Brian K. Vaughan creates some of the roundest, most charismatic characters in comics. That’s his trademark. His bread-and-butter. With “Y: the Last Man,” we were lured by the apocalyptic premise, but we stuck around for the long-haul because of the down-to-earth characters. With “Saga,” the inverse is true about the premise: having read the first six issues, I can’t readily explain what the story is about: I can only communicate the drift. And speaking plainly, the setup is not worth talking about. It’s ‘this’ meets ‘that.’ In other words, its a pastiche, and not an overly clever one at that.
The male and female leads, Marko and Alana, are stand-ins for Romeo and Juliet, except they’re human-animal hybrids or aliens or fantastical creatures, one has ram horns adorning his skull, and the other has little lepidoptera wings. The setting is a foreign planet, in a galaxy far, far away. You feel me? And the story is drably narrated, in the past tense, by Hazel, the child of our young protagonists (presumably, the child survives the ordeal her parents put her through in their breathless attempt to escape the trappings of their socio-political state). Ah, young and modern love…but with a child? Is that the hook? We’re privy to diaper changes, breast feeding, burping, and did I fail to mention the opening salvo, where Alana nearly defecates attempting to deliver the child? Again, not overly clever, but a quirky change of pace from traditional comic book preludes.
I only hope Vaughan’s pedantry doesn’t get the best of him this time, because most of us don’t read comic books for lectures on child-rearing (I didn’t read the baby books for a reason, okay!). A change of pace is one thing; soggy amniotic pages are another. I’ll trust myself in Vaughan’s hands for now. His exotic, chimerical retinue rewards my patience alone: Prince Robot IV, a humanoid with a television set for head, The Will and The Stalk, two extraordinary bounty hunters hired to track Marko and Alana, Izabel, the ghost of teenage girl with her entrails hanging out—these unforgettable characters are endowments from an extraordinary imagination. “Saga” is choice sci-fi/fantasy pulp. It cultivates genuine surprise where we expect expectation to whirl us around and are astonished at nothing.