Is the second issue of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples Fantasy/Sci-Fi series Saga as jam-packed with inventiveness, creativity, and emotion as the first issue? Nope. But does it affirm that this is an epic journey well worth following in the long term? Yup.
…And it’s an unfair comparison to make, of course, as Vaughan and Staples did their jobs to perfection with the first issue, setting up an entirely new fantasy universe unlike any other, and then making it accessible on the human level. Well, alien level. Like any good second issue, though, Saga #2 affirms what I liked about issue one, offers some exciting new characters and spectacular designs, deepens what we know about existing characters, and ends with one heck of a cliffhanger.
To get you up to speed, in case you missed the first issue, Saga takes place in a part of the universe where a race of horned magic users are locked in an eternal battle with a race of winged science users. Stuck in the center are Alana and Marko, a pair of what one character calls in issue two “star-crossed dumb s**ts,” who have a newborn baby named Hazel. As we found out at the end of issue one, Hazel isn’t the savior of both races, or the one who will end the war… She’s just a kid who got to live a long life because of parents who love her and tried to protect her
You’d think that would rob all the tension from the story, right? Except even with Hazel telling the story from some unspecified, all-seeing point in the future, she’s just the main plot device, the Maltese Falcon, the macguffin that keeps the story going. We don’t know whether Alana and Marko will survive, and by the end of issue two, things look more dire than ever. That’s no mean feat: making a reader one hundred percent invested in the fates of characters they’ve barely met… It’s certainly taken me six issues or more of a comic to get invested in mainstream characters I know very well before, and here I’d be heartbroken if anything happened to Alana or Marko in under two.
That’s due not just to Vaughan’s excellent characterization, which simply implies both the long histories of the characters through hints and small mentions, but also Staples beautiful framing. A scene where the whole family falls asleep in this issue has more implications of relationships than most comics – or books – do in their entire runs.
I’m skirting around spoilers here, of course, but the villains in this issue are also exciting, for very different reasons. If there’s a theme at play in this issue, its that everyone, from our heroes, to the bounty hunters trying to track them down and kill them, are never what they seem. Some have their secrets hiding on the surface, and some, like the red eyes glimpsed from the woods at the end of issue one, and throughout issue two have secrets that go far beyond what you’d ever expect.
If there’s one little qualm I have about this issue, it’s that the first spoiled me with so much content. It was forty pages of story, full of heart and emotion. Here, we get all of that reiterated, but there’s only twenty-two pages. Don’t get me wrong: from the first splash page to the last, this is a beautiful comic book that every fan of comics, fantasy, or scifi should pick up without thinking twice about. But there’s also only four scenes in the book, and that’s the joy and the curse of a really good series: you always want more of it… The first issue was a full meal, this one is like an amazing appetizer. Delicious, full of flavor, but not quite filling enough on its own.
That said: Saga continues to be the most original, exciting new series not just in comics, but all of entertainment. There’s still time to get in on the ground floor, so do that, won’t you?
Saga #2 hits comic book stands from Image Comics on April 11, 2012.