In honor of it winning the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story, I thought I'd go ahead and take a look at Saga: Volume 1 this week.
From the mind of Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man) and illustrated by Fiona Staples (Mystery Society; North 40), Saga: Volume 1 tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers out to leave their past behind and start a new life together. Alana is a winged being from the world known as Landfall. Her world is at war with the inhabitants of their moon, called Wreath. Drafted to fight in that war, Alana eventually found herself working as a prison guard where she met Marko. Born of Wreath, Marko, too, was a soldier. His race has horns and can wield magic, whereas the people of Landfall are technologically superior. Somehow, the two fell in love and decided to desert their respective armies and build a new life together. That new life is complicated by the arrival of Hazel, their child, who represents something neither side of the war thought possible: genetic compatibility. Hazel has her mother's wings and her father's horns. Hunted by just about everyone including royalty and freelancers, Marko and Alana race to escape the planet Cleave, to protect their newborn daughter from the forces out to take her from them, and get away from the war neither wants to be a part of anymore.
Everyone told me to read this book. Seriously. Artists, writers, editors and Twitter friends couldn't stop raving about Saga, so I had to give it a try and I'm glad I did. The story is deceptive. It feels small at first—a family just trying to survive and live their lives on their own terms, away from all the fighting that defines two cultures and that has spread out to countless worlds throughout the galaxy. But that's where the deception comes in: This story is truly epic in scale and in scope. There is so much going on, so much worldbuilding right from the get-go. You will recognize new story threads here and there, and wonder when they’ll be given a little tug. Like The Will’s story, a Freelancer out to save a slave from a life of prostitution. Or Prince Robot IV and Agent Gale of the Landfall Secret Intelligence. Something is going on with them, just not sure what. Yet. These little bits help to build a rich tapestry of what the galaxy of Saga is all about, without ever info-dumping the reader.
Now, there is nudity in the book and sex, and language, so I leave it to parents to decide if this is appropriate for their kids. As a movie, it would probably end up rated PG-13 if not a straight up R. The art is fantastic. Fiona Staples captures the characters and settings well. I've mentioned before that I'm not a fan of the “Marvel Style” of overly muscled people, and Staples does none of that here. The art is clean. Even the battle scenes, which could lend themselves to being overdone, cut right to the chase. There is nothing to distract you from the story, and that is a rare thing in comics these days.
As I mentioned above, Saga: Volume 1 took the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story. Given the strength of the writing and the artwork, I've no doubt we'll be seeing future volumes on the Hugo ballot moving forward.
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and 2013 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fanzine (Editor - SF Signal) He lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast was nominated for a 2012 and a 2013 Hugo Award. In addition to his Kirkus posts, he writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal and Functional Nerds.