Saga, Book One (2014) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Which covers Volumes 1-3, or Issues 1-18.

I’ll be honest. The first time I saw covers of this series and it showed people with ram’s horns and donkey ears and whatnot, my first reaction was: that’s lame! Is this supposed to be races of people in space and they have animal parts? Can’t you come up with real aliens? That so lame! For the next 10 years, the internet repeatedly told me that I was a mooncalf and a smoothbrain, so now I’ve finally given this comic a chance. And you know what? This is… this is kind of funny.

 “Am I shitting? It feels like I’m shitting!”

What a perfect start to a story of a newborn babe. A famous opening line, for sure. Not only is it the perfect moment to start the story at – the moment from which all hell breaks loose – but it also represents Brian K. Vaughan’s irreverent, witty writing and the way he shapes his characters with their lively quibbling. And it makes clear that the story is brought in a raw, frank manner. And that is perfect for the kind of chaotic, emotional family saga that we’re getting here. An interstellar family saga. Diaperpunk?

They say that everything is political. That’s even more true when you are the lovechild of parents who stand on opposing sides of an armed conflict that spans the entire galaxy. From the moment Hazel is born, she and her parents are hunted by soldiers and hitmen from both sides. Here is the first brilliant thing that Saga the comic does: doesn’t it feel like the whole world is turned upside down when your first kid is born? Well, in this case it is true. The entire galaxy is indeed freaking out over it, which makes for a lovely first weeks. In their flight, Hazel and her parents encounter enemies and friends, one of whom becomes their nanny. This is certainly a unique way to start a family; and a space epic. 

Saga strikes a perfect balance between total craziness and the heartwarmingly familiar. The universe it presents is completely insane. Every few pages something outrageous happens, and it’s a great source of comedy and invention. But the only way to make such a story work is to anchor it in a basic, understandable and strong emotional journey, and that is provided by Hazel and her parents Alana and Marko. So while we are confronted with people with monitors for heads and tree-spaceships and giant swinging ballsacks, we also have the very typical story of Marko’s parents wanting to see their grandchild and interfering with how things are run, and so on. That is the part of the story that grounds us, so that we don’t end up lost in the craziness of the rest of it.

There are some side plots, one of which develops into its own thing, with twisted and emotional events. It involves a hitman named The Will who is running after Marko and Alana. He seems loosely modelled on Jodorowsky’s Metabaron character, and he collects a whole group of characters around him like a found family. Some of the most memorable characters and moments in the series are actually part of this side plot. The Will has a sidekick named Lying Cat which is hilarious and he rescues a little slave girl, and so showing more and more emotional conflict that doesn’t really fit the psychology of a hitman.

I am slightly confused by the signals Vaughan put in to differentiate the two warring factions. The Landfall people seem modelled after the US, with a focus on military and technocratic thinking, whereas the Wreath people speak Esperanto and operate on a myth and fairy-tale kind of logic and technology. It isn’t immediately clear whether Vaughan wants to make a point with this by putting these worldviews against each other, but it simmers at the back of the story. Also, the confrontation at the end of the third volume I found confusing. Some characters took really questionable actions and it is unclear what they tried to achieve or what happened on accident, or what they knew would happen. And there lacked an emotional processing of these events afterwards, leaving the readers in the cold. That was the only time that the comic stumbled for me.

By the second and third volume I got more and more impressed by how consistently entertaining this series is. I loved it. Onwards to Book Two. Highly recommended.

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19 Responses to Saga, Book One (2014) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

  1. Dawie says:

    Wife has been interested in getting this. I might get it for her at some point. Saga being quite as popular as it is now means some stores have upped the price on it by a bit…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bormgans says:

    I´m glad you liked this. I thought it was entertaining too, but didn´t continue because it felt too pricey for 2 immature adult main characters and worldbuilding that felt a tad too free.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes I agree with that. If I had bought book 1 separately, I would have thought that it was too pricey as well, because you fly through those volumes as if they’re nothing. But I have the whole 9 volumes for a reasonable price. I am in the middle of the second book now, and I can tell you that the series is indeed not perfect, no matter how loved it is on the internet. The story starts to lose its shape a bit, and seems searching for a direction, and the characters are immature, yes. But it is fun enough to keep going. I’ll post soon about book two.


      • bormgans says:

        I bought the first hardcover volume for over 30 euros. Bonkers! I would have read on if I’d gotten the entire thing for that price. Is the series finished now btw?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, as I said to Dawie, 1400 comic pages feels like a 400 page novel. That Book One reads like a short novella even though it is, what, 450 pages? And the series isn’t finished. Compendium One collects Books One Two and Three, but there will be a Compendium Two in a couple of years. So it might actually be halfway finished.


  3. Bookstooge says:

    So you got sucked in, hahahahaa 😀
    Well, glad you enjoyed it. Just hope the creators going on hiatus won’t ruin things for you once you get caught up.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wakizashi33 says:

    Like Bormgans, I read the first few volumes but didn’t continue. I’m not even sure why I stopped because I was enjoying it. Did you know they took a 3-and-a-half year break after issue #54? Imagine if you were buying it monthly and then that happened! Bookstooge would’ve lost his mind!!


  5. Ola G says:

    Yeah, volume 9 is a downer. Haven’t read 10, I’m waiting for some nice hardcover 3-in-1 set 😉 The authors do indulge themselves from time to time, in a ‘see what I can do’ way, but they have a surprising hold on the overall story. It goes on in fits and starts, but it does go on in a direction 😉 I was lucky enough not to have to buy that stuff at all – I borrowed the first few books from Piotrek, and now I have a library. I guess I’d have been a tad more critical of it had I needed to pay for that myself 😉 As it is, it’s good fun. Enjoyable, and not stupid, and surprisingly brutal within all those butterfly wings and sparkles.


  6. catdog says:

    “Am I shitting? It feels like I’m shitting!”

    This was the first line? I’d have dropped it right there. I’ve also had this comic recommended to me several times and now I feel vindicated in ignoring it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I really love this series and have been keeping myself up to date with the series. I can’t wait for volume 11 to come out! Hope you have fun with book two!

    Liked by 1 person

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