Saga – Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Earlier this week the comics world lost a true legend with the passing of Jean Giraud. The French artist Giraud, better known by his pseudonym Moebius, will be remembered for his comics, artistic designs, and the profound impact he had on a generation of creators across virtually every medium. Personally, it was his Heavy Metal fantasy-infused science fiction that resonated with me. Airtight Garage, for example, defied the current turn-anything-good-into-a-movie-or-video-game trend. It was beautiful and trippy and begged to be held and read.

Today, a few days after news of Giraud’s death, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples debuted the first issue of Saga (Image Comics, 2.99), a science & sorcery space opera that, interestingly enough, begins with a birth.

Vaughan is best known in the comics world for his seminal series Y: The Last Man, which concluded in 2008, as well as Ex Machina, which wrapped in 2010. He may have garnered more fame (and certainly a bigger paycheck) by being one of the writers on TV’s Lost. Artist Fiona Staples is a bit of a newcomer, although her work on Wildstorm’s North 40 has been impressive. Together the two have taken a story that may not seem altogether original — an illicit love affair between members of warring sides in a galactic feud on the run with their newborn child — and spun it through an acid-trip fantasy world worthy of Moebius himself. Robots having sex, feline lie detectors, rocketship forest treasure maps, and heartbreaking firearms… all in the first forty-four pages. I feel like the last time Vaughan attempted anything remotely close to the fantasy or sci-fi genre he made lions talk in the lukewarm Pride of Baghdad. This first chapter to what looks to be a beautiful, expansive story, then, a grand departure from anything Vaughan has done for either Marvel or DC, comes as a wonderful surprise.

Vaughan’s dialogue is as sharp as ever, and the depth of his Star Wars-inspired universe is encouraging. Staples’s art style is raw and fluid, blending real movement and emotion with open layouts and painted settings that are just surreal enough to be intriguing, but grounded enough to support the story.

I didn’t want to finish this book and think, “well, this series has potential.” Or… “I guess we’ll see where this is headed.” I wanted to be excited. Excited because Image Comics, twenty years after they rocked the industry by putting creators’ rights first, has held true to its founding ethos and positioned itself, once again, as a publisher that will put not just creators first, but comics first.

Add Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson to the list of high profile creators who will be working with Image in coming months. And add Saga to the list of comics that deserve to be read and held (either flopping around the center staples or in that backlit digital comics reader of yours) without ever being concerned with movie rights or licensing deals. And getting 44 pages of legitimate story — not just confusing prelude or elaborate exposition but an honest-to-god readable first chapter — for just three bones is too good to pass up.

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