It’s time for another review of a free comic, again curtousey of Comixology. They are so kind. Without them, I would never have started reading comics on the tablet we got, which is the basis for another article altogether. However, I would be remorse if I did not compare them to a successful drug dealer. Yes, they give you free comics, but usually only the first issue of a series. Of course it is a winning strategy becuase they know that once you get hooked, you will come back and spend money to get the rest of the story. When I glanced through the free comics I downloaded, about 95% are first issues. Luckily, I don’t have the most addictive personality, and I can wait until I can find cheap back issues or an old tpb at home.
I”ll admit that I’m a bit behind on Saga. In fact, after reading issue 1, I’ve only read one issue. But I’ve heard things. Most of them very generic, yet positive things, like “This book is amazing” or “A must-read” or “The best new book of the year/decade/millenium.” Needless to say, these reveiws, while not very specific, set my standards rather high. Were they met? Not completely. Also, the biggest news I ever heard about this was the controversy surrounding some online service not allowing an issue to be viewed because of some graphic sex involving a robot with a television head. Of course, upon hearing that, I knew I had to someday read this comic.
Brian Vaughan is a name I recognize, primarily for his graphic novel, The Pride of Baghdad (probably the saddest graphic novel I’ve ever read), which I will review at some point. I know that he’s done some other things, but I’ve never read them. I will try to at some point, but it’s not on the top of my reading pile. Fiona Staples, however, I had not heard of, except in connection with this book. So let’s jump right in.
The first panel, which takes up the whole first page, is a close up of a woman’s face, teeth clenched asking “Am I shitting?” What a way to start a comic series. I’ll admit I never read a first page that was like that before, so automatically, I’m intrigued. It turns out that she’s giving birth, not shitting (although sometimes those two things are not mutally exclusive). We see her and her husband alone in a room, her on the table, and him helping out as much as any guy can during a birth. He has horns, like a ram, and she has small wings growing from her back. I knew it was a sci-fy book from the cover, but just wanted to clarify this. Anyway, the baby is born, healthy and looking more realistic than most tv births (as in actually covered in blood and whatnot, not miraculously clean from the womb) and we learn a couple key details, such as the parents’ names, Alana and Marko, and that Marko can do some spells and that he also took a vow to never unsheath his sword again. Those bits of information seems natural, not forced, as is often the case in many first issues of comics. It also turns out that the baby is the narrator of this story, implying that she lives for the duration of the comic, which is reinforced at the end of the issue.
Alana breastfeeds the baby, which is the first time I had seen breastfeeding in a comic and also the first time I saw an exposed nipple that was not put in to be sexual. Lots of firsts with this issue.
We learn a bit more about the culture before the action starts. It turns out this pair is on the run and that Alana deserted her army. A robot with a television head, (I started being on the lookout for the sex) is leading a small group of soldiers to take her back. However, another group, who, judging from the horns, are from Marko’s side of things teleport in as well. There is a brief skirmish and the family escapes with a map of how to get away from both warring armies.
From that setting, we fly through space to see another robot with a tv head, and this time he’s having sex! With a female (I guess the robots have genders?) robot. Not the best sex, it would seem, but I assume that becomes another minor plot down the road. He seems to be the prince and we learn more about the war and the main characters through a visitor he has. We go back to see Alana and Marko on the move and then flash to one more setting. A man called The Will, accompanied by a lying cat (one of the coolest looking things ever; I so want one, even more than the lynx cat), who are being hired by a woman with a unicorn horn and living in an icy cave.
Overall, it’s an intriguing story, although one thing must be said. The tale of two lovers from warring factions has been done a thousand times since Romeo & Juliet, and was probably a tired cliche even then. However, this seems to be a fresh take, full of original ideas and I would be willing to read further into the series. The characters are realistic (as realistic as aliens ever are) and the universe seems rich and interesting. I wasn’t too sure of the artwork at the beginning, but I grew to love it as I read. The lines are simple, thin and black, but the colors make it come alive. The panels are light, and have a nice painted look to it. I actually want to find more of what Staples has done, which is the highest compliment I can give a creator.
Overall, a satisfying read, but the hype built it up to height impossible to reach. A cheap copy of the first tpb has been added to my buy list, a list far too long already.
P.S. “Suck my hemmroids!” is an awesome insult.