SAGA Volume 3: This series is so addictive!

Reposting to include Rebecca’s new review.

SAGA Volume 3, Issues 13-18 by Brian K. Vaughan (author) & Fiona Staples (illustrator)

SAGA VOLUME THREEThis highly original space opera romance is incredibly popular, and for good reason. Anyone who has read Saga Vols 1 & 2 will undoubtedly be fans of star-crossed lovers Alana & Marko, who come from opposing sides of a galactic war, Marko’s sharp-tongued mother Klara, freelancer assassin The Will and his lie-detecting cat, and Marko’s ex-fiance Gwendolyn. Not to mention the difficult-to-hate Prince Robot IV and all the other bizarre creations of Vaughan and Staples. The authors have continued to breath life into their fresh, genre-bending blend of space opera, romance, family drama, and chase amid a galactic war tale with an amazingly effortless sense of humor. What I like most about this series is their willingness to go off on weird story tangents without losing the momentum of the larger story.

Without spoiling details from the previous volumes, Saga Vol 3 opens with Marko, Alana, and Kiara on the planet Quietus, where they have sought advice from their favorite hack romance writer, D. Oswald Heist. Once again, we’re in a bizarro mash-up of the far future and the contemporary world. What makes all the weird anachronisms of Saga so interesting is that they somehow fit into the overall storyline. This is neither an allegory of our world nor an escapist fantasy – it seamlessly blends space opera with a domestic drama and commentary on family, relationships, the horrors of war, and still manages to be an action-packed and violent adventure.

Once again, one of my favorite aspects of the story is that it is narrated by the unseen adult version Hazel, Marko and Alana’s daughter. Her ironic narration of her parents’ struggles to survive is filled with empathy and affection. What other comic shows us domestic scenes like this amid a life-and-death flight from assassins and killer robots?

It makes us care about the characters and also deliciously teases us about what the story holds in the future. I could see this series going for many volumes without losing its appeal, gradually filling in story details and continuing to introduce fascinating and creepy characters depicted brilliantly by artist Fiona Staples. Oftentimes a character appears just for one or two pages. It seems like Vaughan and Staples have endless inspiration to draw from.

Two new characters I would never have expected are a pair of paparazzi journalists named Upsher and Doff. They are hot on the trail of Marko and Alana. They suspect this is not just an abduction, and want to dig up clues as to whether the two are lovers fleeing together willingly. They approach a typical Southern California-like suburban house to interview someone close to Alana.

Saga_V3_2

Volume 3 is interesting for slowing down the pace and focusing even more on the personal relationships of the characters. It shows the confidence of the Vaughan and Staples that fans are now fully invested in this story and want to know more about what makes the protagonists tick. There are many moments of brilliant dialogue that you just wouldn’t imagine happening in a space opera or galactic pursuit. But that doesn’t mean this is just a contemporary drama dressed up in SF imagery. The galactic war milieu is very detailed, but in much more strange and whimsical ways than what we’re used to. And there are still the sudden bursts of horrific and unexpected violence that will startle you. In addition, Vaughan definitely strays into Game of Thrones territory with his willingness to injure or kill off major characters without warning. It snaps you back to the reality of the situation. It also suggests that there will always be a supply of quirky and strange people and creatures to keep us turning the pages. So prepare for a wild ride in the closing chapters!

This series is so addictive that you will have to slow yourself down or find that you finish an entire volume in just one or two sittings. Fortunately Staples artwork and Vaughan’s dialogue are good enough to make it worth multiple re-reads or just flipping through favorite scenes. I am fairly confident they can maintain this as long as the series runs. Saga is a wonderful adult comic epic that fans have fallen in love with. Keep it coming!

~Stuart Starosta


The third part of Brian K. Vaughan‘s space opera sees the small family of Alana, Marko, baby Hazel, grandmother Klara and ghostly babysitter Izabel, still outrunning enemy forces out to assassinate them. Why? Because Alana and Marko are soldiers from two different sides of an intergalactic war, who fell in love and had a child together. Now they’re searching for sanctuary in a galaxy that’s torn apart.

Saga_V3_1

We also follow several of the bounty hunters on their tail: The Will, who has teamed up with Marko’s ex-fiancée Gwendolyn only to get distracted by the plight of a young slave girl, Prince Robot IV, an aristocratic television-headed android who is desperate to return home to his wife and unborn child, and (introduced in this volume) two aquatic journalists who gradually start to uncover the scandal behind the missing soldiers.

As ever, Vaughan’s twisty story is accompanied by Fiona Staples’s artwork, which brings all the characters and locales to life. The strangeness of an alien world can only really be captured in images, and Staples not only manages the nuances of a human being’s facial expressions, but the weird and wonderful lifeforms that surround them, whether it’s a giant turquoise hairless cat, a shape-shifting pink ghost with no legs, or a cyclopean hermit-novelist who lives in a lighthouse. I can guarantee there are at least three things you’ve never seen before in any one volume of Saga.

Vaughan delves deeply into themes of war, love, sacrifice, family, grief and loyalty – all the heavy stuff without any trace of sentimentality or mawkishness. In these comics characters will die (often painfully), people will hurt each other (physically or emotionally) and war comes at a hefty price. Vaughan doesn’t sugar-coat anything, and even our star-crossed lovers, who abandoned their own people to be together, have their fair share of disagreements and squabbles.

It’s just a shame I’m racing through these volumes so quickly – once I catch up, I know I’m in for a long wait until the next instalment.

~Rebecca Fisher


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STUART STAROSTA, on our staff from March 2015 to November 2018, is a lifelong SFF reader who makes his living reviewing English translations of Japanese equity research. Despite growing up in beautiful Hawaii, he spent most of his time reading as many SFF books as possible. After getting an MA in Japanese-English translation in Monterey, CA, he lived in Tokyo, Japan for about 15 years before moving to London in 2017 with his wife, daughter, and dog named Lani. Stuart's reading goal is to read as many classic SF novels and Hugo/Nebula winners as possible, David Pringle's 100 Best SF and 100 Best Fantasy Novels, along with newer books & series that are too highly-praised to be ignored. His favorite authors include Philip K Dick, China Mieville, Iain M. Banks, N.K. Jemisin, J.G. Ballard, Lucius Shepard, Neal Stephenson, Kurt Vonnegut, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, Ursula K. LeGuin, Guy Gavriel Kay, Arthur C. Clarke, H.G. Wells, Olaf Stapledon, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mervyn Peake, etc.

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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2 comments

  1. I loved the used of Heist’s romance novel (and later a “reality” entertainment show) to deepen and layer the story-telling in this series. It is quite wonderful.

  2. Absolutely. There are very few stories that continue to surprise and delight me, and this is one of them. I feel like Vaughan and Staples are completely unconstrained by genre conventions (and good taste, sometimes!), which is just so invigorating.

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