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Saga: Compendium One

de Brian K. Vaughan

Séries: Saga (1-54)

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It's hard to know where to start when reviewing an epic set in a galactic, fantasy universe where everything is shaped by a generations-long battle between and underdog world of Esperanto-speaking horned magicians and mostly more crass, technologically oriented oppressors with wings, aided by a race of fleshly robots with televisions for heads; where a toddler is babysat by a teenage ghost whose guts hang down from her severed waist; where a human bounty hunter mourns his lover-colleague, a Venus de Milo whose body is that of an enormous spider; where a herder-warrior in the shape of a baby seal moves in a universe saturated with sex and drugs and monsters made out of shit. It just goes to show that if the emotions are real and the characters interact in believable ways, it doesn't matter how preposterous the setting. I read the first several issues of Saga in a bookstore, compelled to keep turning pages over a lunch break that grew to two hours, and the story stuck in my mind so insistently that I followed up several years later, buying the entire run of hundreds of pages as a tablet-based comics app.

After the first few issues, the art is truly tremendous. The humans look like real people, and the alien worlds look like real worlds with real temperatures and smells and glare. Themes wrestled with along the way include child abuse, domestic violence, abortion, religion, LGBTQ issues and the many challenges of being a committed couple. (If the stances taken on these issues never stray from what you'd expect from earnest liberal millennials, at least the stances are seriously examined and honestly held.) A major flaw in the storytelling, especially when reading the story not as a monthly serial but all at once, without enforced pauses, is the way extreme violence never seems to have serious psychological consequences. True, one of the main characters became a pacifist after his war experiences, and another deserted the army. But they don't suffer from PTSD or the other disorders that often follow after participation in deadly conflict, and--more to the point--neither do the several children who are literally doused in blood after adults around them are beheaded, dismembered, crushed or exploded in the course of the story. If anyone suffers from the violence, it's the reader, as the most interesting characters come to the earliest and most abrupt ends, while the ones who try the patience live on and on, and on.

But all told, this is a story worthy of its name, a fantasy war story smarter and less cynical than Game of Thrones, not a waste of time or something the middle-aged like myself need be embarrassed to have lying around. And if you're tired of the same old thing, it's worth checking out. You'll know by the end of the third issue whether it's your thing. ( )
  john.cooper | Jan 25, 2021 |
reviews from the volume entries:

Vol. 1:
I read the first issue aaages ago when Saga had just started and I'm determined to read all of it now. The first issue left a good impression on me and now that I've read a whole volume - Yep. This is my shit. Love it! Also, I never find many protagonists that share my name so this is a plus hahah

Vol. 2:
That was an intense volume whew.
Help, I love all the characters.

Vol. 7:
im sad now, thanks
( )
  protoplasm | Dec 18, 2020 |
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