Friday, February 15, 2013

Saga

I don't read a lot of comics. In my heavy anime days I read a ton of (mostly shoujo) manga, but American (and, I suppose, British) comics never held much appeal for me. I did collect Wolverine for a while, when Marvel brought out a kind of best-of collection around 1999, but all that really did was emphasise the ridiculously complicated history and backstory that I had no hope of unravelling.

Really, the first comic I read and was a proper fan of was Watchmen, which means I undoubtedly missed - and continue to miss - a lot of the references and significance. It's as famous for its deconstruction of comics as a medium, the tropes and characters of the comics that came before it as it is for its own tone and storyline. Everything that's come since seems to have been massively influenced by the moral ambiguity and "dark gritty realism" of Watchmen to some extent, so it's probably difficult for me to appreciate the impact it had - even if I'm intellectually aware of it.

Long story short, I haven't been keeping up with comics and haven't had much interest in doing so. I've got the first four volumes of Y - The Last Man sitting on a shelf next to me, but the order I got them from Amazon1 did as much to kill my enthusiasm and interest for the series as much as its heavy-handed plotting and awkward dialogue did.

The big hitter in comics these days seems to be The Walking Dead, but I couldn't get into the art, story or characters for one reason or another2. I've got the first TPB of The Sixth Gun, but its pacing is all over the place and I can't see how they're going to stretch it out much longer so haven't bothered picking up any more yet. I've also read Scott Pilgrim, but it's a self-contained and relatively short (for comics) story.

Despite its shortcomings, I kind of liked Y - it's clumsy but at least it's a different take on the apocalypse. The ideas were interesting enough that when I was told about Saga and I saw Vaughn's name attached to it I added the first TPB to my Amazon wishlist. A few days and recommendations later my resolve broke - it was less than £7 delivered, so I figured it was worth the risk.

Short version: I really like it. The writing's much more natural than the clunky dialogue I'm used to in comics (even Watchmen is horribly exposition-heavy), the pacing's brilliant and Fiona Staples' art is astonishing. The characters are interesting, and the ease with which the universe is built up and explained really surprised me. The amount of sex and nudity probably isn't strictly necessary for the story, but it oddly doesn't feel like titillation.

It's one of those rare reading experiences for me where I can see the movement from panel to panel. It's not fair to say that I imagine it as a film, because I honestly don't think Saga would survive the transition with its brilliance intact - but it feels almost like I'm watching something that's really happening. This has occurred so rarely to me that I (obviously) can't really explain it.

It arrived today, and the aforementioned filth is the only reason I didn't finish it in a single sitting at work. I got through the second half of the volume when I got home, and have reread it twice since then. I honestly can't get enough of it, which is going to make the wait for volume 2 - due out in early July, for f--k sake - pretty unbearable.

1 I ordered volumes 1-4 (the trade paperbacks), but volume 3 was out of stock and I only got 1, 2 and 4. Read the first two while waiting for the third to get delivered, but it took so long to come back into stock that I ended up cancelling it. I only got around to picking up #3 when I spotted it at London Expo the year before last.

2 It maybe doesn't help that I saw the TV show first and preferred its slower, more deliberate pacing to the comic group's breakneck migration. Both pale in comparison to Telltale's episodic adventure game, though.

1 comment:

Paul Cosgrove said...

Re: the film thing - I think this is the first comic, manga, book or anything else that I've felt protective of. I don't want to see this converted to a film or TV show because it's so perfect the way it is, and even though the original won't be diluted or destroyed by a poor adaptation (surely that can only highlight the brilliance of the original?), I feel like if you're going to experience this world and these characters you owe it to them to see them here first.

Wow, that sounds like borderline nonsense, even to me.