Tuesday 3 April 2018

You Should Be Reading...Saga

I've been reading comics for most of my life. It started innocuously enough with an Incredible Hulk annual in 1979 (I still have it!) and after dalliances with the Beano, Marvel UK's Action Force and a couple of others I began collecting 2000AD in 1988. U.S. comics at the end of the 80's were very much-of-a-muchness, with bog-standard studio art and storylines. 2000AD had action, dynamic art, and fairly edgy storylines, not to mention cool characters. Nearly 30 years and 1500 comics later I still get the weekly Prog and Monthly Judge Dredd Megazine: I love the alternative style they offered when I started, and still do today.

Over the last few years I've begun a collection of graphic novels and comics, some to catch up on classic stories that I missed, others to read brand new stories. Now, I love a Marvel or D.C. book as much as the next man, but my love of the alternative has led me to many wierd and wonderful slices of art/literature and it's these that I'm going to give you an insight into in this (hopefully!) regular column. I figure there's a wealth of comics material out there that gets overlooked in favour of superhero stuff, and I'd like to redress the balance. Won't you join me?

So you should be reading...Saga

Image comics was apparently the 3rd largest comic studio of last year, with 8 out of 10 of the top selling graphic novels coming from their ranks. This is largely thanks to two comics: The Walking Dead, and Saga. Saga volume 8 was the biggest selling GN of last year, due to the huge following it has gained over the past 3 years. So why is it such a phenomenon? Let's start with the story. Saga is a science fantasy space opera in the truest sense. A cast of weird and wonderful characters, a multitude of ever-more fantastic worlds, a desperate chase across the galaxy, organic spacecraft, high magic, and high technology. If we hadn't been spoiled with a bunch of new films, this would be the Star Wars of the millenium.

Set in a universe at war, the story follows Marko and Alana, lovers from opposite sides on the run from the authorities on both. The war began between Landfall, largest planet in the galaxy, and it's moon, Wreath. The war became too big for the planets involved, so they began to outsource the war to the rest of the galaxy, and despite peace being restored on the home worlds it continues to rage everywhere else. So every species has picked a side and generally fight each other to a standstill on every planet available! And into this dangerous universe our heroes have brought their daughter Hazel, who acts as the central pivot of the story and narrator. But make no mistake, this is no children's book! Sex/nudity, drug use, violence and gore, all add up to an "M" rating (for mature readers), but it rarely feels gratuitous thanks to the high quality of the writing.

And it is the very high standard of the writing (by Brian K Vaughan) and the artwork (by Fiona Staples) that make this a series of genuine quality. The layout really enhances the storytelling and there are some truly breathtaking images awaiting in the splash pages. The story trips along at a good pace, even skipping years between books, and never strays far from the main saga. It is effortessly inclusive, to the point where you hardly notice it: Why should you have to emphasize strong female/black/gay characters, when all your characters are strong regardless of their gender/sexuality/ (alien) race? The central characters are genuine everyman/woman types, and it's very easy to identify with and care about them, but the threat to them is very real and you are never sure whether anyone will survive the next chapter or not....

Overall it's the consistency that wins it for me. There's nothing worse than getting halfway through a graphic novel only to find the artist has been swapped out for the last 3 chapters! So far this book is all about Vaughan and Staples, and with some of the most beautiful artwork on the comics scene at the moment, as well as the most compelling story, long may it continue!

Read this story now!

By day, David Mustill is a Human Workhorse for a chemical company. Naturally, every possible moment away from this existence is spent gaming and painting miniatures.

A steady diet of rock, metal, punk, comics, gaming, miniatures and genre movies has moulded David into a nerd-for-all-seasons, a renaissance geek, for whom no gaming company or genre is too obscure, and no graphic novel is unreadable.

He is currently the Chairman of Milton Hundred Wargames Club, which affords him the privilege of running the Broadside Games Show. He will not let you down. Unless you're after selfies. He is rubbish at selfies...

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