Over here at Trash Talk! we’re going to take a look at pop-culture through an artistic lens, more specifically exploring the dichotomy between high-art and low-art in movies, TV, comics, and video games. What’s fine cinema, and what’s trash? Sometimes the line may be thinner than you think.
“Please keep reading.” These are the words that start the latest issue of Saga, and yes, they are just as meta as they sound. They’re delivered by the hunky, shirtless, and chained Marko, one of the leads of Saga.
Brian K. Vaughan (Saga’s incredible writer) knows what the ladies like, and Fiona Staples (the books immaculate artist) knows just how to render it. Despite appearances Marko isn’t speaking to the reader (or, well, not just the reader). He’s speaking to his future wife, and current captor, Alana. If this sounds confusing, let me catch you up. Marko and Alana represent two sides of an epic space conflict. Marko’s been captured by the enemy team, and his jailer is Alana. Of course, they fall in love, have a hybrid baby, and are now on the run from both sides. But in the past, where this issue (Chapter Ten) begins, Marko’s part of a chain gang, and is Alana’s willing book club buddy.
You see, Alana’s been reading this trashy romance novel called A Night Time Smoke (you won’t find it in your local bookstore, unless your local bookstore is on the planet Cleave). My Mom still loves books just like this. It’s full of flowery prose that will make even your sweet tooth sore. You can check out some of it, read by Alana, in the panel below.
As the two discuss this rather trite sounding book, it becomes apparent to them there is more to it then just fluffy romance, and I’m not talking about the rock monster (though that is something that you’d never find in the paperbacks my Mom devours). In it Marko and Alana see a metaphor for their situation, a war with no end in sight, and where true peace is an open question. This work of light fiction becomes a catalyst in the lives of these two characters, and represents a greater conflict in the world they inhabit. This book is exactly like Saga itself.
Saga is a sprawling sci-fi fantasy. Which is not the most respected genre (unless your title begins with Star and ends with Wars). There are tree spaceships, ghost babysitters, a cat the can tell if you lie, witches with upside down heads that spit from their eyes, a planet sized egg, and the giant space baby that hatches from it. All that and more is in the latest issue alone. While the series is filled with crazy high concepts like these, that’s not what it’s about. At the core of this book is a family. Marko, Alana, and their hybrid baby Hazel (who narrates the book from the future) are the heart of this book. This particular story arc has dealt with the appearance of Marko’s parents, who are none too happy to see their son shacking up with the enemy. Meeting the in-laws is hard, but in Saga it’s made all the harder when those in-laws can use magic.
But Saga is also more than family function. Like the novel at the beginning, this issue segues from romance, to a pretty heavy war analogy. As Marko and his family are being chased by his blood thirsty ex, accompanied by an infamous bounty hunter (are you getting a sense for how weird and wonderful this comic is yet?) Hazel’s narration kicks in. She discusses how romantic entanglements often leave collateral damage, as we witness a very literal demonstration of that in panel. Chapter Ten ends with a devastating last page, that’ll break the heart of anyone who has followed the book from the beginning.
It can be easy to disregard fantasy stories as fun, but insubstantial, maybe even meaningless. A good way to spend a lazy day, just like a trashy romance novel. But in the case of Saga, all those crazy aliens and space battles are a carrier for something much more meaningful. Saga is about life, from beautiful romances, to the devastating consequences of war, and everything in between (like giant space baby’s).
Agree, disagree, or other? Please comment below and let me know your thoughts! Also, you guys can now follow me on Twitter and Instagram, @djtalkstrash. Do that, and I’ll reward you with pithy banter of 140 characters or less. That’s a bargain!