The Hypnotic Sci-Fantasy of “Saga”
When my fiance helped introduce me to the comic book world with Wonder Woman: New 52 I had no idea it would lead to a multi-title comic book collection warranting its own shelf space in our spare bedroom. My comic book tastes are much like my music tastes (The Current anyone?), eclectic and ever seeking “fresh” material. And I must emphatically say, the comic series Saga scratches that itch for me.
Not only is it entertaining, the comic books also pass the Scale of Inclusivity, earning a full 15/15 points:
Not offensive to women = 1 pts*
I did not find myself physically or emotionally uncomfortable by how the women characters were speaking, acting, or portrayed in this comic.
*SPOILER, BUT EXPLAINS TRIGGER WARNING*
In the five issues I’ve read so far there is one story arc that could be triggering. One of the characters is a young girl named Sophie who is rescued from being a sex slave on Sextillion (Issues 4 & 5). Sextillion, as you can guess from the name, is a place that aims to fulfill any sexual fantasy. The images of erotica are not solely for the male gaze, and feature a variety of body types and alien species. Hints are made that livestock are also available, which is most certainly rape by any definition, but nothing is shown. While Sophie has been rescued, it is clear from the text that many other slave girls are left behind.
Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2 pts
Saga is not wanting for women and girl characters. First there is the ferocious and protective new mother Alana, who has just given birth to a baby girl, Hazel.
Hazel is the narrator of the story, but she is starting with her birth, so we’ve only seen her as this adorable little baby so far.
Izabel is a jaded teenage ghost with a lot of experience baby-sitting. She leads a group of ghosts in protecting what remains of her homeland.
Named “The Stalk”, this half-spider half-alien woman is a redefinition of the “Black Widow” trope. She is a bounty hunter who is feared by anyone who utters her name.
Sophie is a six-year old refugee child who was abducted from her refugee camp. She is shown here with Lying Cat, who only ever utters the word “Lying” when its supernatural ability detects a lie has been spoken.
Passes the Bechdel test = 3 pts
Alana speaks with both Izabel and The Stalk about topics beyond the men in their lives.
Artistic and/or Entertaining = 4 pts
What is Saga all about? It’s an interplanetary war between the Wings and the Horns, being fought on “proxy” planets so that their home planet citizens can go about their lives in relative peace. It’s a story about a forbidden romance being sabotaged by political espionage. It’s also a story about family.
If fact, I want to give this category more than 4 points because this is one of the most creative stories I’ve read in recent memory. I rank it in my top five most creative works, right up there with The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making and Miyazaki’s film Spirited Away. And let me just add that the film Spirited Away inspired me to study Japanese, which lead to my living in Japan for 10 months, and essentially changing my life forever. Saga affected me in a similar way. It completely changed my understanding of the potential of comic books as a story-telling and idea-creating medium. Granted, my foray into comic books is only two years deep, but there it is. Take it or leave it.
Above and Beyond General Media = 5 pts
The Issue #1 front cover of Alana breast-feeding her daughter is a great indication of just how above and beyond this comic book is. The first issue opens with Alana giving birth while asking, “Am I shitting? It feels like I’m shitting!” and it only gets better from there. Along with the gritty realism of childbirth, this is a comic that gives each and every character a complex personality in addition to drawing them all in unique and interesting ways.
Moreover, Alana, Hazel, and Sophie are all women of color in a world with limited humanoid characters and Izabel is a ghost from an indigenous people whose planet is being destroyed because of a proxy war (which rings of American history for sure). The story has elements of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, international politics, ethics and science, mythology, fairy tales, and space opera. It touches on multiple levels of the human (and alien) experience, and seems to satirize our current understandings of all of them.
As I’ve said before, my favorite way to buy comic books (if available) is to purchase them as volumes. Most volumes contain five issues of a series. Saga Vol. 1 (feat. issues 1-5) is available online, and the cheapest I found was on Amazon for $5.76. I’ve noticed that the first volume in most comic series are less than half the cost of subsequent volumes, which is an amazing marketing trick to pull you in. Saga has been out for a few years, so you can purchase volumes 1-4 online and pre-order Volume 5 (coming out September 15th). Even though the other volumes might be pricier, buying a volume is more cost effective than purchasing all the issues separately. In my opinion, the volumes also look nicer on a bookshelf. But here are some other purchasing options:
- Comixology: digital copies ranges from .99 for older issues to $1.99 for more recent issues
- Image Comics: $1.99 for digital issues and $2.99 for print issues
- In Store: varies, but usually I’ve seen issues going for $3.99
And don’t forget, spending your own money isn’t the only way to support comics, books, or movies that you care about. Share the love by recommending the series to your local library to purchase and add to their collection.
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*This is a category that could get very complicated, very quickly, if we tried to list everything that could be offensive to women. Instead, we use this category as a way of showing our own personal reaction to whatever we are reviewing. All contributors to this site are women and can speak from a woman’s perspective. However, no woman can speak for all women so we do our best to explain our choice one way or the other. We encourage all readers to share their opinions in the comments of every post if they want to express agreement or disagreement with our rankings.