Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Saga Book 1 (#1-6)

"You know for a pacifist you sure beg to get stabbed a lot" - Alana

So the internet had been bothering me lately about reading Saga.  I'd see it being covered in various places and the internet nagged me about checking it out.  The internet can be pushy like that.  I said I'd get around to it but kept forgetting when it was time to treat myself to a new comic collection.  Then I started reading Brian K. Vaughan's Ex Machina and found him to be an excellent writer, so when Christmas saw me with a book token to spend I took the plunge and baged the first two volumes of Saga.  It is brilliant.  I find myself saying if you are at all interested in science fiction and fantasy comics that you give this write-up a miss so you don't spoilerise yourself for it.  The series is still on-going as we speak though and a big part of me wants to sing it's praises and encourage as many people as possible to start buying it so it doesn't get cancelled before its time (not that I think that's likely to happen but you never know...).  In a nutshell, Saga is the tale of a pair of star-crossed lovers.  Two aliens whose planets are at war with each other who run off together and have a child.  The child is narrating the story from sometime in the future as her parents try and keep her safe from all kinds of threats.  What's notable about the series is that the characters all talk normally and in a fairly salty manner as well.  No high faluting language here, which really grounds it and makes the otherwise weird and wonderful characters all the more relatable.  The art is also worthy of massive praise, Fiona Staples draws the story beautifully and her art captures the characters emotions superbly as she is called upon to render all kinds of crazy alien creatures.  So lets take the plunge into the first six issues of Saga.

The story begins with the narrator's parents giving birth to her in a garage on a planet called "Cleave".  One is a winged female called Alana, the other a horned male called Marko.  Alana groans and says she feels like she is shitting.  Marko assures her:

Marko: "You have never been more beautiful than you are right now."

Finally Alana gives birth and Marko holds up the baby with tears in his eyes.  "It's a girl".
And with this image a few pages in, I fell in love with Marko, Alana, thair baby, Fiona Staples art and reaffirmed by love for Brian K.Vaughn's writing.  A gorgeous visual.
Marko bites her umbilical cord, Alana asks why he doesn't use his sword.  He says he made a vow never to draw it from its scabbard again.  Alana says they don't have to make a decision on her name until her "wing bleeding".  Marko says she won't be subjected to "barbarous religious nonsense."

Alana: "Are we really having a fight now?  Because that's how we ended up with this one."

Then suddenly some winged soldiers appear lead by an alien with a TV for a head.  Alana is to be arrested for desertion and aiding and abetting the enemy.  Then suddenly also appear some horned aliens after Marko, speaking an untranslated language.  Both sides exchange fire killing each other and miraculously Marko, Alana and the baby are left alive.
A one in a million survival.
The garage owner who betrayed them is dying and to make up for what he did, he gives them a map and shows them where they can reach the underground tunnels safely. Then he dies.  The narrator then tells us  her father is from "Wreath", and her mother is from the big planet it orbits called "Landfall."

Narrator: "If there was ever a time that these two got along, nobody remembers."

The war spread to unaffliated planets who bacame forced to pick a side.  We are then introduced to two TV headed aliens of the "Robot Kingdom" having sex.  They are on Landfall's side, "the highest bidder in the war of good versus good."
Gale and Prince Robot IV.
The male, Prince Robot IV is called to see a Landfall intelligence agent called Gale.  He shows them that Alana and Marko seem to be together volunteraly and the situation between them needs to be resolved as soon as possible.  The Robot Kingdom needs to show "It can sill pull its weight and deliver some righteous vengeance when the need arises."

Back with Alana and Marko, they are down in the tunnels.  The map shows them the way to something called the "Rocketship Forest".  Alana wants to go there to get a ship and escape the galaxy's war.

Alana: " I want to show our girl the universe."

Then we cut to a human looking man with a large bald cat walking with him.  He is a bounty hunter or a "Freelancer" called "The Will" and his cat is the "Lying Cat" that knows when people are telling fibs.  He meets with a horned Wreath alien who says the tablets of prophecy show Marko to be a huge threat and who will be responsible for the death of millions of souls. "Lying" says Lying Cat.
The Will and Lying Cat.
"Fine" she says.  She wants Marko and his "whore" eliminated for the good of troop morale, she gives him a card with money to spend as and when he needs it and tells him he is not the only freelancer she has hired.  He also needs to collect their offspring "alive and unharmed" to get his full payment.

Back with Alana and Marko, he says they shouldn't be travelling after dark as that is when "The Horrors" come out.  She dismisses them as imaginary and says the Rocketship Forest is close by just over something called "The Uncanny Bridge".  But they walk out and stumble upon a huge battle going on, blocking their way.

