Saga, Book Two (2017) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples


Which covers volumes 4-6, or issues 19–36.

I will first grumble for a bit, and then end on a positive note.

I am here to tell you that, despite the enormous praise this series has received, it is not perfect. At least, not to my eyes. The volumes that make up Book One tell a compelling tale of young parents at a crucial time in their lives, as they just got their first kid and are caught up in the middle of a galaxy-spanning conflict, and set in a universe that is mind-bogglingly strange. All that drives the story forwards and reading came easy. 

In Book Two, much of those qualities remain, but the story starts lurching about in search of a new direction. You see, what happened is that Marko and Alana got away to relative safety, and now need to support their family life with a steady income. It turns out though that both of them are rather immature and a bit of a mess. At the same time there are a couple of side plots which only slowly justify their existence but also are there just to confront us with more galactic craziness. These side-plots have more interesting characters than Alana and Marko, until you start to realise that they are all murderous psychopaths. By now, there isn’t any sympathetic character left, unless you count a little kawaii seal guy. 

Much of the story is set in motion by a psychotic robot guy who keeps shooting characters left and right, but the way he has a change of heart is really very sudden without any buildup, and it comes across as strange. And I think this is emblematic for one of the big shortcomings of the whole comic, that it is so focused on a thrill-a-minute experience that the plot and the character journeys become choppy. We get a two-page panel of a dragon performing self-fellatio on his big veiny schnitzel whip, while Alana hardly even looks at her daughter after recovering her after a long long absence. The writing keeps skipping over the emotional reverberations of much of what is going on. The full frontal nudity pages are seemingly more important. They often say that European comics have so much sexuality in them, but Saga is hyper-sexualised, and in the more prudish culture of the US that makes everyone blush and giggle, so there’s one reason why it is rated so highly. Which is fine, but right now it is taking up space where emotionally stronger storytelling could take place.

I am reserving some judgment on the plot, as we are now one third of the way into the series, if I take into account that there will be six books in total once the series is done. A story is slowly taking shape and I have some confidence that Vaughan has a larger story arc in the back of his mind while writing this. One interesting thing is that we jumped ahead a few years in time and Hazel is now a toddler, and it would be interesting if each book jumps ahead to a new phase in her life. 

The imbalance in the story towards shock value is remedied in the final volume of this book, and we see some emotional scenes. We see Hazel as she is a few years older again, and all the violence and loss of her earlier years is starting to catch up with her. Her story is very sad, so far. Alana and Marko’s relationship is also reinvigorated again as they have a common purpose. I am glad that they are together again because their stories individually were just less appealing.

Overall, I still liked reading it, but the rose-tinted glasses have definitely fallen off. There are still many interesting new scenes and situations, but I am not as enthusiastic anymore about reading on. I will still continue with Book Three.

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11 Responses to Saga, Book Two (2017) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

  1. Bookstooge says:

    It’s all yours. Dragon and all….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ola G says:

    Funny that you mention the obsession with sexuality – I just had more than I could bear in Seven Surrenders, which reads more like a chronicle of the author’s sexual hangups than a proper science fiction/fantasy story 😉 I admit my rating of Saga these days would’ve been lower. Back then it was new and sort-of original, and I was willing to overlook more than I am now 😉 I still think it’s worth reading, and the art is pretty good/imaginative, but I agree that it’s not the new best thing since sliced bread (not that I like sliced bread anyway) 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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