, work the fringe…then Green Lantern (during Blackest Night), Annihilation, Annihilation Conquest, anything with the Inhumans (every woman loves Medusa!). Then on to Brubaker’s Daredevil run right through Shadowland into Waid, “Wow look at this awesome art on Uncanny X-Force,” then Flashpoint hit and she drank the New 52 cool-aid and is now collecting all the Green Lantern titles, most of the Bat-books, Justice League, Justice League Dark and any of the DC Dark books like Swamp Thing and Animal Man.
But she never stopped her first true love either. And the tables have turned. She knows my tastes now and manipulates me in the same way. Teasing me with tidbits like “This girl has a steampunk dragon she controls”, or “Einstein, Faraday and Von Braun are fighting aliens and secretly running the world” or “Look this one is called Alabaster Wolves, you like wolves right?”
So far she hasn’t been wrong. In a media that has slowly gained an onslaught of female followers (have you been to a Con lately!?) it works out for everyone that the field has now expanded to include so many genre’s of storytelling, you’d be a fool not to try new things. And now that we are living together and I have total unabashed access to her collection (and vice versa) I can try out some of these titles. See what I’ve been missing.
As far as I’m concerned there is no such thing as a bad comic. If I had the money I would try every #1 that came out regardless of theme or content. But this is where similar hobby and different tastes works out in my favor. And also lets face it, I read my comics alone in a boiler room Wednesday morning. She works in a comic store 6 days a week, talks to hundreds of people who read comics, she sells them comics and comic-related merchandise and sometimes, she gets a chance to read them. She definitely knows what’s going on. So I’m hoping to find some gems, because if I missed them, I’m sure there is a legion of other uneducated, boorish-caveman-spider-killer-collectors like me who missed them as well.
Plus any guy who reads this gets a glimpse into the female mind concerning comics. You must convert the women. “Here sweetheart try reading this, it’s about a man’s undying love for his girl as he literally fights heaven and hell, and his own demented family to save their love. Its called Preacher.”
Resistance is futile.
So here it is. My first, of hopefully many, columns reading and reviewing a comic based on my girlfriends suggestion. God Help me if I get this wrong.
First some questions for the girlfriend,
What made you Get Saga?
Because I Liked Y the Last Man and Ex Machina. It was Vaughan’s return and just look at that art!
What did you like about the book?
I give 5 Stars in every possible category there is when it comes to a comic. Even the lettering!
Why should I read it?
Because I told you too (feel like this will a common answer to this question, which might as well be dropped in further columns)
Saga issues 1-10
Written By Brian K Vaughan
Art By Fiona Staples
Saga is definitely a book that lives up to its name. The tale of two star-crossed (or moon-crossed actually) lovers on the run and raising a child set against the backdrop of a never-ending inter-stellar war may seem a little cliché at first. But Vaughan shows his excellent writing chops and ability to immerse you in a new fully formed universe, with its own rules, religions, taboos and physics that you immediately accept as Law.
The first thing that hit me was the Jim Starlin-esque space opera vibe that is apparent from the opening pages of the book. (Seriously if you never read Dreadstar, stop reading this article, put down the bacon and go find it at your LCS or use the internets if you must.) It’s hard not to write a space opera without it being compared to the 2 holy Stars (Trek and Wars) but Saga slips nicely in-between.
It has enough fantasy mystical stuff to balance the hard science fiction elements present, but doesn’t do it with over-the-top deus ex machina “magic fixes”. The tech of the science side is real and fits a story taking place in a galaxy far far away, different then most things we’ve seen: Robot Royalty with TV heads on human bodies copulating like, well like humans, and a hard-edged mercenary named The Will, who employs a Lying Cat as his side kick are just some of the examples. In case you were wondering, a Lying Cat can tell when you’re lying.
Vaughan is a master at grabbing you at the first page, and leaving you slack-jawed on the last, like a drooling junkie waiting for his next fix. I mean Saga’s first page is the female lead Alana in the throes of childbirth screaming “ Am I shitting? It feels like I’m shitting”. How do you not turn the page, or the next 18. Or when Marko, her pacifist husband and former POW who has sworn off violence, draws his sword for the first time in the series, you know the next issue is going to rock. The last page of issue 10 (last issue as of this article), with the seeming death of a well-liked secondary character, pissed me off to no end (no spoilers here.. go read it yourself) and reminded me why I read Ex Machina in trades. Damn you, Vaughan! What good is a page turner if you have to wait a month for the next page.
Dealing with the political aspects of a needless war, how two members of opposing armies meet and fall in love, the ramifications of the birth of their child (a star in her own right as she is the occasional narrator of the story), and the bitter sociopolitical rivalry between their two species are slammed up against seemingly mundane problems like ex-wives, in-laws, and what happens when a belly button falls off, makes Saga epic in scale but intimate and personal in storytelling.
Fiona Staples’ art is just as important to the story as Vaughan’s writing. With his past long-term collaborations with Harris on Ex Machina and Pia Guerra on Y, it’s no surprise Staples is an integral part of Saga’s development and path. Her characters are familiar yet uniquely alien. Alana’s more technologically enhanced race has wings protruding out of their shoulders, but unlike say, Hawkworld, or the Hawkmen from Flash Gordon, the wings vary in size and functionality from person to person. From beautiful dragon-like wings down to little penguin-like flippers, it allows for variety among the race yet giving the Landfallers distinctive characteristics as opposed to the ram-horned and antlered “moonies” of Marko’s mystical homeworld Wreath, Landfall’s only moon and sworn enemy.
Fiona draws her characters wearing their emotions on their sleeves.
Their personalities are written (or drawn) right there on their faces. Alana looks tough as a pair of brass balls when she’s fighting off a freelance mercenary and holds a gun to her child’s head (the child must be brought in alive to collect a bounty) or when Marko slips and mentions an ex-wife, and then she looks panicked and terrified at the prospect of her child losing what’s lefts of its umbilical cord. Marko looks serenely pacifistic in almost every scene, until he draws that sword to protect his wife and child, and propped against a blood-red background, looks like an unholy angel of vengeance.
Her alien landscapes and sci-fi backdrops have commanding presence, from the aforementioned humanoid robots hunting Alana and Marko, to the spider-woman mercenary The Stalk, to a literal Rocket Ship forest where sentient ships are grown like trees. Each character or landscape feeds us more visual cues to the world Saga takes place in.
Staples deftly hand writes in the narration (Hazel’s voice, Marko and Alana’s child all grown up) in to the art itself, twirling it around planets and moons, flowing it among the art in an undistracting non word-bubble way, that emphasizes moments and reveals much about the characters. In one beautiful flashback scene where our outer-space Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time, Fiona, in lieu of a series of dashes connecting their love-struck eyes from an old romance comic, simple writes “ This is how my parents met” in a diagonal line from stare to stare.
All in all, I have to agree with my girl on this book. 5 Stars all around.
Vaughan and Staples have definitely created a fun, exciting monthly read that leaves you thirsty for more. Any fan of classic sci-fi will dig the world they created both visually and mentally, but you don’t need to be a hard-core sci-fi geek to enjoy the snappy dialog and interpersonal relationships that deepen this book emotionally. This is definitely a book I’m going to sneak out of her Wednesday pile or fight over it when it comes out, trying to read it first just to piss her off.