Recent cable television adaptations from comic book and fantasy fare have demonstrated how there is more for TV makers to look at besides just superheroes. Take for example HBO hit Game of Thrones based on the George R. R. Martin fantasy novels and AMC’s The Walking Dead based on the Image Comic series of the same name. Before TV took them on these were comics and novels — book things. The comic industry has a lot of excellent material begging to be made into television, or even just be noticed. Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, a sci-fi story of star-crossed lovers and new parents, whose tenth issue comes out today, is at the top of the heap.
Saga already has a close relationship with TV. From its inception both the author and critics referred to the new series as Game of Thrones meets Star Wars meets Romeo and Juliet. Writer Brian K. Vaughan wrote for Lost (seasons three through five, so like, The Others through The Incident), and his previous critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic comic book series Y The Last Man is perpetually in development to become either a movie or a TV series. Saga is published by Image Comics which also puts out the wildly popular comic-turned-AMC original series The Walking Dead as well as Chew, a comic about a psychic FDA agent who solves crimes by eating things (including human bodies) currently in development as a 30-minute Showtime series.
First-time parents Mark and Alana are at the heart of Saga – he’s from one planet’s horned race and she’s from another planet’s race of winged creatures, sworn enemy races each trying to kill the other. Saga may be only one of the thousands of stories to adapt the Romeo and Juliet story, but from the beginning, Saga shines as a unique and original telling. The first issue begins with the birth of the star-crossed lovers’ child, whose sloppily scrawled narration pops up throughout the series adding a sort of heartwarming, quippy foresight to a warring galaxy populated with rich pulpy characters such as a tv-headed robot prince, a pair of interplanetary bounty hunters named The Will and The Stalk (The Will is just a really cool guy but The Stalk is a naked lady with spider legs), a sun-headed leader of a prostitute ring, and a giant cat who can sense and hiss about when anyone lies.
The characters embody Vaughan’s snark and humor, the same overtones evident in the responses to fan letters included at the end of every issue instead of the usual pages of mindless ads. Artist Fiona Staples brings Vaughan’s characters to life in beautiful illustrations and super hip costumes to boot. That Staples’ depiction of a totally NSFW big-balled naked giant is as artful as it is grotesque is a testament to her talent and style as an artist. The galaxy Vaughan and Staples have built together is bigger than sci-fi, proving that romance and a family dynamic each has a place in the fantasy genre of comics.
Perhaps the single valid complaint is that each issue of Saga is too short, with especially painful cliffhangers that pester readers not just the whole typical TV week but instead an entire month of (albeit minor) cliffhanger-induced agony. If a comic’s main problem is that its readers can’t wait to read it, though, rest assured that things could be way worse than that.
Saga issues 1-5 are available as a trade paperback and issues 6-10 are available as single comic books. All issues are lovely and absolutely worth checking out.