The Saga Continues…

In 2012 an independent comic entered the scene, simply titled Saga. Which I discovered in 2014 – and it rocked my world….

Well, okay, nothing quite so dramatic, but it did jump to the very top of my Favorite Comics list right then and there, forcing a reluctant Superior Spider-Man to a close but still second position. So, what’s that all about?

Story

Alana and Marco are star-crossed lovers in more than one sense. Not only do they have to fight for and defend their love and their small family against all kinds of enemies, but they themselves come from different planets – planets which have been at war for generations.

From the moment their romance starts they have to keep it a secret, for by entering into their relationship they have mixed races, families and traditions – all of which during a time of war between their planets. As soon as they elope and have a baby girl, they have to be even more careful for it doesn’t take long before several people are after them, and most want them dead rather than alive.

 The challenges young parents face…

The first 18 issues, collected in three trade paperback volumes, take us on a gripping adventure, an epic ride that reminded me of Star Wars, Romeo & Juliette and even Farscape – for its grit and down-to-earth dialogue. The occasional narrator stringing the story together is Hazel, the aforementioned baby girl, always recognizable by a subtle but distinct lack of thought bubbles around her thoughts.

You should be warned though, this comic can be very explicit and has a 17+ only rating. Please take that seriously and do not leave it lying around where your young children can find it. (Also: don’t read it in the subway or your doctor’s waiting room…) For instance, there are some sexual scenes, there’s some graphic violence and horror elements, an F-bomb here and there, and now and again we witness intimate experiences like giving birth. Or losing a limb. (Which of the two is the scariest I leave entirely up to the reader to decide…)
Sometimes issues open with a splash page of such a scene, surprising the crap out of the unsuspecting reader. So there, consider yourselves warned.

No lack of blood & guts either…

Personally, I did not find this explicitness offensive or gratuitous, because I think it really fits the story well, a solid context is always provided and it simply shows us human (or in this case humanoid) life in all of its facets, taking into account the good, the bad and the ugly. The fact that there are also expressly implicit scenes, where the camera angle discretely looks away while the rest of a scene is left to the reader’s imagination, for me confirms that the occasional explicit scene is not uncalled for and adds to the rich tapestry of this space opera. I don’t know for sure but I also think the fact that the artist is a woman automatically makes me interpret the explicit scenes as non-lascivious or at the very least far less lewd. I know, ridiculous, but there you have it. Plus, most (though not all) of the sexual scenes are between married couples, or couples in serious relationships – which in this day and age could be considered refreshing. Nevertheless, if images of either violence, nudity, birth, blood or sexuality (hetero- and homo-) are something you’d rather avoid, you really should not read this comic.

All of that being said, the elements that cause the 17+ rating are definitely not the main plot device of the story. I was truly swept off of my feet by this comic, which I find touching, funny, exciting, refreshingly original and genuinely human. The art by Fiona Staples is exceptional, with beautiful colors and brilliantly rendered facial expressions. I truly hope she never ever leaves this book.

Writer Brian K. Vaughan knows how to tell a story in which you can really immerse yourself. It’s completely character-driven, with almost mundane character interactions against an engrossing, epic background of grand and mythic proportions, the combination of which I find riveting. Vaughan has invented a very rich tapestry of alien races and their respective societal structures, but no matter how alien they look, they all seem to have one thing in common – also the thing that makes this saga truly relatable to the reader: they all behave totally humanly.

Fascinatingly strange alien royalty

In doing so Vaughan has come up with a very smart way to explore different aspects of humanity. He shows us the entire spectrum of human behavior: from the amazingly good to the gruesomely sinful and evil, and everything in between. This makes for a captivating story with interesting characters and it challenges us to look into the mirror and ask ourselves: how truly alien are these aliens of the Saga story anyway, aren’t they really a lot like, I don’t know, me…?

Two aliens having a very human conversation

Vaughan also runs a hilarious Letters section in the back of the comic by the way, so whatever you do, do not skip that.

Buy/Borrow/Skip

Although I am truly, head-over-heels in love with this comic, I do recommend you borrow it first; in other words, start slowly with just issue 1, mostly to test whether you want to deal with some of its explicitness.

As for me personally, I give it a solid 10/10 for quality, and 9/10 for relevance!

After a short hiatus Vol. 4 of Saga continued with issue #19; issue #23 was released September 24, 2014. Saga is creator-owned and published monthly by Image Comics.

Don’t forget, there’s a comment section, so… share a thought! 😉

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Graphic novel: Ravine – high fantasy epic adventure!

When I discovered artist Stjepan Sejic while browsing through his deviantart page last year, I immediately fell in love with his artwork. At the time he was working on graphic novel Ravine, together with well-known and critically acclaimed comic writer Ron Marz.

By the way, here’s a video of the artist at work, click here if you can’t see it:

As soon as – finally! – Ravine was published, I bought it, read it without taking any breaks in between and then couldn’t wait for part 2! Oh, that cliffhanger…

Anyway, as I wrote on my About page, I sometimes contribute to the Spiritblade Underground podcast, and although I didn’t write a review this time, I did record an audio version – talking as I thumbed through the graphic novel’s gorgeous pages.

So, here’s episode 268 of the Spiritblade Underground podcast – go to 5:46 minutes for my

Ravine review! (Just click on them bold words ;-))

If you like the Spiritblade Underground podcast, you can subscribe via iTunes or go to The Spirit Blade Underground Podcast Home Page. To summarize from my podcast review: I scored Ravine with 9/10 for Quality and a Relevance score of 7/10!

Here’s where the artist offers the first twenty pages or so for free: Sejic’s deviantart pages. And he’s doing the same for issue 2 and will be doing so for #3 as well! Surely that wets the appetite 🙂

Edit Febr. 2014: The second volume is now available as well!

Thank you so much for listening to my Ravine review, and of course now I’m curious: Will you check out Ravine? And if so, what scores would you give it?