Before you even ask which comic book series you should be reading, do yourself a favor and get Saga out of the way. It’s simply that good.
It is a simple fact. I read a lot of comics. For me, that means that my monthly pull list currently weighs in at about 90 comics per month. That’s down from about 150 when I was still running comic conventions. That said, even at 90 I read so many that I actually need to keep a spreadsheet to remember where I left off with each series.
Hold up. Did I throw you with “pull list”? Let me explain on the quick. A pull list is the list of titles that your retailer “pulls” for you each month and holds back until you pick them up at your neighborhood comic store or have them delivered via your online retailer. Think of it like being subscribed to those series. For me, my list is fairly evenly balanced between Marvel, DC, Image, and a host of independent companies and creators. Given I read so much, it’s no secret to my friends that I have strong opinions and feel comfortable talking about them when it comes to comics. This means I get one question a lot… “What would you recommend?”
I always answer first with a single series. It’s the Image Comics series Saga written by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Fiona Staples. This is so automatic, it’s almost a reflex action for me. Sure, there’s a long list of recommendations I could offer (currently, say Tuki, Rachel Rising, Afterlife With Archie, The Walking Dead, Letter 44, Bunker, Sex Criminals, Karnak, and Omega Men spring to mind), but there’s no use even going to those titles if the individual isn’t caught up on Saga. It’s that good.
Why? In many ways the creators really make this series a must read. Let me discuss both of them first, then I’ll get to a few additional reasons why this series must get in front of your eyes immediately.
Saga is written by Brian K. Vaughan. For me, Vaughan is one of a handful of writers that I always seem to connect with. He’s one of those rare creative individuals who I will seek out and whose work I will follow no matter what he’s writing. His track record begs this kind of devotion as he’s had a lot of hits including Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Runaways, and Pride of Baghdad. He’s also a name you might know from his television work as he was a writer, story edito,r and producer on the series Lost during seasons three through five. He also served as showrunner and executive producer for Under the Dome.
How good is he? Wired magazine called him “the greatest comic book visionary of the last five years” comparing his work to creators such as Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Steve Niles and Paul Pope (high praise indeed). I agree with this assessment unconditionally and would include him in any top 5 list I would build focusing on the best comic writers.
The union of Vaughan with the then relatively unknown Fiona Staples was a near perfect match for this story as her art is staggeringly good in a way I’ve not really seen before. With this project she was able to shine and rose quickly to become one of the brightest artistic stars in the industry today. Her art is as much the heart of Saga as anything provided by the narration. Vaughan said it best…
“Her artwork is incredible. [It] doesn’t look like anyone else. She is very unique. When I opened up this file [seeing the first page] I was like, ‘This is going to work!'”
Saga is creator owned and Staples co-owns the series with Vaughan, taking a significant role designing the universe. She designed the cast, the ships, and the alien races in a story where these parts really contribute to the narrative in a substantive way. If you give Saga a try you will see why this is such a big deal. The level of creativity present in these creations is jaw dropping. In a world of science fiction that has covered a lot of ground with properties like the Star Wars universe, Firefly, and so many others, I see Staples as a visionary taking the landscape in fresh new directions. In addition to the internal art, she provides painted covers and hand letters the narration of the story, often using her own handwriting.
So, what exactly is Saga? Here’s Image Comics official description…
“Saga is an epic space opera/fantasy comic book series created by writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples, published monthly by Image Comics. The series is heavily influenced by Star Wars, and based on ideas Vaughan conceived both as a child and as a parent. It depicts two lovers from long-warring extraterrestrial races, Alana and Marko, fleeing authorities from both sides of a galactic war as they struggle to care for their newborn daughter, Hazel, who occasionally narrates the series.”
For me, take Romeo And Juliet and wrap it in a quirky universe full of incredibly well realized characters and offer it a mix of edge-of-your-seat action, then kick in a solid dose of heart, charm, and comic timing… There you have Saga. What makes this story an easy recommendation (even to a non-comic reader) is the sense of realism in the relationship of the couple at the heart of the story. Despite being placed in the fantastical, you understand their relationship and see elements of your own life in their reactions and, at times, human failings. I feel for them and with them as they bounce around a universe that should feel very alien, but simply doesn’t for all the right reasons.
Don’t take my word for it. Look anywhere around the internet to spots where they are discussing comics and you will run across Saga making most top 10 lists in any given month. You know that it’s a strong series when the comic community almost considers it cliche to recommend it. It makes so many “best of” lists that this whole article is just too easy for me to write. I think the best recommendation I can offer is to ask that you read the first issue. I challenge you not to continue. It’s that strong right out of the gate.
So go read the 30+ issues that have been released so far, and then you can come back to me and ask what else you should be reading. Until then, I’m not answering.