As much as I love a decent comic and been a big comic book reader since I was a little tot, I appreciate it when someone goes and tries to do something beyond the superhero genre. But, there is still a bit of the stigma that comics are just for kids or adults in arrested development (and those people who believe that are usually speaking out of their ass). So, for those of who are not big fans of heroes in tights or just want a change from the norm, I’m taking a few paragraphs to spotlight comics that you may want to check out either monthly, collected, or in digital form. With that out of the way, let’s get to it…
SAGA by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (Image Comics / published monthly)
Brian K. Vaughan, writer of genuinely good books like Y: The Last Man, Runaways, Pride of Bagdad, and Ex Machina has been out of comics for a while to focus on non-comics related things (like being a staff writer for Lost among other things), but recently returned to the land of regular monthly books with the sci-fi/fantasy epic Saga. The main story of Saga revolves around the Romeo & Juliet-esque story of Marko and Alana, each natives of planets in a far-off galaxy that have been at war for ages. They were both soldiers for their home and through circumstances not completely revealed, fell in love and deserted their homeworlds. As the story picks up months later, both planets send bounty hunters to find the duo when a shocking piece of news arrives: Alana is pregnant with their child. Both planets have vested interests in taking the offspring alive for themselves, and to seeing Marko and Alana dead before their story seeds dissent in both governments’ long standing war with each other.
A strength of Vaughan’s work is the really strong characters that fill up this world, like Marko and Alana, who unlike Romeo & Juliet, are not so lost in each other that they are weak to the machinations of others. They are soldiers who found each other (and that’s one story whose origin is yet to be revealed), and with their newborn daughter, find themselves on the run to flee the reach of their homelands. Even their pursuers, like the sullen The Will and Prince Robot IV have their own motivations and troubles. There’s a lot of history that is slowly being revealed, like Alana’s homeland using technology and Marko’s using magic to fight each other. As the universe of this series is still expanding, there are some wonderful reveals that keep you interested in what’s going on and what’s coming next.
Another big plus is the computer-penned art of Fiona Staples, who besides being one of comic-dom’s up-and-coming artists, creates a wonderful look for the series, which has somewhat normal looking protagonists (the wings and horns give away a lot) and some often unique looking characters, like Prince Robot IV’s normal looking body but old school TV head (literally, his head looks like a TV screen from the 1960’s). The reveal of new characters later on, like rival assassin The Stalk and the creatures known as The Horrors are both alien and easy to identify with. Its hard to combine elements of magic and “laser-blasters” into a cohesive package, but Saga is doing great on that so far. The book has a dark fairytale quality to it, even with the hand written narration by one of its characters (which I won’t spoil, but you find out early on), which portend of rough times ahead for this unusual new family of fugitives.
This is by no means an all-ages kind of comic. You get your share of violence, profanity, sex, and some decisions that are really more than your average Marvel and DC book could dish out without having angry parents storming their offices. Its definitely recommended for fans of Game of Thrones and Mass Effect, really people who enjoy serious adult takes on fantasy and space drama, but has a lot of modernisms that make it worth a look for people not interested in either genre. The series hasn’t been collected into paperbacks yet (as of this writing, issue 3 just hit the bookstands, so don’t expect the first collection until late in the year), but you can find issues through your local comic bookstore (if you’re lucky, because this book has been selling out in many shops) or you can download it digitally from the Image Comics website through comiXology (the first issue’s on sale online for 2 dollars, so its an inexpensive book to check out).
Blogger Stacie Ponder is someone I recognize from her writings on classic and modern horror movies on her Final Girl blog. But recently, she’s been branching out into other areas, such as her stick figure drawings of numerous pop culture fare, like the Mass Effect games among others. That style can be seen in her webcomic RPG, which is a fun and occasionally loving tribute to fantasy, gaming, and geek culture in general. The tropes are there: a young girl who discovers she must destroy a great evil with the help of several companions, while also making sure her stats and inventory are full. Its updated several times a week and already 90 pages long, so if you like it, you’ll have quite a bit to read before waiting for the next installment.
And there we go. I plan to do this once (maybe more if time permits) every two weeks, so if you’ve got any questions, criticisms, and/or suggestions for future installments, please feel free to comment below. Until next we meet…