Sadly Alana says she "was stupid to think we could outrun this retarded war."  Marko says they can find an alternate route and this time they have with them "Hope".  Alana smiles and says if he wants to call their daughter that she wants a divorce.  But she does like something beginning with "H".  And they share a passionate kiss.
Snogging while under the watchful eyes of something...
The Will calls his agent and discovers the other Freelancer that has been sent is someone called "The Stalk" who he appears to have a bad history with.  He decides to go and max out the card he was given on a planet called "Sextillion" and abandon the job as "if The Stalk is on their trail... those kids are already dead."

Meanwhile Alana and Marko are being attacked by living vines.  Marko says he needs a secret to use in a spell against them and an embarrassed Alana admits she likes the taste of her own breast milk.  Now free, Marko queries this and she says "Hazel" threw up in her mouth earler.  Exhausted they snuggle up and sleep together for a while.

Prince Robot IV arrives on Cleave and is greeted by Lance Corporal McHenry.  He asks her about Alana, she says she mostly kept to herself and read books.  Before she left she lent her favourite one to McHenry, and Prince Robot IV wants to see it.

Back in the forest, Alana and Marko wake up to a noise approaching.  Marko announces that they mean no harm, "we have renounced violence in every form".  He lays down his sword and asks "may my family pass in peace?"  He comes face to face with a woman/spider hybrid, she is The Stalk and she stabs Marko through the shoulder with her tongue and he collapses unconcious.
The Stalk.
Alana pulls a gun on her saying she'll kill her.  But The Stalk says it's just a stun gun. She tells Alana her employers want her "creepy mutt unharmed."  She tells Alana that Marko was "quite a vicious piece of shit back in the day."  Alana says she is lying then she holds the gun to Hazel's head saying at this distance it will kill her because she'd rather that than have her "ending up with an evil cunt like you."

Then some weird moaning noises are heard.  "It's the Horrors" says The Stalk and she runs off.  Alana runs over to Marko who is bleeding badly.  Then a voice says "Hello.  We've been watching you.  Looks like you could use a hand".  And the speaker is revealed as the top half of a teenage girl ghostlike figure with similarly badly injured looking ghosts with her.

Alana begs them not to hurt them.  The half girl says Marko isn't dead and she knows because "we're fucking ghosts."  They are the indingenous people of Cleave who when they die get to live on as "'the spiritual defenders of Cleave'" says Izabel somewhat sarcastically with air quotes.  They were wiped out when the two armies went to war on Cleave, Alana says they have nothing to do with the war now.
The other ghosts leave, with just the half girl staying.  Marko regains conciousness and ALana asks if he can cast a healing spell, but he needs snow as an ingrediant.  The half girl says she can take them to where there is snow for a price.  She wants to leave the planet as much as they do, if she is bonded to the soul of a native she can go with them.  As Hazel was born on Cleave she would be the pefect candidate.

Prince Robot IV goes to interrogate a Wreathian prisoner.  He shows him the book that was Alana's favourite, it is a cheesy looking romance novel called "A Nightmare Smoke" by a one "D. Oswald Heist".  He asks if Alana shared passages from it, but the prisoner doesn't respond.  He then asks him if he knows why Alana only escaped with Marko.  The prisoner asks him if he was  "Threshold".  Prince Robot IV says he was, why? The prisoner says he remembers "how many of you ass heads we bury there."  Prince Robot IV punches him across the room.
Prince Robot IV and the possibly seditious book.
Back with Alana, she is carrying Hazel in one arm and has Marko slung over her back.  She is being followed by the half girl who says she is being stupid, that she knows a shortcut and all she wants is to "hitch a ride with your kid."  She says her name is "Izabel" and they arrive at a cave entrance.  Izabel says to follow her inside.  "Inside the ominous caves of doom?" says Alana dubiously.

Izabel: "Or you can take your chances out here.  But fair warning, not all the loals are as awesome as me".

The Stalk is under attack from some indigenous creatures and she puts in a call to The Will.  He says he is "never picking up for that bitch again".  Lying Cat says "Lying" and The Will takes the call.  The Stalk says she could use a partner on this mission, but he is still mad at her for something that happened on a previous one, and he refuses and ends the call.
Hazel and Izabel are bonded.
Alana is led deeper into the cave until the reach a river.  Izabel says she died when she stepped on a landmine, and finally Alana agrees to the soul bonding.  She asks if it will hurt Hazel.  "Only on the day it ends" says Izabel.  There is a whirl of light and Hazel and Izabel are now attached by the souls.  They get into a boat to where some snow will be, but Marko says deliriously, "...tell Gwendolyn I loved her so much."

