Friday, December 28, 2012

Vaughan/Staples' Saga, by Marc Runke

Saga Vol 1, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples
DISCLAIMER: This is even more than the works we did in class not a 'kids' comic. I would consider this a quite 'graphic' graphic novel, with ample nudity, a sex scene, and plenty of swearing and violence. That said, it is done in a way that highlights aspects of adult life. Worth a read if you're not easily offended.

1. Art Style
Saga I would consider to be done in something very close to traditional superhero comics style. Hard, black ink mix with pastels and brights to make a outlandish world that comes up somewhere between Star Wars, Oz, Wonderland, Narnia, Romeo and Juliet, and something else much seedier. It's not as artistically stylized as other works we looked at like such as Maus and Blankets, but it's also not in the area of ultrarealism of Road to Perdition. In some parts the lines used to shade clothing seem kind of loose and messy, but it doesn't hurt the style. The result is a sort of surrealist style where you don't question too much that the woman Alena has vestigial wings and the man Marko has horns, or that a line of alien robot princes otherwise look human except the televisions for heads, or that an alien bounty hunter named The Stalk has a woman's torso on a spider's legs ending in hands. I won't say you get used to it, but this a world where anything is possible, though it may very well be disturbing first.


2. Why Graphic Novel?
I don't think any other medium could make all this halfway convincing. Despite all the outlandish elements, this is really a story about a family. The father and mother are of warring races, army defectors, and the graphic novel is their tale of trying to escape with their newborn to a better life amongst the stars. Add elements of technology vs magic, weird alien species and planets, and you pretty quickly see why it has to be a graphic novel. It really couldn't come out of any other medium intact. As a movie the designs would be either absurd or disturbing, as a novel not bizarre and absurd enough. Add to that the narration and the parallel story of a bounty hunter named The Will, and you've got a pretty strange but somehow despite it all engaging story that I don't think could emerge anywhere else without being laughed out of the room. Instead, Saga turned out to be the most talked about new independent comic series of 2012.
Side Note: I don't think I would exactly classify this as a 'graphic novel', it more or less ends on a cliffhanger, and it very much feels like a collection of single issues meant to catch a reader up rather than act as a standalone thing.

3. Narrator
Okay, so the story is narrated by the infant daughter Hazel, as if looking back. This makes for a fun device, she can foreshadow events "But if he'ld known … he never would have left those tunnels" and similar types of phrases, comments on how it takes a village to raise a child, and other humorous anecdotes mix with the story's narrative through this very effectively. She is able to look back and explain elements of the setting of the story throughout this neatly and unobtrusively. You don't ever get dialog like you do on TV of characters recapping things everyone there should already know for the audience's benefit; her story is told entirely for the audience's benefit. The only time the narration completely stops is when the story shifts to follow The Will and The Stalk, oh, and Prince Robot IV, all characters who are hunting Alena, Marko, and Hazel (the child) down for different reasons.

4. Significant Panel
It's hard to say. There is a rather poignant, I think, page in Chapter 6 where The Stalk is shot, and while The Will reacts with extreme anger, after hanging up the phone, he just has a look of despair, and looks like he has buried his face in his hands in grief. This is an interesting twist in light of the fact that for much of this volume you think perhaps they are hated enemies, with no love lost between them, more or less hired guns. But this (which follows his attempt to free a child pleasure slave) really shows that he isn't just some heartless killer, but has certain moral qualms, and is mostly just weary of his crappy galaxy. As he says at one points "What kind of assholes would bring a kid into worlds like these."

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