‘Saga’ leaves you wanting more but you’ll have to wait

“Saga” recently released its newest collection, “Volume 9,” which covers issues 49 through 54 of the award-winning comic book by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

If you haven’t read it yet (and you’re over the age of 18) I highly recommend you check it out. There’s a reason “Saga” is hugely popular and critically acclaimed. Even though it’s been compared to such epics as “Star Wars” and “Game of Thrones,” Vaughan’s imaginative story, accomapanied by Staples’ amazing artwork, is really like nothing else. Well, it’s a little bit Romeo and Juliet – Alana and Marko are alien lovers from warring worlds. Their daughter, Hazel, is the comic’s narrator.

After the latest major bombshell cliffhanger, at the end of #54, Vaughan and Staples have announced they’re taking a yearlong hiatus. Staples has said she was experiencing feelings of burnout – understandable as she’s drawn and colored all 54 issues.

If you haven’t picked up “Saga” yet, this is a great time to catch up! It’s really weird and cool. You can read my previous review here:

https://earthtoshawna.com/2015/09/16/dont-miss-image-comics-saga-and-rat-queens/

While the comic is set in a fictional universe, the themes of parenting and family are, well, universal. Vaughan doesn’t shy away from topics like war, abortion, addiction, racism, homophobia, sex trafficking, etc., so these themes are underlying the larger story and ask the big questions.

How do you raise a child to be kind and strong in a world (or worlds) that can be so brutal? Can we teach our kids what they need to know while at the same time protecting them?

How can we be compassionate when we don’t know who to trust? How can we keep going when everything is spinning out of control?

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“Saga, Volume 9” was released Sept. 26 (Image Comics). Vol. 9 collects issues 49 through 54 of the award-winning comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

“Saga” spans several years and has lots of crazy-looking alien characters – I guess that’s why it’s being compared to “Star Wars.” But don’t expect to see this story on the big screen anytime soon. Vaughan created this to be a comic only, not to be adapted into a movie or TV show. For starters, there’s a lot of sex and violence. (Like, a lot.) And if it was a movie, it would have to be animated, or use a heck of a lot of CGI.

Vaughan hasn’t completely ruled out an adaptation, but that’s not something he’s looking at right now. One thing that is being adapted to TV is Vaughan’s comic “Y: The Last Man,” which I loved. Let’s talk about that.

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‘Y: The Last Man’

Vaughan’s “Y: The Last Man,” published by Vertigo Comics and illustrated by Pia Guerra, takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth. A plague wipes out every mammal with a Y chromosome, except for a man named Yorick Brown and his Capuchin monkey, Ampersand.

Yorick’s mother, a congresswoman, commissions a special agent to protect her son. Along with a geneticist named Alison Mann, they work to find a way to save humankind from extinction. During their travels, the group is chased by several people who want Yorick for their own purposes.

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The comic series, which ran from 2002 to 2008, won three Eisner awards. Filming on the live-action TV series has begun and will star Diane Lane, Imogen Poots, Lashana Lynch, Juliana Canfield, and Marin Ireland. Barry Keoghan will star as Yorick. The show will be on FX, but there is no premiere date yet.

Mark your calendars

In my excitement about the upcoming “Captain Marvel” film that I talked about in my last post, I forgot to tell you that it opens March 8, 2019, which also happens to be International Women’s Day. captain-marvel-brie-larson

“Wonder Woman 1984” comes out Nov. 1, 2019. And “Birds of Prey” is slated for a Feb. 7, 2020, release.

I also have more casting news for “Birds of Prey.” Margot Robbie will reprise her role as Harley Quinn from “Suicide Squad,” and Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Rosie Perez will portray Black Canary, Huntress, and The Question. Christina Hodson is the screenwriter, and Cathy Yan will direct.

In other Warner Bros. news, another of my favorite Vertigo comic books, “Fables,” is also being adapted to the big screen. Nikolaj Arcel is signed on to direct, Jeremy Slater is screenwriter. Fables Vol. 3-Storybook Love

“Fables” was created by Bill Willingham in 2002 and is about fairy tale characters who are exiled from their lands and now live in New York City. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the comic was in development to become an NBC TV series, but that was scrapped, and NBC later produced a show called “Grimm” instead. Then ABC was going to adapt “Fables” but later ended up making “Once Upon a Time.” Here’s hoping the third time’s a charm.

