Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tell Me A Story And I'll Tell You Who You Are (Saga)

What can I say about Saga? Well, it’s a comic. A semi-indie comic, by which I mean that it’s still published by a major publisher and written by a very well known (to comics nerds) writer, Brian K. Vaughn. And everyone in the industry is fawning over it. And Fiona Staples is both well-respected and kind of a rockstar. But it doesn’t have any superheroes in it, so I guess we could call it an indie.

It’s also freaking awesome.

So there’s that.

Saga is, well, a saga. Following a pair of star-crossed lovers through an intergalactic war as the lovers are hunted by a series of increasingly terrifying and really well fleshed out bad guys, Saga is Romeo and Juliet writ large. If Romeo and Juliet had lived long enough to have a baby, and happened to be aliens.

It follows the story of Alana and Marko, members of two warring peoples. Alana’s people, who have wings and are very technologically advanced, live on the planet Landfall, and have formed the Landfall Coalition. Marko’s people use magic and sometimes have horns, and live on Landfall’s satellite, Wreath. The people hate each other. Like a lot. Like, enough that their war rages across the galaxy and has created genocides, destroyed planets, and created an entire industry of outsourced armies.

Alana and Marko are enemy combatants who happen to fall in love over a simple book, a book about two people falling in love.

Honestly, that might be my favorite part of the whole thing.

The story in Saga is so incredibly epic. When they were pitching it, Vaughn and Staples referred to the story as “Star Wars meets Game of Thrones”, and it fits. You’re not just following the lovebirds and their adorable (occasionally omniscient narrator) daughter Hazel, you also get views on all the different people their story touches. Like Marko’s family and his former fiancée. Or the Robot Prince whose job it is to bring Alana and Marko to justice at Landfall. Or the freelance mercenary hired by Wreath to kill the lovers but take the child, who can’t help but go back and rescue a victim of sex-trafficking even though he’s on the job and a vicious killer.

The story’s seriously deep, man. That’s not even the half of it. Sometimes Saga feels less like you’re reading a comic book and more like you’re reading an extended metaphor someone created to discuss life and death and war and industrialization and human empathy. And I don’t mean it like that’s a bad thing. There’s a character, Isabelle, who’s literally just a ghost, the last remnant of a people entirely wiped out by the war, and Isabelle is still able to care. She wants to help them. She isn’t jaded or lost or cynical, she’s angry, but she isn’t hard.

No one is one-dimensional in this story. Absolutely no one. Not even the Lying Cat, who can literally only say the word “Lying.” He has depth.

So why, in this sprawling fantasy world, where princes have televisions for heads, trees can be spaceships, and entire planets hatch into world-eating monster is my favorite part the book? Well probably because it’s the entire point of the series.

The actual inciting incident of all of this is a story. A simple story about two people who should by all rights be at odds falling in love and making a world for themselves. That’s the book Alana leaves that makes her suddenly open to the idea of falling in love. That’s the book that shows her that Marko is actually worth talking to. That’s the book that starts everything. And it’s the simplest thing in the world.

In the end, it’s all a story.

I believe firmly in stories. I believe that stories are, in a way, who we are. It’s no coincidence or accident that I’ve basically devoted my life to them. I watch movies and read books and write comics and tell bedtime stories and help other people tell their stories, and I always do it for one simple reason: because stories matter. They aren't all that matter, but they are important.

The stories we tell are what define us. The words that come out of our mouths are what reveal what we have inside. 

So it is incredibly important, deathly important, that we care for those stories, and that we choose those stories wisely.

Now, do I agree with everything Alana and Marko do? No. Do I think that every story is equally valid and worth hearing? Of course not. Not all stories are created equal. But I do believe, strongly, that stories matter.

Alana and Marko didn’t fall in love only because they read a book. But they did fall in love because they had the idea that they could, and that did come from the book. And sure, the story isn’t over yet. We don’t know what their love will bring. But we do know that it’s another story, one worth telling, and that as their story shows us the destruction of war, the importance of family, and the saving power of love, we can be changed for the better too.

Because of a story we read in a book.

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