The Saga Re-Read: Saga #1 and Foreshadowing

The lewd-yet-mundane opening panel is an ocassional Saga tradition that started way back in issue #1.

By Zack Quaintance & Cory Webber — Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples recently announced a 1-year (minimum) intermission for Saga, our favorite ongoing comic here at Batman’s Bookcase. To be blunt, we’re ambivalent. We know artistic inspiration is fleeting and intangible, and that one cannot always just will it into being. Great work is often done by creators who are rested, happy, unstressed. Basically, we know even massive talents like Vaughan and Staples need a break.

That’s our logical stance. Emotionally, however, we’re bummed to go an entire year without Saga, and so we’ve decided to occupy ourselves by undertaking an idea we saw on Twitter: during Saga’s 52-week (minimum) intermission, we’re going to re-read the series in its entirety, one issue per week.

We’re going to talk about what happens (briefly), share observations made with the benefit of hindsight, and wrap up each installment with impressions from a first-time reader. We’re going to keep spoilers to a minimum to make this accessible for veteran Saga fans and newbies alike. And we’re going to invite you all to join us—like a massive and amorphous online book club, without the part where everyone meets to talk about it for a few minutes before devolving into unrelated conversations and drinking lots of wine.

Anyway...there you have it. Check back each Friday for the next year (gulp!) as we discuss our re-read of Saga.

Saga #1

Here’s the official preview text for Saga #1:

A rare scene of the two species in combat. The war the series is so heavily informed by is afterward waged mostly off panel.

Y: THE LAST MAN writer BRIAN K. VAUGHAN returns to comics with red-hot artist FIONA STAPLES for an all-new ONGOING SERIES!  Star Wars-style action collides with Game of Thrones-esque drama in this original sci-fi/fantasy epic for mature readers, as new parents Marko and Alana risk everything to raise their child amidst a never-ending galactic war. The adventure begins in a spectacular DOUBLE-SIZED FIRST ISSUE, with forty-four pages of story with no ads for the regular price of just $2.99!

That’s a decent description, although the Game of Thrones comp is off...there is no dynastic politicking to be found here. Saga #1 definitely has hints of Star Wars, though, including but not limited to this killer line: It was a time of war. Isn’t it always.

This is overall a great debut, one that orients the reader in the world of Saga and also introduces a number of excellent character designs, including Lying Cat, Prince Robot IV, and the utterly fantastical chaos our young family encounters at the Uncanny Bridge. What this debut perhaps does best from a script perspective is establish the relatable dynamic between Marko and Alana, our two central lovers. In fact, a better solicitation might have been Star Wars-style action collides with Romeo and Juliet-esque drama if the star-crossed lovers had managed to have a child…but in 2012 (same as today), George R.R. Martin was a far more relatable reference than ol’ Willy Shakespeare. Sigh. 

This foreshadowing is yet to come to fruition, although it is established a few panels later that Alana carries a non-lethal weapon called a heart breaker...

Veteran and First-Timer Perspectives

A Re-Reader’s Perspective by Zack: What’s most interesting to me is the foreshadowing. So much plot is hinted at by via quick lines. I won’t go into detail (spoiler free, after all), but for re-readers I don’t have to. In terms of craft, Vaughan’s preference for exploring family dynamics versus war is evident. Staples art, meanwhile, is noticeably rougher—in everything from colors to linework—but her ambitious and unique designs are here from the start. Last, I’ll just note that a Saga tradition—the lewd-yet-mundane first panel—is the perfect place for our story to start.

Veteran readers who are all caught up show also checkout Why Saga #54 Hurts So Bad.


A New Reader’s Perspective by Cory Webber:  Wow! Okay, I get why I’ve heard fans hyping this book since I started reading comics four years ago. First, Saga #1’s world building is uncanny. After just one issue, I feel like I’ve been living in their same universe. Also, Vaughan writes these characters as if they’re real people he’s known for a lifetime. They are flawed, emotional beings—none more so than Alana and Marko—and I find myself sympathetic toward almost all of them (hey, I’m just not sure about The Will and Lying Cat right now, okay?!). Out of the gate, Alana is my favorite...she is witty, feisty, sardonic. I did, however, have to re-read this book a couple of times due to its length. This issue is dense, yet it’s not overly complicated, nor is it filled with any inconsequential fluff. It’s just so detailed that you really have to pay attention. All this, and I haven’t even mentioned Staples’ art. She brings an enormous amount of emotion and humanity to her characters through their faces and postures. Even, surprisingly, for characters that have TVs for heads. I’m excited to finally be starting this journey, and can’t wait to see where this goes...even though I hear the final issue before the hiatus is a real heartbreaking note to end on.

Cory’s New Reader Prediction: The last page shows Alana and Marko with the baby, along with a narration from an older Hazel that makes me think one of them won't make it past #54. There’s no way Alana will be killed off, so I’m guessing Marko kicks the bucket along the way. I sure hope I am wrong!

Thanks for joining us, and be sure to check back next Friday for a discussion of Saga #2!

Cory Webber is a work-from-home entrepreneur who also reads and reviews comics for fun. Find him on Twitter at @CeeEssWebber. He lives in Lehi, Utah with his wife and three sons.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.