Alana: "Who the fuck is Gwendolyn?"

The Will is welcome to Sextillion, a pleasure planet, by two giant female heads on legs.  He is told he must leave Lying Cat behind, and Lying Cat slinks off back to the ship with The Will's weapons, in a sulk.

Alana watches the prone Marko who is lying in the snow casting the healing spell.  Alana threatens to cut his heart out when he recovers because he never told her he used to be married.  Izabel says it doesn't matter now, he has her and Hazel.  But she wants to know what else he is keeping from him.  Marko sits up and with a start spots Izabel.  Alana reassures him Izabel helped them, now he needs to tell her about Gwendolyn.  "Ah. Fuck" says Marko.
The Will is not impressed by the sex going on.
The Will walks through a building where many aliens are engaged in orgies.  An alien who appears to be some kind of manager comes up to him and says he looks "disappointed".  The Will says it all seems "a little safe".  The manager says he looks like he is a man who had his heart broken by a strong woman, what he needs now is a "slave girl" and he'll take him to one.

Back with Alana and Marko, Izabel is cooing over Hazel while they sit and talk.  Marko admits he and Gwendolyn are fiancees.  His marriage was arranged with her when he was in High School.  But during the war he grew apart from her.  When he first left Wreath" he was a "gung-ho kid" who wanted to make his family proud.  But all that changed when he first saw action.  He tried to tell Gwendolyn this but she'd just responds with letters telling him "to fight the good fight."

Marko: "I was becoming this completely new person, but she was frozen in place."

Alana demands to know why he didn't tell her about he.  He says that Alana said all the people they had been with in the past shouldn't matter.  Alana say it sounded like he still loved her.  Marko says he was delusional, and Alana is the only woman for him. 
Marko reassures Alana.
He then admits Gwendolyn might want her rings back. "You gave me another woman's wedding ring?!" yells Alana.  Marko says they are enchanted with a translator spell so he thought they could put them to better use.  Mollified, Alana forgives him when he reaffirms she's the hottest woman he has ever slept with.

The Will is led deeper into the pleasure palace and the creepy manager alien introduces him to the slave girl.  She is a six year old human looking girl.  The Will silently regards her, then tells her to close her eyes.  He places his hands on either side of the managers head and crushes his skull like an egg.  The slave girl hugs him and says "thank you".
Take that creepy paedophile groomer alien.
Alana and Marko are out of the caves, it is daytime so Izabel is gone for now.  Suddenly Alana detects a ship coming after them.  It is a "Royal Vondertank".  They don't have time to get back to the caves, so Marko finally draws his sword saying "we fight."

Sitting on a toilet, Prince Robot IV reads the romance novel.  His wife calls him and he grumbles a bit about what's been going on, saying the only thing he "is close to catching is a staph infection."  He starts to tell her about the book, but she interrupts and says she is pregnant.  This makes him very happy, but his father won't allow him home not even for the birth until he completes his mission.  McHenry then rushes in saying a scout ship has spotted something.

We return to Alana and Marko.  The soldiers have disembarked and Marko says to Alana "no killing".  The soldiers order them to "step away from the baby".  They open fire and Alana is hit in the shoulder with a stun blast.
Marko can kick serious ass when provoked.
This sends Marko berserk and he takes down all the soldiers in a flurry of kicks, punches and headbutts and cuts one of them's hand off with his sword.  He raises his blade saying "cut of their fucking heads" But Alana fires a stun blast at him, knocking him down and bringing him to his senses.

Marko: "What would I do without you?"

Back with The Will and the Slave Girl, he is trying to get her back to his ship, but he is brought to a halt by a blue alien called Mama Sun who is the Slave Girl's owner and who is holding a gun to Lying Cat's head.  She says to him:

Mama Sun: "So it's morally acceptable to execute people of any age, but only make love to a select few?"

The Will says whatever, she is coming with him.  Mama Sun says the Slave Girl is her property and every new "hire" on Sextillion is injected with an elixir and if they are removed before their term is up it hardens their arteries and kills them.  Lying Cat backs this up.  The Will asks if he can buy her.  Mama Sun says he can and she costs "six hundred and fifty thousand" which is more than The Will's ship.  She takes the girl away while The Will frantically thinks of ways he can raise some cash.
Mama Sun wants her property back.
On board the scout ship they have captured, Marko and Alana discuss the fight they just had.  Marko wonders if the binding spell he left round the men will last until they are discovered.  Marko says violence begets more violence, "sooner or later our family will pay for what happened here today."  Hazel laughs much to their delight:

Alana: "Well, the spoiled brat's got a lot to be happy about.  We're alive.  We've got each other, and the rocketship forest is right around the corner.  Face it, today was a good day."