Credits: “Saga,” Image Comics; “Y: The Last Man” and “Fables,” Vertigo; “Captain Marvel,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

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‘Skywalker Strikes’ sparks theory about ‘Force Awakens’

I am a big fan of “Star Wars,” and I also love comic books. But “Skywalker Strikes,” the graphic novel which collects issues 1 through 6, is the first Star Wars comic I’ve read. The last Star Wars “Expanded Universe” books I read were Timothy Zahn’s books, the Thrawn Trilogy, back in the early ’90s. The trilogy is set five years after the events in “Return of the Jedi.”

I am sure that the upcoming Star Wars sequel “The Force Awakens” will have little in common with Zahn’s books, as Disney now owns the Star Wars franchise and has more or less declared the Star Wars Expanded Universe not part of official canon, pissing off Star Wars fans everywhere.

I get why they did it, but it seems a little insulting to throw out all the books and comics that came before Disney, and also a bit tricky. Coruscant, for example, a planet prominently featured in the movie prequels, first appears in Zahn’s “Heir to the Empire.” Are they only keeping EU if it was picked up in the films?

Also angering some fans was Disney’s refusal to renew Dark Horse’s Star Wars publishing license in January. They instead gave the license back to Marvel, which they also now own.

Star Wars comics were published by Marvel from 1977 to 1986, when they canceled it. So Dark Horse had been publishing Star Wars comics since 1989. In short, this is the first Star Wars comic released by Marvel since the ’80s.

Because Disney has said the new comics are canon, it is possible that the characters introduced in them will be part of the new movies, so if you don’t like spoilers and theories, stop reading now.

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If you’re still with me, you’ve read my spoiler alert and have been warned.

The biggest surprise in the new comic is the appearance of a woman named Sana Solo, who claims to be Han’s wife. She confronts him on a planet where he and Leia are hiding from Imperial forces, and even asks Leia, “Now who in the hell might you be, lady?”

Earlier in the comic, she is shown (in a mask) trying to track Han down, and it seems she’s a bounty hunter when she says Han belongs to her, but in light of her claim, her words take on a new meaning.

The fact that Sana is black has fans speculating about a “Force Awakens” theory – that she and Han could be Finn’s parents or grandparents, especially considering director J.J. Abrams’ decision not to reveal some of the characters’ last names (as it would give something away).

Of course, this is all just a theory, and Sana might just be a lying stalker. But why put her in there if she’s not important?

One thing I like about this series is that it’s not boring. From the very first page, we are in the thick of the action, with the Rebels infiltrating an Imperial weapons factory, but their plan to destroy it is thwarted by the appearance of Vader. Luke, who still doesn’t know Vader is his father, wants to fight him, but the voice of Obi Wan tells him to run. At least old Ben knows Luke is no match for his old apprentice.

I like the art in this collection; Han and Leia look like Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. Luke is another story. Sometimes he looks like Mark Hamill and in other panels he’s almost unrecognizable. Maybe it’s just me.

Some of the action is recycled. A quick escape is hindered by a problem with the Millennium Falcon. Luke continues his existential Jedi angst. Han and Leia argue-flirt. Han flies through an electrical storm in an attempt to lose their tail – just like the scene in “The Empire Strikes Back” when he flew into an asteroid field. He even says, they “stopped following us, didn’t they?” In “The Empire Strikes Back,” he says, “They’d be crazy to follow us, wouldn’t they?”

The introduction of Sana reminds me of the introduction of another character – Gwendolyn from the comic book “Saga.” Marko’s crazy ex trailed him across the galaxy before confronting him and his new woman.

That’s not to say the lack of originality has turned me off the new comic completely. I am looking forward to reading more, if only because I want to see what’s going on with Sana, and a few other new plot points that have been introduced. (OK, one.)

If I am not blown away, it’s only because I expected more from Marvel. In their defense, I think their biggest obstacle was that the element of suspense is missing, because we already know what’s going to happen. But then why choose this time period? It’s filler. Or an excuse to set up the lineage of the movie’s new characters, if the theory proves to be correct.

That being said, it’s nice to see everyone again, and while the plot may not be earth-shattering, it’s familiar and fun to read while waiting for the movie.

“Star Wars Vol. 1: Skywalker Strikes,” by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by John Cassaday and Laura Martin
Marvel; October 2015

Don’t miss Image Comics’ ‘Saga’ and ‘Rat Queens’

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. 
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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

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Rat Queens
By Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tess Fowler
(Previously drawn by
Roc Upchurch and Stjepan Sejic)
Image Comics, Rated Mature
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