Book Review: Saga, Volume 1, Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (2012)

June 2nd, 2014 1:12 pm by Kelly Garbato

Fragile Things

four out of five stars

“Ideas are fragile things. Most don’t live long outside of the ether from which they were pulled, kicking and screaming. That’s why people create with someone else.”

Marko and Alana are two young soldiers fighting on opposite sides of an ancient and never-ending galactic war. No one remembers why the citizens of Landfall – the largest planet in its galaxy – and Wreath – its only satellite moon – don’t get along. All anyone knows is that the two rocks are mortal enemies, and they must choose sides. (You’re either with us, or you’re against us.) Since the planet and its moon can’t obliterate one without destroying the other, the conflict has long since been outsourced, until it engulfed every world in the galaxy. There’s no escaping it.

A soldier with the Wreath contingent, Marko surrendered to Coalition Forces on the planet of Cleave and swore off violence altogether. Once imprisoned, Alana was assigned to guard him. Instead, they fell in love and ran away together. Three months later, and with their pursuers hot on their trail, baby Hazel is born. All these lovers want to do is raise their young family in peace; but with Prince Robot IV and mercenary “The Will” on their trail, it’s likely that their subversive idea will be snuffed out before it’s able to take root and blossom.

Saga is a stunning blend of science fiction and fantasy, magic and space travel (and, occasionally, magical space travel!). There are horned unicorn women; robots with monitors for heads; seahorse people and giant, lie-detecting Persian cats. Ghost children whose intestines hang from the ragged stumps of their torsos, long since blown in two by landmines in the service of this genocidal conflict. The artwork is gorgeous and gives life to Vaughan’s imaginative cadre of space creatures. And how can you help but love the cover, which features a green-haired woman of color brandishing a Heartbreaker gun in one hand while cradling a breastfeeding newborn in the other?

Marko and Alana form a striking pair: he, with his curved ram horns and an amber skin tone; she, with gossamer fairy wings and chestnut skin. (Both possessing cheekbones that could cut glass!) Theirs is a taboo love: they are of different plants, different species – and different races (at least inasmuch as faeries and ram-men can be said to have “races”). Just in case the parallels aren’t obvious, one of their pursuers sneeringly refers to the pair with the m-word: “miscegenators.” Language is a source of power, used to dehumanize the enemies: “moonies” are not hes and shes, but its; Hazel is a “mongrel,” and members of the opposing side are “mutts.”

It’s thus disappointing to see sexist (“bitch,” “cunt”) and ableist (“retarded”) slurs bandied about without like purpose – including straight from the mouth of protagonist Alana, for whom we’re presumably supposed to root.

Four stars. The series has great potential, and Volumes Two and Three are already on my wishlist. (So many books, so little money!)

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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One Response to “Book Review: Saga, Volume 1, Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (2012)”

  1. 2014 Real Book Challenge: May Roundup » vegan daemon Says:

    […] Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (2012); review coming soon […]

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