10.5.13

Saga

Brian K. Vaughan doesn't really do short comics and the title of this new one suggests it's going to run on for a bit. Which is a pain from my P.O.V. because I've never liked big series (nope, never finished Sandman, Transmet, Invisibles, Preacher... none of that. Too bloody long, I've got another stack of shit to read and you should have made your point quicker.) Gave up on Y: The Last Man after about 11 issues, Ex Machina after 7-8. My favourite bit of Vaughan work is actually the Marvel stuff I encountered first: his Mystique half-run and the peerless, timeless Runaways – both quick, joyous, thrilling fixes.

So this new one. Well, Molly's back as a legless red ghost. Yorick is back as the author-surrogate. As far as I'm concerned, Buffy is written in as his beautiful, foul-mouthed wife (far more interesting than whatever they are doing to her in Season 9 I'm sure). And you get the usual deft construction of each issue. Vaughan pinches a trick done to death in TV shows and twists it slightly – rather than a narrator from beyond the grave, have the newborn baby guide the reader in white bubble-less crayon across the page. The space opera in the background is ripped pretty directly from Schismatrix, but not enough writers ransack the treasure trove Sterling laid down 25 years ago, so I salute you on that one sir. Adding the magic stuff is a cute bonus.

I'm sighing a bit (did you notice?) just because the book was bigged up by absolutely everyone when it came out, and it turns out to be yet another decent Brian K. Vaughan comic – sass, wise-cracks, and expertly-crafted cliffhanger pages. He's too good to write bad comics, but the question is whether he's good enough to astound you with amazing ones.

Saga is doing one thing differently. If comics are for kids then this one is definitely for 30-something fathers who grew up reading comics. Not one but three characters become dads in the first arc – the two 'villains' as well as the hero. The point of this maneuver is to humanise the representatives of both sides by the activation of universal paternal feelings (although in The Will's case, I found the change pretty unbelievable). Vaughan is saying that everyone has a family, even mercenaries and imperialists. We're all humans fighting our corner and standing up for those closest to us, whom we love.

Fiona Staples does scratchy foregrounds and blurry colour-drenched backgrounds, which makes the characters pop out just that little bit more. Some of the digital sheen reminded me of the obv fakeness of the colouring in The Dark Knight Stikes Again (not a diss, btw – I like that comic). The memory is triggered partly because Sextillion is Frank Miller satire taken to new absurd heights (if internet pornography isn't yet beyond satire). Anyway, the artwork accentuates the basic premise of the book: up against this shiny, wondrous universe people still curse, fight and fuck each other up like the semi-intelligent hairless apes we are.

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