Nerd Dimension bring you a review of the award winning first volume the internet were talking about. Have Image reclaimed the throne for different and dark again?
I first learned about Saga through some of the pages I am a member of on social media and saw other members uploading panel pictures and praising this book as something the industry has been needing for years. I had not heard Image were planning to come with something big in ages and missed the first run but then again I am biased. To this humble blogger their best work will always be their franchise player, Al Simmons aka Spawn (something I recommend to anybody looking for a darker comic and anti-hero dishing out tons of carnage). Image developed a reputation for publishing the books the other big companies shied away from.
When I decided to do some research it seemed to be a Space Opera meets Fantasy as you have two protagonists fleeing with a baby across space while being chased by the two of biggest armies in the universe. Did not seem too original, granted, I still decided to keep digging and especially with all the great reviews I had read. I learned that the writer, Brian K. Vaughn had worked for both DC and Marvel comics in his career, writing for X-men, Green Lantern, Batman, Spider-man and Captain America. As well as working with big names in the world of comics he also worked on 3 seasons of ABCs smash ‘Lost’ and worked on Showtimes adaptation of Stephen Kings ‘Under The Dome’ I was surprised to see that his illustrative counter part and partner in comics, Fiona Staples was nowhere near his status or caliber. When I was googling her and trying to find out more about her I did not see her tied to any of the major titles or franchises.
It was not until I was in Comics Heaven in Stockholm when I managed to get my hands on a hard copy and immediately fell in love with the artwork. It looked good and my research told me what the story was supposed to go like. I avoid reading spoilers for anything including comics as to best experience the book. I read the volume in one sitting and was immediately hooked by the first chapter. The way Vaughn created this interesting setting with far from perfect characters was interesting. The conflicts and set up is done just right and the subject matter is not for kids. One of my favorite characters has got to be the Freelance ‘The Stalk”. The adult content of the panels was refreshing to see coming from a big publisher but it was not cheap if you understand what I am getting at. They did not use nudity of obscenities to mask a poor plot, it all comes together like a great stew sprinkled with just enough to make it a hearty read. The 13 awards the book received in 2013 only reinforces my claim of the quality of this first installment.
It was interesting to me how the writer managed to create these characters who did fit certain RPG archetypes yet managed to have them come off as unique to his setting. The language used by the different players in this grim universe adds a dose of reality along with slight twists that actually make sense. Not being a big fan of campy comics I see myself continuing to read this series.
The things I did not like was the lack of explanations for humans, it appears that regular humans do not seem to play a big role in this setting and I sadly cannot divulge much more without spoiling the first issue. The coloring at times seemed a little dull but not enough to put you off from reading. I do see the coloring as an aid for setting the tone but still I would have preferred different palettes for some of the scenes. Now a minor warning to some, this is not capes and chaos but rather a mash up of several modern genres by splicing together high sci fi, low fantasy, intrigue and a hefty load of dystopia.
All in all I give this first volume:
7.5 out of 10
Conclusion: Saga has succeeded in being a fresh and did manage to get the comic community talking and has maintained it fanbase and following years after the release. When other books fizzle out or fail to keep the pacing Vaughn managed to script a book that reads like a movie and Staples delivers panels that match that narrative. People coming to this book will have a different experience from the usual and I urge those who enjoy Sandman and Preacher to skim through some of the pages as it is not the run of the mill book.
So until next time, never dog ear your pages when there is always a receipt lying around to be used as bookmark. Just be sure it is not the bill from the BDSM spot you went to last week.
Find out more about your favorite anti hero, how he was created and how big he was for comics.
Growing up in the 90s and 00s I was lucky enough to have spent my young and formative years with my head in a comic and good hip hop in my Walkman (a portable music playing device for playing cassette tapes). The 90s to me will always be larger than life production, gritty writing and an age of wonder to me. I mean consoles, arcades, new comics, tv shows and blockbuster action movies were coming out non stop. So before we get into one of the greatest anti hero’s of all time allow me to set things up.
In 1992 Batman: The Animated series was on the air which would later be the dubbed the best animated series of all time. Sega & Nintendo buttons were being mashed and Activision’s original company Mediagenic filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. This is the time in the aftermath of Frank Miller‘s legendary ‘The Dark Knight Returns‘ and Alan Moore’s masterpieces ‘The Watchmen‘ and ‘V for Vendetta‘ meaning comics witnessed a shift into more adult content with darker stories, sex and just grittier settings. Also remember that readers saw Superman die in 1993 and Venom get his own comic (interesting seeing as he was designed by Todd MacFarlane). I say this so that a reader can attempt to envision the time and feel of that era that would later be dubbed The Dark Age or Iron Age of comics.
Todd MacFarlane and Image Comics
Todd MacFarlane earned recognition first for his work on Marvel’s ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ comic staying through the 80s for 28 issues and illustrated the first full appearances of the super villain ‘Venom’ as Edie Brock. The Canadian cartoonist and artist did not come out of nowhere, himself siting that he sent out more than 700 submissions in pinup size with next to no reaction from the publishers, mostly rejections. When he did get put on by the giant publisher he became a superstar in the world of comics. He would eventually part ways with Marvel due to their ‘work for hire’ policies towards their artists, in short they never got percentages of sales or retained any Intellectual Property for the duration. Todd would join forces with other disenfranchised artists from the big publishers including: Jim Lee (X-men), Marc Silvestri (Wolverine) Jim Valentino (Guardians of the Galaxy) to name a few and veteran writer Chris Claremont (Uncanny X-men). This group would reduce Marvel’s share price by $3.25 per share and they never turned back. Todd would mention in his own comics that he believed that artists deserved to be treated with respect by the publishers who made millions off their talent and not feel ripped off when a business relationship ended. Together Image comics would publish some of the best titles in comics including : Spawn, Witchblade, The Walking Dead and Saga. Image comics not only put out good product by renown artists but took a stand against corporations, their charter best says it:
Image would not own any creators work; the creator retained it
No partner interference either financially and creatively.
The birth of Spawn
After a life of full of murder, betrayal, pain and espionage serving his country he would get promoted to top assassin for the C.I.A. after saving the life of the president. Al is then murdered, by whom he knows not so during his journey through the inferno that is hell he makes one last plea, screams and begs for a chance to see his wife Wanda again. Needless to say making deals with demons never bodes well for the one signing on the line so Al returns to Earth, face looking like a badly burned burger drowned in scabs…yuck would be an understatement. Al is in a new body as his mind is tormented by flashbacks and memories of his great love. While trying to put all the pieces together he decides to crash in the alleys while becoming the protector of the homeless in the Bowery, a run down hood in New York. Gradually he learns he got stiffed in his deal returning 5 years after his death, his best friend knocked up his widow and he was celebrated a hero…I know, and believe me it get’s worse. I am trying to not spoil of the story or giveaway too much but I can say that every panel is worth the paper it’s printed on. Spawn means a lot to me because it challenged me as a young reader, opened my mind to new horizons concerning creativity and imagination. I mean hot angels waging war with demonic lords with New York City as the backdrop most of the time. Spawn fights Predators, Xenomorphs to Gotham’s caped crusader himself. Even the supporting cast are written well as you begin to empathize and relate to certain characters. Spawn is an ever evolving character and his universe is by far one of the most sinister in comics. Be sure to check out the first couple of issues and below I will include a link for you lazy cats out there who would rather watch the show. The movie was meh, but the HBO is a lot better and will give you a limited yet good idea of what to expect from the literature.
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