Science fiction and fantasy


by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples


Saga is a family story with a difference. It's set in a futuristic universe that's full of wonders and horrors, split by a galactic war. It would be hard to imagine a worse environment for bringing up a child. But two fugitives from opposite sides of the conflict have run away together, and they're trying to do just that. The father, Marko, has renounced violence, although that makes survival difficult when they are being chased by people who have no such qualms.

Horned men, fairy people, princes with robot heads and a half-spider, half-human assassin are a few of the strange beings in this universe, but it gets a great deal weirder. Marko and Alana have attracted the attention of assassins and royalty, so they're desperate to escape from the war-torn planet Cleave and to get as far away as they can.

This is a universe where anything goes, it seems. There's magic and high technology, and genetic hybrids of every stripe are everywhere. There is also a considerable amount of nudity, not only when one of the characters takes a detour on the brothel planet of Sextillion, but throughout the book. It's a bit gratuitous.

The story features a wry commentary by the baby girl, as though she's looking back on her life from old age. That appears to give us the comforting certainty that she'll survive, but there's no similar reassurance about her parents, and they are the main focus for this volume. In the midst of the panic and chaos of their escape attempt they inject a lot of humour with all their banter. I particularly liked Alana's earthy frankness. So although Saga is full of all kinds of monsters, and although it takes place amidst fear and war, it's also uplifting and cheerful in equal measure.

Fiona Staples' artwork is crisp and colourful, with the right amount of detail to tell the story clearly and at a good pace. This is a graphic novel with few clear-cut villains. The assassin known as The Will may not have a heart of gold, but it's at least shading into bronze rather than cold steel. And then there's Izabel, the teen ghost with a know-it-all attitude and a lust for adventure, who brightens up the dark nights.

Volume One ends without bringing together all the threads of a pretty elaborate story. I got the sense that this is meant to play out over quite an epic number of episodes, especially since the baby girl has her whole life ahead of her. The fact that the author was involved in the TV series Lost doesn't bode well, since all that show did was set up new mysteries and hooks for two series (I gave up watching after that) which rarely got resolved and hardly ever made any sense. I hope Saga won't turn out like that, because it's full of the sort of interesting and likeable characters that I'd like to see get their happy endings. There are lots of elements in this book, but so far it's engaging and coherent, so I have high hopes for this series.

25th February 2013

Book Details

Year of release: 2012

Categories: Books
Science fiction
Cheerful Not For The Squeamish

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