Friday, 20 March 2015

Saga: Romeo & Juliet In Narnian Star Wars

Saga is a comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. It tells the tale of two literally star-crossed lovers from warring alien species, who have a child together and are pursued across the galaxy by both sides of an intergalactic war, each side viewing them as traitors to their race.

It is also simply amazing. A fully realised fictional universe with interesting and relatable characters who feel real despite the fact they have horns on their heads or wings on their backs. The story is a simple one at the core but with enough layers and subplots to keep it dynamic. Also, it has moments of cuteness among all the drama, action, pathos, inventiveness, and humour.

Cuteness like this little guy and his walruscamel.

Look at that little guy! He's so cute with his warm beady black eyes, adorable mouth and whiskers, and yellow overalls. He's this otter-like thing in yellow overalls. Yellow overalls! Oh, the cuteness is almost tangible. And this in a story that starts with the messy bloody wonder of childbirth and features numerous characters exploding bloods and guts everywhere on occasion. But yellow overalls!

And I think this is what is really striking about Saga, beyond its compelling storytelling, strong characters, and wonderfully unique feel due to Fiona Staples' stunning artwork, is just how fricking inventive and imaginative it is.

From the lively and lived in universe which feels vast and as though it has a real history and weight to it, to the depiction of magic and futuristic technology, to the simply brilliant and diverse designs for everything, of characters and spaceships, of worlds and locations, Saga is so amazingly inventive it's just impressive.

The fact we never see these guys again yet they have no heads, tongues in their belly button, and wield pink dildos as batons is more than one can bear.

They look like the tales of men with their faces on their torso told by 14th century explorers like John Mandeville (who may or may not have existed) which indicates the range of Brian K. Vaughan's inspiration and how it isn't purely limited to modern sci-fi or fantasy.

And how inspired his inspiration is. Taking the basic concept of lovers from families who hate each other from Romeo & Juliet and putting into an interstellar conflict spanning the galaxy, moving past the emo-y teenage drama of Shakespeare's play to a story about adults who have a child together was a great move.

Something that gripes about Romeo & Juliet is that they sacrifice everything for love, and you know, kill themselves because they're dumb teenagers who couldn't wait to check that the other person was actually dead before offing themselves.

Yeah, dude she's totally dead. No reason to check why you can feel her breath on your neck.
Yep, nothing to do but kill yourself since there'll be another love like this girl you met a couple of days ago.

Alana and Marko in Saga on the other hand, sacrifice everything not only for love, but for family. That is, their new family together and their child. Their drive is not to kill themselves if the other dies but to survive and look after their child at all costs. And while their courtship might have been brief, unlike Romeo and Juliet who we never see getting to know each other and only seem to love each other because they think the other is really hot or something, we actually get to see Alana and Marko interact and share interests.

This shows the roots of their relationship and why they would be willing to sacrifice everything for each other, they share a connection they don't feel with anyone else. That is powerful. That feeling that this other person understands you and makes you feel less alone can be a wonderful thing. And Brian K. Vaughan shows this in only a few select flashback panels.

Also, they talk like real people, not only without literary talk with flowery language, but also Vaughan is not afraid to allow his characters to be coarse or colloquial in their language and talk about things people actually talk about.

She means being more careful about having sex without a condom, not cumming like a dump truck.
Just in case anyone was confused.

But aside from its engaging story and joyfully real characters, where I was originally trying to go with how Saga stands out in its inventiveness is with the design of its characters and technology. Fiona Staples disliked to draw technological spaceships so Brian K. Vaughan comes up with the idea of a treehouse spaceship. Brilliant.

Not only do all the different alien species have an interesting and original look, every significant character has an unique feel and is personalised in clever ways. I love the mixture of science fiction and fantasy. Half the characters look like they stepped out of Star Wars while characters like Marko look Mr Tumnus from The Chronicles of Narnia. There is just so much thought and effort in creating a vibrant and visually stimulating fictional world populated by a vast cast of distinct looking characters.

Remember how several posts ago I lamented that the Green Lantern movie wasted a wonderful opportunity to showcase a wide spectrum of alien races and tell a truly intergalactic epic most superhero movies can't? Well, Saga makes the absolutefucking most out of that opportunity to tell a space opera with a full kaleidoscope of eye-catching alien races.

This is Prince Robot IV. That seriously is his name and yes, he does have an old timey television for a head.

And this pure unbridled imagination is why I love comic books so much. Since comic books seem to allow for that wild abandon with flights of fantasy that are sometimes hard to come by in other media. Essentially Saga reminds me why I love comics and I love Saga for it.

I could go on and on about how the conflict between science and magic is used to distinguish the two sides of the intergalactic war, or how organic the technology looks and how effective the magic is conveyed. I didn't discussed how funny the dialogue is or the wonderful dynamic between the characters or how there's a character called Lying Cat who dislikes it when people lies.

I should have spoken more about how beautiful the colouring and artwork is, or even how warm the lettering feels... but I think I'll just end with Saga reminds me why I love comics and I love Saga for it.


References:

Brian K. Vaughan Wikipedia page

Fiona Staples Wikipedia page

Saga (comic book) Wikipedia page

Graphic Books Best Sellers: Fiona Staples Talks About ‘Saga’


‘Saga’: Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples Bring a Stellar Sci-Fi Comic Into the World [Interview]


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