Earlier today, Eric Stephenson at Image Comics kindly flowed me along an Advance Reading Copy of the first issue of Brian K Vaughan (Y THE LAST MAN, LOST) and Fiona Staples’ new comics series, SAGA. Below, a section of the first issue’s cover, which got some idiot cheesecake painter all aerated because it’s apparently disgusting and “shock value” and The Reason Why Kids Don’t Like Comics No More:
Yes. Drawn Lady is drawn nursing Drawn Baby. Presumably the real thing reduces persons of delicate sensibilities to projectile vomiting. (He’s since removed his post because so many people shouted at him.)
And, of course, it’s not a comic for kids. Defining “kids” as, I dunno, under twelve. Because there’s childbirth and swearing and alien sex in it. None of which was new to me when I was twelve, and I didn’t even have the fucking internet, but whatever. That’s not what we’re here for. I’m just making the point that this is clearly a sf/f book for non-infants. It is, I think, a very good comic, and one that will prove something of a barometer for the maturity of the current commercial comics market.
First things first: this opening issue of SAGA is the first chapter of what will clearly be a very longform sf serial about war and politics, magic and science and love and sex. The clue is kind of in the title. Brian, an extremely gifted author, has written a clever and charming script, and Fiona Staples, whom I’ve previously seen very little by, is demonstrably a very intelligent artist who creates warm and characterful performances for her actors while spinning out perfectly weighted storytelling that puts me in mind of experts like Steve Dillon. It’s a little like listening to an orchestra tuning up and running through the early phrases of a big symphony, sounding the main themes and hinting at the complex beauty to come.
Romeo and Juliet up there are Marko and Alana, from either side of a war that has no good side. And what they did – having her umbilical gnawed off there – was something that apparently never should have happened. And it’s her story (or will be):
Because, you see, the book is shot through with panels like this, and lettering like this, as if from a children’s book. And that’s the baby’s narrative.
You can almost guarantee that someone or other will complain about one juxtaposition of elements or other. That the perfectly lovely children’s-book bits and the cherished violent bits should not be seen in the same place as baby-feeding and robot fucking. Or that the robot fucking is excellent and the character writing just gets in the way. Or that the whole thing is too slow and “decompressed,” or that the swearing distracts from the magical bits, or, I don’t know, babies disturb their wanking or something. Either people will recognise this as the opening notes of a rich and extended piece that contains much, as a novel should, or they are going to find a panoply of bad reasons to complain about it.
None of which feels right to talk about, in a way. I’ve talked about all these poisonous suppositions I have, instead of focussing on the work itself, which is bad form. But I want to be true to the feeling I had on closing the issue, which was, simply: god, what if the commercial comics market in 2012 might not support a novelistic longform serial written by Brian fucking Vaughan? As with much to do with comics lately, I would like to be wrong. Because I would like to read a lot more of SAGA.
It’s a terrific book, and another sign of the new resurgence at Image Comics. It is a wonderful thing to welcome Brian back to the medium, and a wonderful thing to discover the art of Fiona Staples.
SAGA #1 is released on 14 March 2012 from Image Comics. It will cost USD $2.99. You can contact your local comics shop and give them the order code JAN120485, if you want to arrange your copy in advance. Which I would recommend.