The Stalk comes across the soldiers bound together by Marko's spell.  The Will calls her, asking if she still needs a partner as he needs some fast cash. Then Prince Robot IV and McHenry appear on flying horses.  McHenry thinks she sees The Stalk go for a gun and Prince Robot IV blasts a hole right through The Stalk, killing her while she is still connected to The Will over the phone.
The Stalk is killed.
Alana and Marko arrive at the Rocketship Forest, it's night time and Izabel reappears.  The forest is a blasted heath, but Izabel says it's an illusion that her people are responsible for, "us floaty types are masters of misdirection remember?" She reveals a huge rocketship shaped tree right in front of them.

Prince Robot IV realises he has killed a Freelancer by mistake.  He picks up her phone and reports this fact to The Will.  With cold anger, The Will says:

The Will: "Listen to my voice, boy.  I aim to murder you right after I murder everything you ever loved."

He hangs up and Prince Robot IV says, "Good lord.  Psycotics, the lot of them".  The Will puts his head in his hands and silently weeps.

Alana is filled with trepidation about taking to space in something made of wood.  Marko assures her that it is safe and will be invisible to modern instruments.  Izabel says they have to make a sacrifice to the ship, to leave behind something of real value.  Marko offers up his sword.  Alana says no, he used it to save them before.  But Marko says:

Marko: "When a man carries an instrument of violence, he always finds the justification to use it.  If we really want to escape this war, we have to stop bringing it with us."
Marko sacrifices his family sword.
He smashes it over his knee and the rocketship opens up and they go inside.  It then takes off. Alana asks Izabel who is steering it, Izabel says "you don't steer a rocketship.  You ride it."  However the ship will be open to suggestions if it likes them.  So Alana says she wants to visit Quietus where they'll find "the smartest person in the universe."

Back on Cleave, Prince Robot IV realises they have left the planet.  He goes back to base where special agent Gale calls him up about the dead Freelancer.  Prince Robot IV says she was after the couple as well and this means Wreath high command know about the baby.  He says the father is a "force of fucking nature, but it's the mother who really frightens me."  He takes out the romance novel and looks inside and sees the author resides on Quietus...
Hazel's first home.
Marko and Alana make themselves at home on the rocketship.  But suddenly Marko detects magic incoming and a male and female Wreathian teleport on board.  Marko says smashing the sword let them track them.  One of them zaps Izabel and disperses her. Alana fires the stun gun and hits one, but before the fight can escalate, Marko yells at them in their language and holds up Hazel.  The pair stop attacking and the male says, "Oh".

Hazel: "And then my grandparents came to live with us."
Meet the grandparents.
And that brings Book One to a close.  What a brilliant start to what I hope is a long running series.  In six issues Vaughn brings us a world of fantastic creatures and aliens and a lead pair who are adorably in love despite all the hurdles against them. The use of naturalistic speech really helps identification with beings such as Prince Robot IV who can't show emotion on his face.  The banter between Marko and Alana is sweet and hilarious and leaves you really pulling for them to survive the odds against them. It's amazing how quickly you accept them having a "babysitter" who is bisected teenage girl and also a ghost because she's such a likeable yet snarky being.  It's a tale where a humanlike man can be in love with a half woman, half spider and it makes perfect sense, with his threat of vengeance being a possible future plot strand. A wider universe of conflict is also lightly sketched in via dialogue, and I'm sure we'll get to see more of the war as the story continues.  Hazel seems very important to both sides, setting up another possible on-going plotline as does Prince Robot IV's concern over the romance novel and author Alana is a fan of.  And the art is amazing.  No matter how bizarre the creature, Fiona Staples imbues it with personality and emotion beautifully.  Backgrounds are sparse, but that's fine because this is a story that is fully about relationships and Fiona Staples makes sure we always have the characters front and centre. This is a fantastic start to a compelling story that has so far been collected in five trade paperbacks and is still ongoing.  This is as much a fantasy series as it is science fiction and so has huge cross genre appeal so if you are at all interested in either, dive in, you won't regret it!


  1. oh yeah saga! definitely one of the coolest on going comics right now. if you have only read the first two books you have alot of amazing stuff to come!

  2. I hopefully have enough cash scraped together to get book 3 tommorrow. Can't wait!