Saga, Book One by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Saga’s main characters do not want to commit violence although there is a lot of it in this amazing graphic novel. No surprise there, but the authors must have wanted to create a message in the midst of all that death and chaos. Have your cake and eat it too sort of.
Marko is a sympathetic pacifist who tries so very hard to lay down his weapon. He is a “moony,” born on Wreath, a moon circling the planet Landfall. Wreath and Landfall have been warring so long the fighting has been “outsourced” to other planets, spreading war and suffering across the galaxy.
Marko falls in love with Alana, a beautiful ex-military grunt who likes romance novels. He turns himself in to his enemies as a conscientious objector, and she is given the duty of watching him. Instead, she falls in love with him, they escape, and this is their story, narrated by their daughter far in the future.
Wreath is a magical moon and Marko wields great power. His parents are warriors and they taught him to hate the enemy, but his convictions go against that. The thing is, every time he tries to stop fighting, someone comes and attacks him and his family and he must fight back and kill them all.
When Marko and his warrior mother go to a planet to find and save another character, they encounter a huge three-eyed man-giant. His mother attacks while he says “We’re trespassing on his land! Just let me hit him with a binding spell.” His mother responds that “this squeamishness is most unbecoming”.
The three-eyed giant is a little gross. His um, testicles, are what is really unbecoming. The very first image of this creature in the book made me immediately think of the art of Ralph Steadman, who I am familiar with only because he illustrated The Curse of Lono by Hunter S. Thompson. (I have Ralph Steadman’s Extinct Boids on order though and I can’t wait.)
But back to the message of nonviolence. The book depicts the galaxy-wide war as driven by monetary or power-hungry forces. The military industrial complex has been so ingrained into the two opposing sides that they may have no identity without it. And this couple, who just want to be left alone with their newborn child, can’t seem to escape it.
Alana is obsessed with a particular romance novel, A Night Time Smoke, and they both see the hidden anti-war message the author gave it. As far as us readers can tell, when shown a section of the book, the only message of peace is that it simply has no war in it. This must be revolutionary in this war-torn universe.
When Alana is guarding him, and they are falling in love, she reads him an excerpt. Even though the piece has nothing to do with war or their worlds, Marko responds with “It’s not a love story at all, is it? It’s about us, about the war between Landfall and Wreath.”
Needless to say, they are soulmates. She says “He’s saying that this war between our people has gone on too long, that it has to be stopped.”
And Marko replies “What if the writer is suggesting that war will never end, that it’s a self-perpetuating cycle of pointless brutality that can only be “stopped” with more war?”
Alana says, a little late, “Okay, now you’re just reading too much into things.”
It’s adorable. And sad. And violent. And undeniably unique. Read it!