Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art & Cover by Fiona Staples
Saga is the story of two soldiers from opposite sides of a war that fall in love and bring a child into a very dangerous universe. Alana is from Landfall, the largest planet in the galaxy, and Marko is from Wreath, Landfall's only moon. Landfall and Wreath have been at war as long as anyone can remember, and the war has spread across the entire galaxy. Marko claimed to be a conscientious objector to the war, and surrendered to Landfall forces on the planet Cleave. Alana was stationed there, and assigned to guard Marko. Twelve hours later, they disappeared together.
The story opens with the couple still on Cleave, as Alana is giving birth to their child. The couple had thought they had found a safe place to hide, but only minutes after their daughter is born, a military group of Alana's people are there. The owner of their hideout sold them out. Just as Alana is about to be arrested, a small group of magical beings from Marko's world materialize. A battle of military weapons versus magical powers ensues. At the end, only Alana, Marko, and the baby are alive. The monkey like being who sold them out is dying, and he tells them to hide from the authorities in the sewers. He gives them a map before he dies, saying it won't quite make up for his betrayal, but it's all he can do for them now.
The scene shifts to Landfall, and we meet Prince Robot IV, who has a human body and something resembling a computer monitor for a head. He is enjoying some private time with a lady friend, when he is told he has a guest. This is Gale, a special agent from Secret Intelligence, who has wings like Alana. Gale tells IV all about the couple and their history, including the slaughter of the unit sent to arrest Alana. IV's father, the King of the Robot Kingdom, has sent Gale to "deal with the situation".
Alana and Marko are making their way through the sewers. Alana declares she will be ready for the next ambush, and produces a weapon. Marko is horrified, and even though Alana tells him it is non-lethal, he is not placated. As they bicker, Alana examines the map and is excited to see there is a place called the Rocketship Forest. Though Marko is doubtful - even if there are rocketships there, he feels there's nowhere safe in the galaxy to go to - he agrees to head there. Alana wants to show their girl the universe, and Marko cannot say no to her.
On Wreath, we meet a bounty hunter, The Will, and his companion, a lying cat, who can tell when someone is being dishonest. The Will is hired by a woman named Vez to find and kill Marko and Alana, and bring the baby, alive and unharmed, to her.
Back on Cleave, Alana and Marko find that the war between their people is raging where they think the Rocketship Forest should be. Alana despairs momentarily but Marko boosts her spirits by suggesting there may be an alternate way to get to a rocketship. As the story reaches a conclusion, the baby does some narration from an unknown time in the future. She reveals her name is Hazel, and thanks to her parents she gets to grow old, though not everyone does.
The story continues to flow along at a nice clip. Izabel is the star here, and she gives the couple and the reader hope that Alana, Marko, and Hazel may actually get off Cleave. Nice cliffhanger; Marko, you might be dying, but I think you got some 'splainin' to do! Staples' art continues to be excellent.
Written by Brian K. Vaughan, Art & Cover by Fiona Staples
The Will arrives on Sextillion, and is greeted by two hostesses, who tell him he must leave his weapons and his pet on his ship. He protests that Lying Cat is his partner, not a pet, but to no avail. Meanwhile, on Cleave, Marko finally recovers from his injuries. He awakens, startled by Izabel and confused by the current situation. Alana promises to explain everything ... once he explains about Gwendolyn.
Back on Sextillion, The Will is taking a tour of the place. There are all manners of permissive entertainment and companionship pleasures offered, but he seems non-plussed. He is approached by a man who says he can tell what The Will needs - a slave girl.
Alana brings Marko up to speed on Izabel, and we learn she disappears at sunrise, and is only around at night. Marko explains that Gwendolyn was not his wife, "just" his fiancee. They were high school sweethearts. She didn't have to go to war as her father was a high ranking politician. Marko was gung-ho to see action, until he actually experienced it. He tried to explain this to Gwendolyn but she only encouraged him to "fight the good fight"; he realized he had changed while she stayed the same, and it would never work between them. He tries to convince Alana that Gwendolyn is in the past for him.
On Sextillion, the pimp takes The Will into a room called the Inner Core. He explains the pleasure planet's most valuable employees are kept here; most are refugees from war-torn planets. He tells the slave girl to come out and the Will cannot believe his eyes. The slave girl is six years old, and says she "will do anything you want". The Will replies "then close your eyes". He grabs the pimp, who protests he doesn't mind watching, but they'll have to talk about him participating. Actually, he doesn't even get the whole sentence out before The Will literally squashes his head like an overripe melon, with his bare hands. The girl hugs him and says "thank you".
On Cleave, Alana tells Marko to grab their things because trouble is coming and they have to go, right now. He says he doesn't see or hear anything, and she explains that's because of cloaking technology. It's the same type of ship she once served on, as it appears above their heads. Alana says maybe she can bluff them and say Marko is her prisoner. Marko says they have only one choice, "the last one ... we fight".
Written by Brian K. Vaughan, Art & Cover by Fiona Staples
Prince Robot IV gets a call from his wife, the Princess, who tells him she is pregnant. However, the king (his father) has decreed that IV cannot return home until his mission is complete, not even for the birth. A soldier comes in, and tells IV a scout ship to the east has just spotted something.
A unit of six Landfall soldiers advance toward Alana and Marko. They think she is his prisoner until they get a call declaring they both are the enemy. Marko, with his sword drawn, tells them to lay down their weapons, but instead they open fire. Alana is hit and falls, and Marko goes into a berzerker rage. He cuts off one soldier's hand, slice off part of another's wings, and brutalizes the rest, until Alana (who was unhurt) stops him with her stun gun. He then calms down.
