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If you like ~forbidden romance~, ghosts, spaceships, epic fantasy space opera, wildly different types of characters and cultures with complicated motivations and plans, the intense politics of war spliced together with the politics of parenthood and freedom of choice, you may, indeed, love Saga. Saga is an award winning, ongoing comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. It's beloved for good reasons, and Renay and Ana were quickly won over by the art, the story, and the amazing characters.

And also, of course, the cats.


cover of Saga


When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. (source)

Text and image spoilers through volume three.

Ana: So… shall we start by talking about Hazel? :D

Renay: Can I start out with some suspicions about Hazel? Because since I finished the third volume, I'm convinced that she can't be that old as she narrates the story. I have no proof of this beyond a vague feeling and the way the third volume ended. It's how she presents certain facts of the story she's telling, and how she sounds, sometimes, surprisingly profound. I'm thinking, specifically, of the end of chapter where Alana and Markos are making out in sewage tunnels on Cleave. Do you get a similar feeling?

Alana holds Hazel and says she wants to show her the universe.


Ana: Yes, I definitely get a similar feeling. There's something about her voice that makes me think she's a young teen, and I suspect the writers have a trick up their sleeve regarding how far in the future the narration is taking place vs what readers might expect. Hopefully that means we may get to meet her before the series ends? I have no idea what the period of time Saga is supposed to span might be, but the way the conflict has been set up doesn't exactly lend itself to quick and easy resolutions. And even the title of the series is a hint in that direction.

Also, there's something else about Hazel's narration I wanted to mention: a first person retrospective narrator gives readers a certain sense of safety. We don't necessarily know that everything turned out just fine, but we do at least know that Hazel gets to grow up; and if that's the case, then at least one of her parents managed to get her to safety. But I have the sneaking suspicion that Saga is not necessarily the kind of series where you can trust this — it strikes me more as a lull-you-into-a-false-sense-of-security-to-then-rip-your-heart-out kind of story. So I wonder what Vaughan and Staples are up to: where is Hazel as she tells us her story? What happened? Are they going to start dropping us hints? Have they already started?

Izabel says this is the third worst babysitting job she's ever had while surrounded in swirls of magic.


Renay: Part of my reading on it is that Hazel, as she's telling pieces of this story, doesn't seem that impressed with herself. She's very blasé about how her life started — as a fugitive, tracked by two different governments, considered an abomination but still wanted alive. This, paired with the hints of story we're getting about the survival rates of babies born of people from Landfall and Wreath, makes me super, super dubious. She's obviously in a place where she could reflect back to tell the story, but what does that mean when her narrative voice reminds me of someone so very, very young? I really like Hazel's voice, but I'm not quite sure I trust her perspective. The lack of knowledge about where she is and how old she is plays a big part in that, and I'm dubious and prepared for 200% heartbreak.

The action up to the end of the second volume seemed to be events happening in quick succession, but when you move out of Hazel's immediate family to the bounty hunters that are after her and her family, the scope gets wider. We got our first big time skip at the end of the second trade, and then another huge time skip at the end of the third and I suspect we're going to be seeing more of that. I would love to see Hazel grow up, and see her start adding commentary to the choices and decisions she makes with her family. I'm not sure if this is something Vaughan and Staples are planning, but I love to extrapolate possibilities — like the chance that Hazel is young, and the story itself is going to catch up with her where she is and rocket past her. So instead of telling the story, she may actually get to become the story. There's actually no narrative proof for this, but oh, I want it, or something similar.

The Will sits on a bed with his face in his hands while Lying Cat looks on in concern.


Ana: Oooh, so you're saying they might surprise us with a "Hello! It's now the present time!" twist at some point? I'd love to see the series go in this direction too, for many reasons — one of them being that Hazel would then become one more awesome female character doing stuff. Speaking of which, any thoughts on the parity of the cast of characters so far? Also, do you have a favourite other than Hazel?

Renay: I'm probably totally wrong, and they'll go a totally different direction, but I would so read that fanfic/fan comic if someone decided to write it. Can you imagine how awesome Hazel would be? I have to stop before I get too attached.

I love the main cast, but unsurprisingly it's the villains who got me and stuck with me. Every time Prince Robot IV has a post-traumatic stress related flashback it hurts. On the one hand, they're created a really interesting triangle with Marko and Alana, The Will, and Robot IV that I suspect we're going to see come to delicious fruition eventually (although am sad they used a lady death to do it). The villains here aren't necessarily chasing Marko and Alana for their own reasons. There are family obligations involved, money, and now, revenge schemes — and given the actions of The Will in the first volume, I'm actually curious how they're going to handle Hazel and her parents.

(Speaking of parents: Markos parents broke my heart, but what did you think about the occupation flip there with Barr and Klara, and Barr's ability to be a protector in nonphysical ways?)

If I had to choose a favorite, well, it's Lying Cat. But surely you saw that coming. ;) Izabel is a close second, and I desperately hope that we get tons more scenes with her and Alana.

Sophie makes a statement about her worth as a person and Lying cat negates in. In the next panel Sophie cuddles up to a sleeping Lying Cat with a smile.


Ana: Aw, Lying Cat ♥ And I love Izabel too. I also think Gwendolyn is becoming a very interesting character, and I look forward to seeing more of her in the upcoming volumes.

