Tina Olah provides a spoiler-free review of issue #49 and series introduction for new readers.
February 2018, Image
Story: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Fiona Staples
I am of the firm belief that comic books suffer from an extreme lack of male nudity. So I was pleased to see that Saga #49 starts off the way any good comic book should start: with a full-page, full-frontal image of a large naked man climbing up a hill. Thankfully, the character in question is an average human male, a pleasant contrast to the abominably grotesque Naked Giants with Dangling Balls seen in an earlier issue. A sex scene immediately follows (with some noteworthy emotional content! One of my favorite characters continues to surprise!), and after all that excitement the issue settles down to more of a PG-13 level with the set-up of some intriguing new plotlines. Interesting offers are proposed, potential relationship problems are brought up, and we see a sad little scene involving some of the younger characters. The final page, continuing with Saga’s tradition of excellent and shocking cliffhangers, suggests that there will be much chaos to come in the upcoming story arc, and I look forward to every bit of it. To the character at the center of said chaos, I only have to say: be very, very careful of what you may be about to unleash.
I was delighted to see Ghus in this issue as well, as I personally believe that he is the greatest comic book character of all time. For those unfamiliar, Ghus is a little alien man resembling a baby seal wearing suspenders. I generally imagine him having a deep manly voice, somewhat along the lines of Chef from the classic television comedy South Park. Please be sure to check each panel in detail as I missed the open butt-flap on his outfit during the first reading, and this is an extremely important visual.
Fiona Staples’ artwork continues to be an absolute joy to look at… a simple style but very effective at highlighting emotion and action… and I love, love, love all her strange character designs. Always enjoy her sunrise and sunset scenes as well; there are some beautiful views near the beginning of this book (look at the background BEHIND the naked man).
Overall a very enjoyable (and very ominous, from that last section) start to the next story arc. Please do not read it unless you’re caught up with issues 1-48, however! If you have yet to read a single issue and are curious about the series, my thoughts on it will follow shortly.
A final note on #49: as with all issues of Saga (assuming you’re picking up the individual monthly comics), the letters column is always worth a read. This issue continues with part 2 of the “Reader’s Survey” answers from #48, and I believe I may have seen a comment from a local Newmarket friend in there!
And now I present… a brief series introduction, in case you have yet to read this amazing comic and are completely confused by what I wrote regarding issue #49. Saga is a wild, weird, and very meaningful sci-fi adventure following the lives of Marko and Alana (a married pair from opposing backgrounds, on the run from various authorities), their kid Hazel (currently holding the title of the Cutest Kid in Comics, in my personal opinion), and an awesome and memorable group of supporting characters (I will never stop mentioning Ghus. This is a fair warning).
My devoted, loving relationship with this comic began on a warm spring day during 2012, at the height of my Marvel and DC-buying period. Years later, Saga has remained on my pull-list, though unfortunately the DC and Marvel titles have not… I love the stories and characters from the Big Two, but buying every issue from the frequent events, along with the (usually uninteresting) tie-in issues is, in my opinion, a Generally Bad Idea. Saga, like many creator-owned Image titles (I cannot recommend their catalog enough; there is something for everyone!) has never been published more than once a month, has never had any tie-ins, and has since the first issue featured the consistent art and writing team of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Brian K. Vaughan’s Daschund Hamburger K. Vaughan also makes a delightful appearance in most of the Letters columns).
This series is absolutely full of emotional moments, especially in the final issues of each arc. I was close to tearing up from the very first issue (quite a rare occurrence for me during my comic-reading journeys), and the story just gets more intense from there. If you make it all the way to issue #42, prepare to either bring an entire wheelbarrow full of Kleenexes, or to stare in shock at the wall for the next 28 minutes. Overall I don’t believe I’ve ever read any other comic series that has made me feel so much. The narration by Hazel (and the font used for her dialog) really adds to the emotion as well…it feels at times like we’re reading her little diary, and it’s a great bit of characterization.
The colorful scenery, designs, and ideas in Saga (drawn every issue by the amazing Fiona Staples) are exactly the sorts of things I’ve loved about much of my favorite sci-fi and fantasy over the years. The visuals and concepts often remind me of weird and wonderful sci-fi novels written during the 60s and 70s, maybe even a bit of classic 80’s kids movies such as Labyrinth… I live for these sort of bizarre and beautiful delights. Ghus (I apologize profusely for mentioning him again) is one example…we’re also treated to other strange sights such as planet-eating space babies, rocketships made from plants, and a really awesome lie-detecting cat. And poop monsters, though these were not among my favorite things. Gross. Overall the creators are not too nitpicky with the logic or science behind most of the tech or designs, it’s more about the strangeness and creativity! Might be a turn-off to some but I love it!
I’d like to avoid that old cliché of “run, don’t walk, to your nearest comic shop and try Saga” so as an alternative I’ll take this moment to suggest that you find some way to teleport or fly instead and pick up the first 8 trade paperbacks which are now available through Image Comics. I strongly recommend this wonderful series to all comic readers and human beings in general, except perhaps your easily offended grandma. Though who knows… she might enjoy all the nudity. I don’t know these things.