For a lot of newbies out there, getting into comics is scary. Comic book shops have historically been dens of comfort for nerds, and because the guys who are into comics will spend good money there, it is those guys who have been there since time immemorial that are catered to, even though the face of comics is changing. Women have always been interested in and participating in the production of comics, but because for a long time that participation and fandom was quieter than then men’s, it became this boys club that it’s stereotypically seen as today. And yet, I have these memories of being a preteen, and wandering into a comic book shop because I was really interested in buying the latest of issue of Archie during the infamous “Love Showdown” story line. Later in college, I remember sending away for the complete set of Liberty Meadows – a daily strip that I’d loved in high school, which had been collected into a softcover format, and had the conclusion of the long-running story line that never quite appeared in the newspaper (if I’m remembering correctly). Right after I finished grad school, I chaperoned a bunch of teenagers on a church trip to New York City, and I took a gaggle of boys to Midtown Comics, where I bought (along with them), the Watchmen graphic novel.
And around that same time, a former coworker of mine (who is now a big deal author) tried to get me into comics. He offered to buy them for me if I would go into a shop, but it scared me. I’d been in to one years before, and the guys there were such gatekeepers that it made it awful. So instead I borrowed volumes from the library because (what shouldn’t be) surprisingly, that’s a good place to get older stories, and to read comics for cheap. I made my way through the Bone omnibus (his favorite from years ago), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, some of the seminal Batman stories, and a few others. He lent me volumes of Fable, and I found Y: The Last Man. I was hooked, but I still didn’t want to go into a comic book shop. Enter Comixology – an online comic book store and app that makes reading digital comics easy. And right around the time I discovered Comixology, I discovered Saga, which was being widely acclaimed as incredible.
Saga is written by Brian K Vaughan and drawn by Fiona Staples. It is at its core a love story between Alana and Marko, who are are on two sides of an epic war, and who fell in love despite it all. Her people are more technologically advanced and have wings. His people use magic and have horns Their love is forbidden, taboo, whatever you want to call it. So they run away together, and the first issue introduces us to them as Alana gives birth. It’s pretty terrific.
The artwork is amazing and beautiful. The storyline is simultaneously bizarre and fresh, and yet familiar and relatable. This is a world of science magic – there’s a tree rocket and magical translator jewels. A race of robots with TVs for heads and humanoid bodies. But it’s also a world that feels very real, where people are complicated, there are betrayals of trust, drug use, and every incarnation of person you could imagine. The character design is so creative and the artistic style so unique that you can’t help but fall in love. It’s so smart – I was reading one of the more recent issues and came across this quote and was flabbergasted: “Anyone who thinks one book has all the answers hasn’t read enough books.” Yes. Yes. YES!
I could go on. I could talk about all the spoilers here, but I won’t because right now I don’t want to ruin it for any of the newbies out there. It’s a beautiful story that deserves to be experienced in a pure and untouched way on your first encounter. And you should read it. Volume 6 (which collects issues 31-36) comes out on June 29, and a new self-contained story arc begins at the end of August when issue 37 is released! So you’ve got a whole summer to catch up on this wonderful world and to become as obsessed as I am. There is a lot of adult content (naked people, sex, violence, drug use, etc.), but nothing that would be out of the ordinary on HBO, so unless you’re a complete prude, you’ll be ok.
But guys – are you reading this series? Please say you are. I want to talk to more people about it, and while I know I’m definitely not the only person in the world reading the series (it sells VERY well), I just want to talk to someone and gush about my love for world that BKV and Fiona Staples have gifted us with. Who out there has read it? Or is now intrigued?