Saga #1 (Image Comics)

Saga is one of the more interesting and, yes, even exciting new comics to come along in a while. Published by Image Comics, writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples have delivered an interesting science-fiction debut about a pair of soldiers from long-warring worlds who fall in love and have a child together. The series begins with their daughter’s birth, and they quickly find them pursued by robot princes, horrors and bounty hunters for being too politically inconvenient.

There’s a lot I like about this book, but I do have some major problems with it that should be addressed first.

First, I hate the title. Saga is a vague title that tells the reader nothing about the story inside, or even the general approach. Saga could be a fantasy book, a sci-fi book, or even a superhero book.

Second, I question the level of explicitness in this book. This book is rated M for Mature, and the first line of dialog in the first issue is “Am I shitting? It feels like I’m shitting!” In addition to the language, there’s nudity and one fairly explicit sex scene in the first issue. And while that sort of thing is fine in comics, I feel like it throws away an opportunity that the underlying story could exploit to reach a wider audience and have a bigger impact. As it is, the teens who could really enjoy something truly new in comic book form from top creators will likely not be able to find Saga in their library or be able to buy it from a lot of retailers. Not that that ever stopped anyone who really wants to read it, but there’s a reason that all the biggest successes in fiction and movies are roughly PG or PG-13 and not R. The R level just limits the audience, and I think that it’s a shame this book cuts off its potential to reach that audience for some language that, to me, seems unnecessary to tell the story.

On to the things I like: The art is terrific. Staples’ makes these characters and their worlds look and act like real people. It delivers exactly what is needed for a title like this: a specific and consistent look. She also tells the story very well, and the art on the first four issues makes some significant improvements.

Storywise, Vaughan remains a deceptively strong talent. Almost alone among the current A-crop of comics writers, he eschews the self-consciously clever dialog that clutters up most superhero comics and puts enough plot into each issue without the story ever feeling crowded.

The story itself is, for me, unexpectedly compelling. While star-crossed lovers from the wrong side of the track is a well-worn cliche, the addition of the child (who narrates the series) and the sci-fi setting is a good combination that is well suited to comics. I look forward to seeing where this journey, which in some ways evokes Yorick’s travels in Y: The Last Man, takes these characters and reveals about this universe.