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Do You Believe the Hype? (A Review Of The Series Saga)

            Do not adjust that dial. This is indeed the man, the myth, the mystery, the ghost, the legend, himself; this is The Black Ness Monster finally returning from his much bemoaned radio silence. What’s that? You didn’t notice I was gone? Well, I was. But I am back now. And I am here to discuss America’s most pressing issue! No, no, no, not the NSA… Saga… I’m here to discuss Saga. Anyway, on with the actual blog. I’m told the hook is killer.

What’s the deal with Saga? (see, killer)

At the time of writing this, the series has won a bazillion awards, including a butt ton of Eisners (actual figures), has sold stacks on stacks on stacks of single issues and trade paper backs (also actual figures), has over eighty gazillion readers (this number may be fabricated).

But why?

Even BKV seems taken aback by the success. “So far, the biggest surprise about “Saga” is how nice people have been about the series. This is a pretty *expletive deleted* out-there book, and I never imagined it would appeal to anything more than a small fringe audience of like-minded weirdos.” (You can read the expletive as well as the interview here.  And he’s right. This book is out there, way out there, in outer space even.

This a book that combines the tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet and the sci-fi scope of Star Wars. It’s a book that features weirdly inventive characters like the Lying Cat (a cat who detects lies … it’s pretty self-explanatory) and weirdly weird characters like a giant naked triclops. Everything about this book screams cult favorite or niche-interest kind of book, yet the praise continues to roll in from across the board.

 

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Perhaps, it’s in a specificity of weirdness that Saga finds its broader audience. Perhaps, it’s that Brian K. Vaughan’s other titles like Y: the Last Man and Runaways have made him a proven commodity. Perhaps, it’s Fiona Staples’ fantastic and imaginative artwork that draws in readers.

For me, and maybe it’s just me, but for me, Saga’s success comes from its characters, characters that Staples brings to life issue after issue, characters that somehow don’t get lost in their strange environment. That’s what makes any great piece of art great. I don’t know exactly where Alana and Marko (Saga’s main protagonists) will end up and what they will do when they arrive. I do know, however, how they might react and how they might feel. I have a sense of who they are, and that comes from a careful construction on the part of BKV. All the crazy stuff around them is just a bonus. What really makes the series click is scenes like meeting Marko’s parents or seeing The Will (the bounty hunter in pursuit of the story’s star-crossed lover) get invested in the life of slave girl.

 

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As I sit here, typing this, I can’t help but think there’s got to be something wrong with the series. The blog up to here has been nothing but praise and jokes placed in parentheticals. And if I have to poke holes in everyone’s favorite comic book, because I’m bitter and cynical and sad and we can’t have nice things, damn it, I could say that I’m not sure all of Saga’s disparate parts come together. I’m not the first one to say that Saga is part Shakespearean tragedy and part sci-fi epic. Others have even thrown Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones into the mix. These are lofty comparisons and very different elements. If Saga were a stew and these were the ingredients, it’d be a spaghetti, peanut butter, and peach stew. But for the most part, BKV is able to tastefully blend his strange ingredients and the story isn’t done yet. Who knows how all these elements come together? I’m not even sure Fiona and Brian know yet.

Now, it’ll be interesting to see if Saga sticks the landing whenever the series comes to a close, but I hope that isn’t for quite some time. I want to see how the story ends, but I don’t want to see it end.

Surely, you know the feeling.

 

~ The Black Ness Monster ~

About The Black Ness Monster

Favorite Comics: Sandman, Y: the Last Man, Scott Pilgrim, The Goon

Defining Quote: "Oh Captain, My Captain!" -Walt Whitman" -Robin Williams" -A Bunch of Kids on Some Desks

2 comments

  1. Other than a mild objection to the use of “butt ton” as a measurement, I enjoyed this article. I will probably never read the series, having no desire to have the image of a nekked triclops emblazoned on my retinas, but I appreciate creativity and quirkiness when it is done well, and I suppose that’s what makes this crazy stew work. When the comparisons range from Romeo and Juliet to LOTR, (although LOTR has elements of R & J in there) that signals to me a unique work that can’t quite be defined. Keep on truckin’ BNM.

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