On Sextillion, The Will is trying to leave with the slave girl, when he is confronted by Mama Sun. She is the slave girl's owner, and is holding a gun to Lying Cat's head. She tells The Will that if he tries to leave with the child, an elixir that was already in her system will cause her arteries to harden until the child experiences a painful death. He offers to buy her to get her off the planet, but it's more than he has. He needs to think.
Back on Cleave, Alana and Marko have commandeered the ship belonging to the Landfallian soldiers. Marko worries they will have to pay a price for what he did to the soldiers, but Alana is unworried, as he didn't kill them, and even if someone comes after them for it, they'll have to get in line. Their conversation is interrupted by a first - Hazel's first laugh. They forget their troubles for the moment.
On the ground, The Stalk shows up and discovers the wounded soldiers Marko and Alana left tied up. Just then, The Will calls her, offering to come help with the contract. She tells him she no longer needs him, but he pleads with her that he needs money desperately. Before she can respond, Prince Robot IV arrives with a soldier accompanying him and demands that she not move a muscle. The Stalk tries to protest that she didn't attack anybody, as the soldier with IV yells out that she's reaching for a weapon. IV responds immediately by morphing his arm into a cannon and blasting a hole through The Stalk!
We've had a number of hints that Marko hasn't always been a pacifist, and now we see why. When his family is threatened, his peaceful views are no match for his darker nature. Very brutal, but not at all gratutitous, as we get more of a sense on who Marko is. And almost immediately, he regrets his actions, but Alana's reaction is very different - no qualms on her part.
Prince Robot IV had already been a bit obsessive with, and depressed by, his mission to kill the couple. Now it is made worse, as he won't get to see his family, and may miss the birth of his child, until the mission is completed.
The Will is a bounty hunter, and a killer, but his own moral code won't allow him to leave a six year old girl on the brothel planet. Like Marko and IV, he's a bundle of inner conflict and contrasts.
IV blowing a hole through The Stalk was a shocker. This doesn't feel like the end of her story.
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art & Cover by Fiona Staples
Alana and Marko arrive where their map tells them the Rocketship Forest should be, but they are dismayed that it's now a wasteland, everything there now has been slashed and burned away. Izabel reappears, and tells them all is not what it appears to be. The true nature of the place is hidden from view and she reveals a rocketship to hem. It is enormous and looks like an old, gnarled tree.
Elsewhere, not realizing The Stalk is dead, The Will explains why is calling. Prince Robot IV takes the phone and informs The Will what happened. IV more or less apologizes for the inconvenience of killing The Stalk and asks if he would like her personal effects forwarded to Landfall. The Will responds that he will murder IV, after he murders everything he ever loved. He ends the call, and is overcome with grief.
Izabel tells Alana and Marko they must sacrifice something of value to be worthy of entry to the rocketship. Marko takes his sword, which has been in his family for generations, and breaks it over his knee. They are allowed inside, and are surprised that the ship has homey features - a foyer, an attic, etc. They near a noise and are worried, but Izabel tells them that is the ship igniting; when Alana asks who is steering, Izabel says "you don't steer a rocketship, you ride it". When asked where to, she responds that the ship goes where it wants but is open to suggestions. Alana wants to go to Quietus, an old lighthouse planet, so Hazel can meet the smartest person in the universe.
Landfall Secret Intelligence Agent Gale (from issue #1) calls IV, asking what happened with The Stalk. He is shocked to learn Marko's people sent her after the couple or even knew about the situation. Gale tells him not to let them leave Cleave alive, but IV surmises they have already left. He says they are more formidable than was thought, that Marko is a force of nature, and Alana is even more dangerous. IV deduces from the books Alana read she would head for Quietus, as that's where the author is from.
Back on the ship, Alana emerges from a shower just as the insides of the vessel go dark. Izabel says the ship is detecting magic incoming. Marko realizes what is happening and who is coming, saying "they" were summoned when he broke the blade, and he is clearly worried by this. Two beings in armor materialize, carrying weapons. One of them hits Izabel with a bolt of force from their hand, and Alana responds with her raygun. Marko gets everyone to calm down by holding Hazel up in the air; Hazel in the future narrates that these are her grandparents, and this was when they came to live with them.
So we have come to the end of Saga Volume One. What a wild ride: star-crossed lovers and their newborn baby girl, who gives occasional narration from sometime in the future; human looking robots with computer monitors for heads, magic, ghosts, bounty hunters, and a Lying Cat, and in the background, war touching every part of the galaxy. It evokes Star Wars, and it may be like a Shakespearian tragedy, but then again there's lots of light-hearted moments.
The storytelling has a brisk pace, and in a brilliant move, Vaughan reveals a little more about the members of our cast each issue. There's no big exposition dumps, no one is sitting around drinking lattes and telling us their entire story, things happen in this book. The quiet moments matter. In every scene, we learn more background of the characters, but it feels like we've just scratched the surface.
Staples' art is also absolutely key to the storytelling. She can do bleak and bright equally well. She excels with facial expressions. A lot is packed into each panel.
I have to give this series my highest recommendation. For anyone interested, Volumes Two and Three have already been released.
I couldn't agree more I've read Vol 1 and 2 and have vol 3. I wouldn't change a thing!
Even though I didn't say much over the course of the discussion, great job, John! This has been one of my favorite series since its debut, and it is truly rare to find something like that these days.
I read Saga Vol 2 last night. I would be up for a discussion of it, but I'd like to see someone else lead it, and give a different perspective.
I dig this series so much, and for many of the reasons mentioned in this discussion. I am drawn to character-centric stories (as an aside, I loved Y because Yorick started out as such a yutz. It truly was the story of the last boy on earth becoming the last man on earth). Saga could come off as a poor Romeo and Juliet, but each character is three-dimensional and very specific. Plus, I love that Hazel narrates from the future. No matter what happens to the characters we love, we know she will be okay (at least in some form or another)