I don’t think I have ever encountered a series that has so consistently been impressive as Saga has been. The perfect mix of sci-fi adventure, family drama, and Lost-esque cliffhangers (which coincidentally was also something writer Brian K. Vaughan was a producer on) have lent to a tale that is original and incredibly smart. Now at the end of its first year with the release of Saga #12, this title shows no sign of slowing down. Writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples manage to prove that even in an issue that doesn’t incorporate the main cast of characters, it still manages to impress.
Saga follows Marko and Alana, two people from different sides of an intergalactic war that are fleeing their own people. That’s because of their child, Hazel, who for reasons unknown is wanted by each side. One of the pursuers, Prince Robot IV, tracks the group to Alana’s favourite author D. Oswald Heist, in an attempt to intercept the group before they get there. Don’t worry if that doesn’t make sense – go read the other eleven issues, and then come back to me.
You’re back? Okay good.
It’s to Vaughan’s credit that he can fashion an issue almost completely without the main cast, and have it still remain of the highest quality. Aside from the cliff-hanger at the end, Marko and Alana don’t feature at all. Prince Robot IV is a sympathetic villain – he’s just learned that his wife is pregnant, and he is being forced out of his homeworld to hunt people. He’s just a man who served a tour of duty and then thrust back out into the war. It grounds the character in reality, and his motivations for getting the child are purely professional – he just wants to be home with his wife.
D. Oswald Heist is also portrayed fantastically as a disillusioned author who has become a recluse, only allowing “ladies who bring him bottles” to visit. It’s great that the team chose to portray Heist as normal and sarcastic, as opposed to being a typical scholar, but I guess if you’d been paying attention to the excerpts Alana read out in previous issues you’d see why.
Despite Vaughan’s portrayal of Prince Robot IV, the real emotional content comes from a character’s introduction (and death) early on. While the character only appears in a few panels, it still stings when they finally (and gruesomely) pass on, speaking volumes to Vaughan’s ability to make readers care.
Staples’ art, per usual, is fantastic. Robot’s television head allows for Staples to use her artistic skills to convey emotions differently than making them pull a face, and it really lends to how the character thinks, and where his mind ends up in times of stress. Her character designs are also smart, as the cute creatures that Robot encounters only adds to their personality. If you ever needed an example of purely digital art being a viable concept, pick this book up.
So while Saga takes a brief hiatus, with solicitations not mentioning it again until after July, it manages to leave on a high note – as a well thought out cliff-hanger that will keep readers going until it returns. As for me? I’ll be re-reading it again, because Saga is seriously a tale you don’t want to miss.