saga book“This is how an idea becomes real.”

Graphic novels have so far featured poorly on this blog and on my reading lists in general. It’s not that I don’t like them – actually, far from it – or don’t consider them “proper books”, it’s simply that I don’t know where to begin with them. The only ones to have graced my blog so far have been manga versions of Shakespeare plays,  so it’s about time I took a look at something else. Fortunately for me, having a wide circle of friends with varying circles of interest means that every genre and style finds its way to me eventually, and it’s thanks to two of these friends that Saga found its way onto my shelf.

The one I’ve read is the first six chapters of the story, collated together, although I’m told there is much more to come. The background of the world is that there are two warring races of aliens, those of the planet Landfall who all have wings, and those of Landfall’s moon, Wreath, who are all adorned with horns. While the war has now ended on this planet and moon (under the logic that the destruction of either will too destroy its companion) the battles have been outsourced, and now the entire galaxy has to choose whether to side with the planet or the moon. There is nowhere to hide from the war.

Amid the mess, two have fallen in love: Marko, a Wreather who has vowed to never use his sword again, and Alana, a Landfallian with a sharp tongue and little fear. Somehow, they have sired a daughter and are now on the run from both of their peoples, not wanting to be part of the neverending war. However, there is a bounty on their heads and several people are now after them. These include Prince Robot IV, a robotic royal with a screen for a face, and two freelance bounty hunters, The Will (a slightly washed-up figure who travels everywhere with his companion, Lying Cat) and The Stalk (a creature from your worst nightmares). With the help of a half-bodied teenage ghost called Izabel, Alana and Marko are determined to get as far away from the war as possible, but with everyone in the galaxy seemingly looking for them, that’s going to be a lot harder than it seems.

So what we have here is that someone has taken Game of Thrones, Star Wars and your worst nightmares, loaded them into a blender on full speed and poured out the remains onto the paper. The characters and story are immediately compelling and while the whole “two from different factions fall in love” shtick has been going since Romeo & Juliet if not before, this is one of the freshest takes I’ve ever seen. Fiona Staples’ artwork is a thing of absolute beauty and genius and the characters are phenomenally well-realised. The design is beautiful and there are no short cuts. Every single character is identifiable. Just because everyone in Marko’s race has horns, it doesn’t mean they have the same horns. While his are curled like a ram’s, we also see a whole bunch of other styles, including a unicorn.

By far and away the outstanding character so far is Lying Cat, The Will’s faithful companion, a large green feline who can immediately tell if someone is telling the truth or not. The facial expressions on the beast are so wonderfully realised that you totally go along with it. The whole universe has clearly had a lot of work put into it, so while there is all this ongoing political drama, the true focus is actually on this pair of new parents, trying to do what is right for their newborn daughter in a galaxy that is rife with problems. This humanising plot means that you totally buy everything else that’s going on.

Sure, there are some images here that are going to haunt my dreams for the next few nights, such as the two greeters on the brothel planet Sextillion who are merely porn-star heads on spindly legs, but it’s absolutely worth it. The imaginations of both Vaughan and Staples are out of control, and I for one am not willing to help them reel them in. Long may they continue.