Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples
Lettering/Design by Fonografiks
Published by Image Comics
An exceptional comic book leaves readers thinking not only about the story’s potential, but also the brilliance of what it has already delivered. Saga #1 is that kind of comic. From the beginning, it is obvious that writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples have created something special, and what a rare joy to read a highly anticipated book that delivers on every level.
The title promises a sweeping, ambitious narrative, which is exactly what Vaughan and Staples deliver: forbidden love, war, a tense manhunt, political intrigue and sex — all in an exciting sci-fi/fantasy package. But the reader needs characters to care about above all, and one cannot help but become attached to married couple Alana and Marko. Together, at the worst possible time, they are trying to flee the destruction of the fighting between their homelands. On top of that, their union is an intergalactic incident and, apparently, an abomination. Marko is described as “a monster;” Alana, who has just given birth to their child, is dubbed “a whore.” The odds against them are terrible, and yet, the warmth and tenderness between them shine through the gloom. They have some playful and sweet moments, even as they dodge capture with a newborn in tow.
(As for that guy who was upset about the sight of a nursing baby on the cover, there are a couple of panels in this book that would make his head explode. Aside from the fact that there is nothing remotely offensive about breastfeeding, I hope he’s figured out by now that this a book for a mature audience.)
Juxtaposed with this intimate story is a large-scale war, and Vaughan does an excellent job of showing the reader the forest and the trees. The fighting between the planet of Landfall and its lone moon, Wreath, has been outsourced to other places, engulfing other planets far and wide. There are so many layers, which the writer puts together without needless exposition. At 40-plus pages — not a single one wasted — Saga #1 gives the reader a meaty narrative that’s complex but not confusing. Who would expect anything less from the guy who wrote Ex-Machina and Y: The Last Man, which is only my favorite comic book series of all time?
Artist Fiona Staples became a favorite of mine after Mystery Society, and her impeccable, elegant work here is a knockout. The players are so strongly defined, ranging from the otherworldy yet very human Alana and Marko, to fearsome beasts worthy of Star Wars, to robots that are a freaky combination of technology and humanity. Whether in small moments or grand, show-stopping panels, Staples’ illustrations and rich colors make Saga a highly memorable visual experience. Fonografiks’ artful lettering really enhances the book, especially during the moments of narration. All the ingredients blend so well that the reader is never left thinking, “This is such a good comic, but I wish the (insert artistic element here) were better.”
For $2.99, you’re not going to find a better single-issue read anytime soon. Rich in story and beautifully executed, Saga’s first chapter sets the bar very high for the rest of this series. Somehow, I think this creative team is up to that challenge. If you didn’t grab this last week, what are you waiting for? Grade: A+
— A version of this review appeared earlier on Newsarama.com.