On today’s review double feature, Thea dives into volumes 2 & 3 of the very popular and highly regarded Saga graphic novels!

Saga 2Title: Saga, Volume 2

Written by Brian K. Vaughan; Illustrated by Fiona Staples

Genre: Graphic Novel, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction

Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: July 2013
Paperback: 144 Pages

The smash-hit ongoing epic continues! Thanks to her star-crossed parents Marko and Alana, newborn baby Hazel has already survived lethal assassins, rampaging armies, and alien monstrosities, but in the cold vastness of outer space, the little girl encounters something truly frightening: her grandparents!

Stand alone or series: Collects Saga issues #7-12

How did I get this book: Bought

Format (e- or p-): Print

Why did I read this book: I adored Saga, Volume 1 and of course immediately bought Volume 2 as soon as possible. Enough said.

Review:

For years, the planet of Landfall and its lone satellite moon, Wreath, have been at war. The horned, magic-weaving “Moonies” and the brutally militaristic Wings are bitter enemies and have dragged the entire galaxy into their fight, with much loss and pain on both sides. Enter Marko and Alana, two starcrossed lovers from opposite sides of the war, who against all odds fall in love, get married, and have a child named Hazel. In a universe of harsh black and white dividing lines, Hazel is not just an aberration but incredibly dangerous – her existence defies the ongoing war effort, and thus she (and her deviant parents) must be killed immediately.

In Volume 1, we are first introduced to the world of Saga in all its madcap, creative glory, including an elite class of robots who are almost completely human in appearance except for the old tube-televisions they have for heads, sex planets, disemboweled ghost girls/babysitters, and a cat who can detect lies. In Volume 1, we meet Marko and Alana giving birth to baby Hazel, and on the run from ruthless freelancers (aka bounty hunters) The Stalk and The Will, as well as a tv-headed robot Prince IV. In Volume 2, even more characters are thrown into the mix, as Alana, Marko, and Hazel are joined by Marko’s parents – meanwhile, Marko’s ex, Gwendolyn, sets out on a revenge mission of her own.

As with the first volume, this second installment is narrated loosely by a future, retrospective Hazel, who recounts her family’s struggle to find safety. And, like the first graphic novel, Volume 2 is utterly fucking brilliant. Here, we see how Marko and Alana met and why they fell in love against all odds; we also see how their love endures and grows, no matter what the world throws at them… Be it robot princes, brutal bounty hunters, or really, really pissed off grandparents. It’s the grandparents storyline that hands-down wins in Volume 2, as we are introduced to Marko’s enraged warrior of a mother, who rips into Saga with her prejudiced censure of her wayward son and his illicit affair with the winged enemy. Thankfully, in large part because Marko’s father is a bit more patient and open-minded, the new grandparents are soon rallied to Hazel, Marko and Alana’s side and joins the new family as they search for a place to raise Hazel in relative peace and safety. This is awesome.

Something that other reviews have pointed out before mine, but I think is so very true it needs to be said again, is how the brilliance of this series lies with the family at its core. Marko and Alana aren’t out looking for trouble, or adventure, or falling in love. They’ve already been in love and now have a child, and are facing a hyperbolic version of the fears and questions that new parents face: all they want to do is provide the best for their child. Granted, most new parents don’t live in a world that reviles their union and their child’s very existence… but that’s the beauty of storytelling does, right?

Equally important to Saga‘s success is Fiona Staples’ gorgeous, expressive art. Staples captures the emotion of a scene and perfectly translates some of Brian K. Vaughan’s over-the-top creatures and characters in a way that feels whimsical and original, but at the same time grounded and believable. She even manages to encapsulate the rougher, sexually explicit and violent themes without becoming tawdry or cartoonish. Vaughan’s grandiose vision of the world of Saga has a home with Staples’ boundless creativity – I simply can’t imagine this comic working with any other artist.

Volume 2 triumphantly builds on the framework provided in book 1, expanding the themes of war and prejudice from a macro- to a very personal level (with the inclusion of Marko’s parents). It also maintains and advances two ancillary but equally important storylines, including The Will’s heartbroken shock at losing former flame and fellow freelancer The Stalk in the quest to find Marko and Alana, and his teaming up with Gwendolyn (with Slave Girl and Lying Cat in tow) to exact revenge and finish the job. Meanwhile, Prince IV rightfully guesses where Alana will take her family and sets off for Quietus, to visit the author whose novel Prince IV can’t quite get out of his television head.

Volume 2 closes on a brilliant, dramatic note – just make sure you have Volume 3 handy, because you’re going to want to dive into it straight away.

Rating: 8 – Excellent

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Saga Volume 3Title: Saga, Volume 3

Written by Brian K. Vaughan; Illustrated by Fiona Staples

Genre: Graphic Novel, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction

Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: March 2014
Paperback: 144 Pages

The Eisner, Harvey, and Hugo Award-winning phenomenon continues, as new parents Marko and Alana travel to an alien world to visit their hero, while the family’s pursuers finally close in on their targets.

Stand alone or series: Collects Saga issues #13-18

How did I get this book: Bought

Format (e- or p-): Print

Review:

Well, color me impressed. I didn’t think it was possible, but Saga, Volume 3 is even better than books 1 and 2.

(Hear that silence? That’s because Lying Cat knows that ain’t no lie.)

