Book Review

Saga, Compendium One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Genre | Sci-Fi and Fantasy Graphic Novel
Page #s | 1328
Publishing Date | August 2019

SAGA is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in a sexy, subversive drama for adults. This specially priced volume collects the first arc of the smash hit series The Onion A.V. Club calls “the emotional epic Hollywood wishes it could make.”

Goodreads

I read through the first nine volumes of Saga a few years ago, then bought the compendium that includes everything up to the graphic novel’s hiatus in 2018 at ECCC this year. My partner read through it for the first time while we were on vacation, and watching her fall in love with Lying Cat made me read over her shoulder and then…read it all again on my own!

Spanning years and introducing (and losing) a huge cast of characters, Vaughan and Staples have managed to create an utterly engaging and unique epic adventure with incredibly personal stakes. Saga is a story of family drama and the wars that intrude, whether galactic or personal. Sometimes we get a bounty hunter flying a spaceship away from a time-sucking galaxy baby, and sometimes we get a young family struggling to adjust to life after an unexpected miscarriage. This is a sci-fi and fantasy world that allows for, and honors, both.

The central characters here are Alana and Marko, former soldiers on opposite sides of a never-ending war who fall in love and have an impossible inter-species baby. They have to go into hiding and raise their child with the help of an unlikely cast of characters, and let me tell you, many of them will break your heart!

You’re never allowed to forget the stakes of what war entails, and although the book is fairly anti-war, it also engages with meaningful conversations about the impossibility of detaching fully from violence. Indeed, in one of the most emotional storylines of the early volumes, a bounty hunter kills sex traffickers in a way that I found most satisfying. Yet later this act of violence comes back to haunt him, because the cycle of violence, no matter how “necessary” or valorous, will always destroy.

My favorite thing about this graphic novel is the sheer creativity of the space species we find. Lying Cat is an obvious favorite, and nothing will match my delight when the television-headed robot royals turned out to have a king with a giant screen tv for a face. The chaos and creativity somehow just WORK, and this is a masterclass in science fiction and fantasy that runs on vibes rather than logical systems.

Hilarious, heartbreaking, and shockingly meaningful, Saga is an epic read that is, thankfully, still ongoing!

What Makes This Book Queer?

This is a blog for queer nerdy reads, and so far I’ve only mentioned a straight nuclear family. That giant cast of characters I mentioned includes a diverse array of queer characters, most notably gay reporters from a homophobic planet who heartbreakingly hide their relationship and sometimes perpetuate homophobia to protect themselves. There’s also a trans character who joins the story later whose experience explicitly parallels the little girl narrating the story in absolutely beautiful ways.

Who Do I Recommend This Book To?

Saga is an adult graphic novel with explicit scenes of violence and sex, but with that out of the way, literally everyone should read this. I’d especially give it to someone who is skeptical of graphic novels and the stories that are able to be told in this medium.

Check out our Queer Lil Library for more book recommendations and reviews!

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