On what is certainly one of the best comics being put out today
Today marked the first issue of a new volume of Saga (issue 7), and it's every bit as good as the previous 6.
This is certainly the most accomplished, mature, and layered work Brian K Vaughn has ever done, and that continues here. Whereas once his work was well crafted but straightforward, with only the thinnest of metaphors at their core (9/11 angst, breaking up with a long term girlfriend, etc) this is a book dripping in symbolism and allegory that NEVER lets the narrative, or the characters, get subsumed by it.
I'm not sure I've gone into it here on the blog before, the rough scheme is this; the book is about parenthood, of course, BKV a newish father himself. But it's also about the creation of ideas, and of intellectual property.
Ostensibly, Saga is a big, expansive space opera in the tradition of Star Wars. Set in the midst of a war between the mystical inhabitants of the moon Wreath and the technological denizens of that moon's very planet, Landfall, it centers on two defected soldiers, one from each side, and their newborn daughter. Such a hybrid union is looked upon as an abomination, and cannot be suffered to live by either side, putting Marko, Alana and Hazel in the crosshairs of the two warring races, and a host of freelance bounty hunters and assassins.
Almost every issue has some bit that is both about creating an idea and creating a child (specifically in regards to comics, with all the collaboration), or something that juxtaposes raising a child with developing an idea.
The meanings exist simultaneously. The two ruling societies are about the opposing forces in creation; the threat of corporatism on one (the rulers have TV sets for heads, for god sakes!) and the more artistic 'indy', more primal underground sect who are in their ways as close minded as anyone else.
Even the bounty hunters all strike me as ways to catch or create ideas; creating ideas through sheer "Will", or through "Fluke", or "Import" (ing) or "Stalk"(ing) them from others, etc.
A previous line even mentioned that hybrid babies, generally, only last a year -- or rather, a season of television, or 12 issues of comics, perhaps? What happened was he was brought into hollywood by Lindelof, the Lost co-creator, into the writing room and then eventually headed it, and spent a lot of time out in Hollywood. And Lindelof, recently, in an interview about being impressed with Jeff Lemire in the same way he was impressed with BKV, made mention of the fact that he wished he hadn't brought BKV in the way he did, because Hollywood didn't nurture his voice, tried to stamp out his individuality, etc.
|We've all been there, eh? ....Uh, no, not me personally, of course...|
This issue gives us a bit of background; of the conflict, of the characters. The roots of it all, one might say. It's surprising, heartbreaking, beautiful, disgusting, fist pumping...it really does have it all.
This issue opens with a haunting flashback to Marko's youth, in which his parents force him to confront the grim reality of battles waged and lives lost on their home soil in times past, via magical recreation. It's powerful, and in keeping with our 'allegorical scheme', it also I think is a comment on creators rights, the loss of consciousness demonstrated not just by comic fandom but by the public in general. If "Wreath" is the 'pure' creators, then certainly this battle represents the fight for creators rights waged by Jack Kirby, Alan Moore, Neal Adams, etc years, the laurels upon which the current industry rests (I believe, fully, that it refers to important figures in the TV world and in Hollywood, but I have zero knowledge of that history. This is a comics blog!)
Flashing back to 'the present', as Marko and Alana confront Marko's (very old school) parents, and the more obvious (but no less entertaining) inspiration for the story takes control, the disapproving traditionalist parents reacting to a spouse outside their culture with outright hostility.
A lot happens - a lot of big things, a lot of little things - but it's the small moments in which Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples really prove that they're doing something special, taking us through a whole range of human emotion. One moment in particular made me bring my hand away from the comic as though it were a thing red hot, so surprising it was, and it left me in a state of melancholy for hours after.
Brian K Vaughn peoples his world with profoundly HUMAN characters, sometimes depraved, sometimes pathetic, occasionally exceptional...but even his villains, wracked with grief and loss of all shapes and sizes...even they make you root for them.
Saga is a story about finding a better way; to raise a child, to nurture an idea, to nurture relationships. It's about putting aside old enmities without ever losing the lessons that led to them, taught in blood, and sweat, and tears.