In Volume 3, Alana, Marko, Hazel and Klara arrive on Quietus and befriend Master D. Oswald Heist, author. The family finds a brief respite with Heist, reflecting on their journey so far and planning out what next steps they can take to give Hazel the best, happiest childhood possible (which is not an easy feat when there are hired assassins and murderous robot generals on your heels). Meanwhile, The Will, Gwendolyn, Sophie (formerly known as “Slave Girl”) and Lying Cat are taking their own brief respite on a quiet, idyllic seeming planet, as they figure out their next move to hunt down their marks. Volume 3 introduces a new set of secondary characters, too, in the form of two journalists who are piecing together Alana’s story – was she “kidnapped” by the escaped Moonie (as the army is trying to spin this particular story)? Or did she run away with him out of love? Or is there some other, deeper, more nefarious motivation at play? As the tabloid reporters build their story, they also attract a whole bunch of the wrong kind of attention and start receiving threats of their own…

Oh, Saga. I love you so, so much – Volume 3 in particular. In this book, tensions that have been brewing for the first 12 issues come to a dramatic showdown, with Prince IV and Gwendolyn closing in on their prey. All of the action – and inaction, actually – goes down at the house of author Heist, who shelters and helps the hunted family. And, oh, dear Master Heist, how wise you are! Never mind that we first meet you as a stumbling drunk who vomits on an infant (yes, that happens), Heist is truly an insightful visionary author. Vaughan clearly has some fun poking at the meta themes of authorship (and reviewing and reporting and publishing) in this particular volume, which includes the following:

Saga Vol 3 (Bookgasm)

An interesting theme in this third volume is the smart use of entertainment as more than mere distraction, but as a vehicle to provide subversive criticism and metaphor. For example, much to-do is made of Master Heist’s A Nighttime Smoke in Volume 2 and 3. This, after all, is the “trashy romance novel” that awakens Alana to question her orders and surroundings, that plants the seed of doubt and desire, which leads to her breaking Marko out of jail, and starting a family together. It’s the same novel that awakens something in Robot Prince IV, spurring him on his mission to Quietus to speak to the author. In this same tradition, Volume 3 shows Heist working on his new book, The Opposite of War (title to be changed because everyone seems to think peace is the opposite – when it’s something different), and reflecting on the revelatory nature of storytelling. One of my favorite panels in the entire book:

Saga Volume 3 (Children's Stories)

Beyond the literary, Volume 3 also uses a board game from Wreath called Nun Tuj Nun for entertainment (arm wrestling scene between Alana and her mother-in-law, anyone?), but also as a vehicle to help Marko past his grief at the loss of his father, and to get Alana and Marko to start talking and thinking about the future and how they will be able to provide for their family.

Also in Volume 3, The Will’s subplot gains some nice momentum as he struggles with the decision to pursue his last job and exact revenge for The Stalk’s death, or to stay planet-side with Sophie and settle down. Obviously, Gwendolyn has some very outspoken opinions on the matter as she will hunt Marko down to the bitter end which she makes known to The Will – and the sexual tension between the pair continues to grow:

Saga Volume 3 (Gwendolyn and The Will)

(The two have their own “meet-cute” moment, if you recall Hazel’s commentary from Volume 2.)

There’s a great twist thrown in for Gwendolyn and The Will, too, that I won’t spoil except to say: CREEPY. I’m happy, too that “Slave Girl” gets an actual name (too bad she didn’t get to pick it herself), and that we learn even more about Lying Cat in this volume and understand the rules and constraints that govern his conscience. And then of course, there’s Gwendolyn – who is frustrated and clearly heartbroken over Marko, but she’s also clever and vindictive and powerful in her own right. I love that in this volume we see that Marko is not a perfect character, and that he did Gwendolyn wrong – but at the same time, he’s found the right person for him in Alana, and has become a better, stronger, more loving person because of it. It’s harsh, perhaps, but like most everything else in Vaughan’s Saga, it resonates as true to life.

Finally, Volume 3 is also so successful because it introduces a new storyline through the eyes of reporters Upsher and Doff who are trying to understand the entirety of Alana’s story. The pair interviews foot soldiers, civilian relatives, and even the head of internal security in their quest for the truth… which leads them into some serious threats and trouble. One such threat is made because the pair – a homosexual couple from a less evolved planet – could be ruined if their relationship is brought to light. The relationship between Upsher and Doff is beautifully drawn, and I hope to see much more of the intrepid reporting pair in the next volume.

And speaking of Volume 4, here’s what I would like, please: more Alana. My only qualm to date with Saga is that we’ve seen a ton of Marko’s backstory without much of Alana’s – although I suspect that is coming, and the tidbits we do glimpse of her past are very interesting. Of particular note in Volume 3 is the wrench thrown in at one part of this story when Upsher and Doff are talking to Special Agent Gale of internal security for Alana’s people… I don’t buy it right now, but it could be really interesting if there’s any truth to the claim. Also: THE BRAND! More backstory for The Will, yes please! In other words: I cannot wait for Volume 4.

Like I said before, Saga is absolutely fucking brilliant, and Volume 3 is the best installment to date. Absolutely recommended, and on my shortlist for favorite reads of 2014.

Buy the Book:

(click on the links to purchase)

Saga, Volume 2:
barnes & noble Book Depository UK amazon_uk

Ebook available for kindle US, kindle UK, Google Play, Kobo & iBooks

Saga, Volume 3:
barnes & noble Book Depository UK amazon_uk

Ebook available for kindle US, kindle UK, Google Play, iBooks

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3 Responses to Book Review: Saga Volumes 2 & 3 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

  1. Peter says:

    This series is the best ongoing series by far. Brian K. Vaughan has been consistently good series to series. I also agree that I can’t imagine this series with many other artists. Staples’ artwork (which encompasses every bit on the page including lettering) is edgy and emotionally resonant.

    I’ve been holding out for the deluxe edition coming out in December, but I doubt I’ll make it before buying the trade paperback versions.

  2. Meljean says:

    I love this series. LOVE. Everything from the art to the writing to the characters.

  3. Alison says:

    I adore this series the art work is stunning but the story is so relatable and the writing is so simple and magical. Love it! Can’t wait for Volume 4!

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