Barr and Klara: I liked them a lot, and I especially liked that their dynamics were never oversimplified. It usually puts me off when storytellers default to portraying the hetero relationship dynamics of women in nontraditional occupations or in positions of power as simply a reversal of the traditional protector/helpless protectee thing we're so used to seeing. I guess it's a bit like the issues you had with The Hunger Games: more than a gender flip, I want to see a challenge of stereotypical gender dynamics. Not that it isn't great to see ladies looking after their partners or love interests for a change, but unless this is handled carefully it tends to lends itself too easily to jokes about how the men who get involved with powerful, battling women like Klara must be (ugh) emasculated. I'm also troubled by the assumption that power is a zero sum gum, and that empowering a woman will necessarily mean disempowering a man. So I'd much rather see more equal dynamics at work. This doesn't mean that the men have to be fighters too, of course; only that the two partners will regard each other with respect and value what each brings to the partnership.

In this care, Klara is a fighter in the traditional sense, while Barr casts spells and takes on other female-coded tasks like sewing and healing — all without ever being looked on with the snickering contempt usually reserved for women and men who touch anything stereotypically feminine (and are therefore covered in dreaded girl cooties). None of this means that these characters embody a mere flip of reductive gender stereotypes, though: they're both complicated people, and the story never assumes that their occupations tell us anything at all about their preferences, personalities, ability to articulate emotions or read maps, and what have you. That was quite nice to see.

Gwendolyn appears in the dark saying this is why she doesn't trust reviews.


Renay: One of Saga's greatest strengths is that it rarely really fits any of its side characters into a specific, stereotyped role, or if it does, it's very quick to establish their depth, and I think Klara is a perfect example of that. She's obviously is introduced in a way that makes her seem like the story is going to pin her into place, but she very quickly expands — we see her angry and sad, funny and ruthless, stubborn and kind.

Gwendolyn, too, is a great place to look for the ways they're handling some tropes. She was introduced early on, and we get to know her through Marko as "former girlfriend", which comes with its own set of baggage, but in the third volume they take her character and really dig in in ways that sticking to gendered characterization wouldn't allow. I thought maybe some of the government flunkies, but even they seem to have murky agendas, with art that deliberately shows them to be stressed and likely being ridden hard for results. Can you think of any of the characters that the story and art doesn't provide depth to, even in passing (I will admit here, we've seen a lot of death, and sometimes even those deaths of people we just met a page before make me go "noooo").

Ana: You know what, I really can't. Like you say, even with the characters that are killed not long after they're introduced, there are often cues (subtle visual ones at times, but very much present) that give them depth and humanise them. It's definitely one of the reasons why I fell for this series so hard.

Izabel and Klara talk while Klara eats a sandwich. Izabel floats inside the couch Klara is sitting on.


Renay: I agree. :D It's so well done on so many levels, even if, at times, I wish greedily for more world building. Calm down, self. Don't be greedy. :P

I can't really read Saga issue to issue because it's torture, but I definitely look forward to every new volume. Next up: DECEMBER? So friends, if you hear screams of joy/anguish in December, don't worry. It's just Ana and I reading the next volume. :D

Alana and Marko kiss while Marko craddles Hazel in his arms


Other Reviews:
The Book Smugglers, Reading the End, Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews, 1330V, yours?

Date: 2014-11-07 08:21 am (UTC)
goodbyebird: Saga: The Will and Lying Cat on a yellow background. (C ∞ The Will and Lying Cat)
From: [personal profile] goodbyebird
I just read the newest issue this morning, and I am so excited about STUFF. I can't wait for you all to also read the STUFF. :D

And so much yes to how they establish characters remarkably well, I am still not over the penguin-creature from Prince IV's flashback. I was gutted when he died! It was horrible! And it had like a three page set-up? That takes skill.

Date: 2014-11-07 07:13 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
I can't wait to find out about STUFF :D I'm like Renay when it comes to reading it issue to issue (my poor heart, I just can't), so I'm eagerly awaiting the next collection in December.

Date: 2014-11-07 09:16 pm (UTC)
goodbyebird: Saga: Marko standing in the quarry with his shirt off, "Oh I'll keep reading alright." (C ∞ Saga for literacy)
From: [personal profile] goodbyebird
I usually dislike reading from issue to issue as well, but with some series, I just can't help myself.

And thanks to this post I went off to look for a shiny HC collection, and found that one will be released in less than a month :D I do love em with a bit more heft!

Date: 2014-11-11 12:33 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I'd love the story to jump forward to grown-up(er) Hazel. That would be amazing. I'd love to have her take on all of the stuff in this world -- she seems like she'd be a really cool teenager. (Er, I don't mean "take on" in the verb sense, where she's taking on bad things; I mean "take on" like what is her take on the situation?)

I DO NOT WANT ALANA AND MARKO TO BREAK UP. I'm not saying they're going to, but if they did, I'd be really seriously sad about it.

Date: 2014-11-11 12:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] readingtheend.pip.verisignlabs.com
Drat, sorry, that was me, Jenny.

Date: 2014-11-11 07:39 pm (UTC)
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
I'd love to see her take on bad things with her parents and then accidentally shoot Marko in the ass? Then him and Alana having a fight about her gun training while she's doctoring his HURT BUTT? COMEDY GOLD. I mean. I'd be okay with it in THAT scenario? ;)

IF THEY BREAK UP I WILL BURN DOWN THE WORLD.

Date: 2014-11-11 07:58 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
ARGHHHHHH WHY WOULD YOU EVEN RAISE THAT POSSIBILITY NOW IT'S STUCK IN MY BRAAAAAAAAAIN *wails*

Date: 2014-11-11 08:02 pm (UTC)
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
YES THIS.

why not just pull my heart out of my chest and eat it in front of me?

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