I confess I was late to the “Saga” party. When this epic comic came out three years ago, I made a mental note to check it out. “Saga,” written by Brian K. Vaughan, who wrote the clever post-apocalyptic comic “Y: The Last Man,” and illustrated by the very talented Fiona Staples, won several Eisner awards, and when the first volume was published, it won a Hugo award.
But you know how it is – life gets in the way and I forgot about it. Now that I’ve had a little more time to read, I finally picked up Volume 1 and was blown away. I checked out volumes 2, 3 and 4 from the library, and read them one after another. Oh comic books, how I’ve missed you! And this comic book – where do I begin?
Volume 5, the collection of comic books 25 through 30, picks up after a disgruntled android kidnaps toddler Hazel, and her mother and grandmother. Hazel’s father is in hot pursuit, along with a robot prince, whose robot infant has also been taken hostage. And Gwendolyn, Sophie, and The Brand are on the hunt for a cure for The Brand’s comatose brother. But let’s back up.
At the heart of “Saga” are Alana and Marko, star-crossed lovers from warring worlds. Alana’s home planet is Landfall, and she has wings. Marko is from Landfall’s moon Wreath, where the natives have horns or antlers. Alana was a prison guard when she fell in love with Marko, who was a prisoner of war on the planet Cleave.
The narrator of this crazy story is their little girl Hazel, presumably now an adult. Hazel’s babysitter, ghost girl Izabel, floats among the panels, with entrails hanging out from the hem of her t-shirt. (Sounds disgusting, but she grows on you.)
Fugitives, the young family is pursued across the galaxy by a host of bizarre alien characters including but not limited to an assassin called The Will and his huge, hairless, lie-detecting feline (a fan favorite, Lying Cat can only speak one word – “LYING!” – which comes in handy when you need to interrogate someone, but occasionally backfires as Lying Cat also calls out his master’s fibs); Prince Robot IV, who has a TV set in place of a head (the robots outsource their military to Landfall’s army); and Marko’s ex-fiancee, who is literally out for blood.
Comparing their story to Star Wars or Romeo and Juliet or Game of Thrones or whatever doesn’t do this comic justice. It’s original, unique and unpredictable. Just when you think you know someone, they surprise you.
“Saga” is original, fun and addictive. It’s also violent and creepy, so take note that this is a comic for adults only.
Another award-winning fantasy from Image, “Rat Queens,” is my other new favorite comic. It has been described by the author as “Lord of the Rings” meets “Bridesmaids,” a pretty accurate description. Imagine if the fellowship of Tolkien’s ring were made up of women. Now imagine their adventures being raunchier and way more fun, and you have “Rat Queens.”
The queens, a foursome of female mercenaries, are dwarf Violet, human Dee, elf Hannah, and “smidgen” (halfling) Betty. The funny and irreverent warriors fight, drink, curse, and then fight some more. (Tasked with bringing rations on a quest, Betty packs a bag of candy and magic mushrooms. They all complain, but dig in anyway.)
Like Saga, “Queens” has little inside jokes: One of the other mercenary groups is called Brother Ponies (a nod to the My Little Pony fans known as Bronies).
What I love about the Queens is that they are strong women without becoming stereotypes of strong women. They’re badasses, but they are vulnerable. They still want love; they still get their feelings hurt when they are rejected. They all have different personalities. They aren’t cookie cutter characters.
One thing that I love about both of these comics is that they are entertaining while at the same time addressing serious issues like war and drug addiction. One “Saga” subplot centers around a young girl who was sold into sex slavery, and one of the Queens has reservations about the religion she abandoned. It gets deep, but not too heavy. Vaughan and Wiebe both strike the perfect balance in their writing. But don’t take my word for it; visit your local comic book shop or library and check out these awesome grown-up fairy tales for yourself.
“Saga, Volume 5” (graphic novel) was released Sept. 15, and the 12th issue of “Rat Queens” is out today.
Saga, Volume 5
By Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Image Comics, Rated Mature
By Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tess Fowler
(Previously drawn by
Roc Upchurch and Stjepan Sejic)
Image Comics, Rated Mature