His Horns, Her Wings and Several Genres

Saga¹ is, according to Dr. Delwiche, “a space opera about JAN120485_1star-crossed lovers described by one reader as Star Wars meets Romeo and Juliet meets Game of Thrones.” I don’t believe that there is a more accurate way to describe this comic. Saga follows Alana and Marko, our Juliet and Romeo, as they try to escape the intergalactic war being fought between their home planets. The comic is beautifully narrated by Hazel, their daughter, whose birth launches the start of the first chapter. As a “science-fiction/fantasy/war/romance,” Saga has a little something for everyone.

I think that the soft somewhat muted backgrounds help the characters of Saga to stand out that much more.

I think that the soft somewhat muted backgrounds help the characters of Saga to stand out that much more.

Oliver Sava of The A.V. Club couldn’t be more right when he states “Saga has a visual aesthetic unlike any other.”² Fiona Staples, the comic’s artist, exhibits her skill in both panel design and colour. Staples’s heavy inking and sketchy drawing style are reminiscent of woodblock prints, such as those made by Albrecht Durer, and while she uses a lot of heavily inked black outlining when depicting characters, Staples rarely, if ever, uses black for outlining, instead implementing the use of darker shades to outline the surroundings or foregoing an outline all together.

McCloud defines closure in Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art as the “phenomenon of observing the parts but perceiving the whole.”³  He goes on to discuss the differences between closure in comics, which requires the reader to constantly fill in the gaps between the visuals, and closure in film, which requires less work by the viewer because the actions are connected by the medium. While I find that this is true for most comics that I’ve read, there is something particularly cinematic about Saga, enough so that I feel like it would translate really well onto a screen as is. I think that the cinematic quality might stem from the panels, which seem to borrow a lot aesthetically from movie shots. For example, I noticed that there are many point-of-view “shots,” and although too many p.o.v. shots can be overkill in a movie, they work very well in Saga. I also notice that there are a lot of close shots, as well as extreme close shots, to emphasize nervousness, distress, or whatever other strong feeling a character might be experiencing in that moment. Bernard Dick mentions in Anatomy of Film that a close-up “can reveal a particular emotion that a long shot might not capture,”4 and this is absolutely the case in panels in which you see characters from the bust up, or even just a character’s face, such as the first “panel” of chapter one just showing Alana’s face as she is in labour. I think such artistic choices are what lend a cinematic aesthetic to the comic.

After reading the first 6 chapters of Saga, I immediately bought the second volume off of Amazon. The comic’s art as a whole reminds me of an animated movie’s storyboard or Disney concept art, with its sketchy main characters atop hazy underdeveloped backgrounds. This, along with a universe that doesn’t bother explaining itself, its strange inhabitants (except for Lying Cat, who is fairly self-explanatory anyway), or random bits of untranslated language sprinkled throughout the story, makes this comic a new favourite of mine. I’m eager to see how the story unfolds, what Hazel’s role in the world is, and how Staples’s style evolves throughout the rest of the series.

¹ Interested in reading Saga? Comixology has a digital version of the first chapter for free.

² The A.V. Club is “an entertainment newspaper and website published by The Onion.” However, unlike The Onion, The A.V. Club is not satirical.

Sava, Oliver. 2012. “Saga #7 and the Year of Image Comics.” A.V. Club. Accessed December 7, 2013. http://www.avclub.com/article/isaga-i7-and-the-year-of-image-comics-88811

³ McCloud, Scott. 1993. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. Tundra Publishing.

4 Dick, B. F. 2005. Anatomy of film. Boston, Mass: Bedford St. Martins.

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