Reviews and Essays

Book Review – Saga Vol. 8 (Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples)

Saga Vol. 8 collects chapters 43-48 of the ongoing Saga graphic novel series. This epic space opera/fantasy is written by Brian K Vaughan (♥) and illustrated by Fiona Staples. The series is highly acclaimed, with Vol 8 holding a 4.45 on Goodreads.

Saga vol 8

After the traumatic events of the War for Phang, Hazel, her parents, and their surviving companions embark on a life-changing adventure at the westernmost edge of the universe.

Warning: This series contains violence… and graphic sexual content, not suitable for public busses (as I learned the hard way)

Trigger Warning: This volume and review discuss the experiences of miscarriage and abortion

A Summarized Review of the Series

(Volumes 1-7)

Since I am starting this at Volume 8, it seems worth noting some of my overall feelings towards the series up to date.

What Drew Me In

Saga is the first graphic novel series that I fell in love with as an adult. I collected comics as a kid, but by high school, I had largely fell out of that particular interest. But, in my mid-20s I was given Saga Vol 1 by a close friend and quickly realized that I very much still had what I call, nerd-like tendencies. I became obsessed with the series (and all of Vaughan’s work, for that matter). My love of graphic novels was revived!

It’s tough to pick just one thing that drew me into this series, so I’ll list a few. In volume 1, we meet our main characters, Alana and Marko. They are star-struck lovers, from two warring planets. Before you get the Romeo & Juliette impression, let me clarify, they are not simply innocents trapped by circumstances. They are soldiers, now on the run – choosing family-life over war. That’s right, she’s pregnant. Talk about sleeping with the enemy.

The Characters

That’s the first thing that drew me in, Alana as a woman-of-colour, pregnant, heroine – an absolute badass. Marko, a soldier turned pacifist was the next thing that drew me in. Where they agree is how much they love each other and how much they don’t want to be part of the disgusting war they’ve grown up in. Where they disagree, the usefulness of violence. Alana is willing to die, maim or KILL for her family – Marko feels strongly that violence is never the answer. With a universe full of enemies hunting them down, you can see how this gets messy, quick.

The Themes

The series also operates in a wildly imaginative space, where sci-fi meets fantasy. Literally. The genres cross in a very tangible way when we realize Alana is from a planet of science and technology, while Marko is from one of magic. Sci-Fi meets Fantasy; enter Forbidden Love.

Overarching themes in the series include:

  • Love
  • Family and Parenthood
  • Sexuality
  • Violence and Morality
  • Racism
  • War

The Narrative Structure and Artwork

I can’t stress enough how much I LOVE that this series is narrated by Alana and Marko’s child. The child has obviously grown up, and is reflecting back on the circumstances she was raised in – the good, and the bad. It’s such a beautiful contrast to experience the chaos and have a narrator tell us from time to time how even the smallest of events end up defining who she is. It’s a really striking way to explore how difficult it is to make decisions as a parent, and how world-changing each decision is. It’s a remarkable framework.

These reflective snippets often happen over panels that illustrate the vast, loneliness of the universe. It’s so powerful. And, that goes for all the artwork. Staple’s style is so emotive – I FEEL her drawings. They do more than bring the world to life, they make me completely invested in it.

Okay… that was meant to be brief, oops! On to my review of Volume 8.

My Review (Vol. 8)

Beware of Spoilers

I can’t believe I had the audacity to let this sit on my bookshelf for three months. Tsk. Tsk. I was inspired to stop putting it off when I saw the series being reviewed on a book blog I follow, Sara’s The Bibliophagist. Reading her first experiences with the series from the beginning made me so nostalgic, I gladly jumped back in.

Body Politics: Miscarriage, Abortion and Loss

Volume 8 picks up shortly after Alana has miscarried her and Marko’s second child. The book explores the many different sides to abortion – the stuff that doesn’t get talked about as much. In general, abortion tends to be framed as a discussion of women’s body rights vs fetus/infant’s rights. Essentially, Pro-Women’s Rights vs Pro-Life. But there is SO much more grey area that is often left out. For example, Alana’s situation. The baby has died, and the longer it stays inside of her, the higher risk she is at of dying herself. And yet, it’s not a medical procedure that is readily available, which means she and Marko have to travel to a very dangerous planet to find a doctor who will help her. Thought-provoking chats ensue, and I thought it was bravely, and responsibly handled. There was also a lot of time spent considering what it means to lose a child you never really had. It was emotional, and full of lines that linger.

Here’s the thing about miscarriages. They are painful, they are horrific, and they are very, very common. There are no funerals for those Who Might Have Been, leaving parents to mourn their loss in strange and unexpected ways.

Expanded World-Building

Of course, new planet means new world-building; a Vaughan/Staples speciality. Lots of new elements are introduced, including some western-style centaur-type characters. I’m curious to see if they will become central to the plot in Vol. 9. There was also an attempt to talk more about the rules of magic, by introducing a storyline that includes Alana gaining powers! Being that she comes from a Science Planet, this is a pretty exciting turn of events.

Expanding Sub-Plots

In Vol. 8, we get a lot of narrative development outside of Alana and Marko’s immediate storyline. We get caught up on The Will, who is being held captive by a scorned enemy. We also dig a little deeper into Petrichor, whom I have been dying to know more about! Her experiences as a trans-woman have been discussed in previous volumes, but here we get to know a little about her romantic history, as well. They gave me just enough to keep me hanging in for more. I think her character-development is shaping up to be one of the most interesting of the side-characters. And, a soft-spoiler here, we also get to see some characters we haven’t in quite some time! Maybe one of them is even Upsher 😉 I’ll leave it at that.

Final Thoughts

All in all, this was a very satisfying volume that pulled me RIGHT back into the series. I’m ordering Volume 9, immediately!

I give this book a 5/5, as I probably would for every book in the series 🙂

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