SAGA: Book One – Vaughan & Staples // HERE – McGuire (2014)

Two reviews of comics / graphic novels this time – very different in content, tone and style. Both editions were published in 2014, and both have speculative elements – Saga has nothing but, Here only very sporadically dips into the future.

The McGuire goes back to his groundbreaking 6-page 1989 comic strip of the same name. The Saga series was started in 2012, and is on hiatus for the moment. Its first trade paperback collection won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story – it is a blend of space opera & fantasy.

Saga nahhh

Here dancing

SAGA: Book One – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (2014)

For an introduction, read the glowing review on Reenchantment.

It was entertaining, at times witty, and creative, sure, but I don’t think I will whip out another 38 euros for the next hardcover volume. Why not?

One. The universe the story is set in is haphazard, and relies heavily on visual oomph or the occasional smart, funny or creepy idea. Vaughan has created himself a universe that gives him absolute freedom as a writer, and that’s too much power for anyone to handle. As anything can happen, in the end, nothing really matters – you know the author can outsmart the mess he might have written himself in any time by introducing yet another testicle giant, a magical wooden space ship, flying sharks or a teenage ghost without a vagina.

Two. The writing suffers a bit from the comic book format itself, becoming a predictable formula that ends with a cliffhanger every chapter. It may work in a once a month dosage, but collected in a tome like this, it became rote about halfway through.

Three. In the final 5 chapters it dawned on me the two main adult characters continue to be their immature self. As Katelyn Sherman noted on Goodreads: “The horned husband pushes his winged wife and newborn baby off a tower because he secretly knew she could fly even though she didn’t think she could and never had before? And then he talks with his ex girlfriend about their relationship and how sorry he is before the wife does indeed come flying back to shoot the ex girlfriend? Ridiculous.”

Four. The visuals are nice – Fiona Staples sure can draw emotion – but at the same time you see she only gets a month for each issue/chapter. The potential is there, but it’s a rush job too. It’s all digital, resulting in overall flat textures – it’s too clean & sterile for my tastes. Most importantly: there simply is not enough variation in her artistic choices, making it – structurally – repetitive.

Five. The series isn’t finished. 54 comics published at the moment I write this, we are only halfway: 54 have yet to be written, but Vaughan & Staples are on a hiatus to get the creative juices flowing again. In the end – if it ever happens – we should end up with 6 of these hardcover volumes in total. That’s about 230 euros in total for what is – all things considered – pulp fiction, and I’m not committing to that.

It’s hard to judge the bigger story arc based on the first 18 comics only. I have to say at first I was really sold, but after the first 10 comics gradually lost my interest: maybe it’s just a creative slump? I will borrow and read Book Two if I ever get the chance, to see if the series redeems itself, but I don’t have high hopes.

PS – The 40 pages at the end of this specific volume are a ‘making of’, and it’s really interesting, a must read for any serious fan.

Saga advice

HERE – Richard McGuire (2014)

McGuire’s seminal comic strip Here was published under Art Spiegelman’s editorship at RAW in 1989. This 300-page graphic novel expands & re-imagines it in full-color.

It tells the story of one corner of one room in America between the years  500,957,406,073 BC and 2313 AD. It does so by collapsing time and space on each of the book’s spreads.

Here is a rather poetic experience. It’s a bit non-committal because of the fragmented narrative: I expected to experience more emotions when I finished it. I guess the inclusion of the BCE shots with dinosaurs etc. are supposed to put perspective on the fleeting nature of humanity, but it doesn’t really work as the narrative remains human centered: you can’t have your cake & eat it.

It’s also rather bourgeois as power structures & poverty are absent from this kaleidoscope – even as McGuire includes a bit of Benjamin Franklin. The few Native Americans that are present function more as a prop than as a stepping board for some serious soul searching about colonial empire. Again, the narrative remains firmly centered on the 20th century in a comfortable middle class room: all else is just a sideshow.

Similarly, it’s also non-offensive as it is probably a tad too optimistic on the future of humanity in 2050 and 2213.

For a final appraisal, I’m somewhere between ‘I liked it’ & ‘I really liked it’. A very fast read, so don’t hesitate to check this out and see how you feel about it. It is singular as a vision on storytelling, and that should be enough to convince anybody interested in narrative, and as such definitely recommended.

Here years

Consult the author index for all my other reviews, or my favorite lists – including an art book list.

21 responses to “SAGA: Book One – Vaughan & Staples // HERE – McGuire (2014)

  1. Saga never appealed to me and nothing in ReEW’s review made me want to read it. Sorry that it didn’t work for you but good thing to have figured out BEFORE spending that much money and waiting for them to actually finish it. If they’re already taking a break, I’m predicting it won’t get finished or will be finished so half-assed that all their fans will be annoyed.


    • It will take’m at least 54 more months, and there’s no sign anywhere of them re-starting soon so it could very well be it never gets finished.

      Maybe if I’d bought the Compendium 1 for 50 euros, I’d have finished the whole thing up until now, but I only learned of its existence after I bought this. But it’s a bit smaller as a format, and it doesn’t seem to have the extra, so I’m kinda glad I didn’t.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. and looking at this review, I can see how I would have done it using the block editor (but not using the classic block). Let me know if you have any interest. If figure if you can learn even a tip or two about the block editor it “might” keep you from leaving wp.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not leaving, no worries! The classic block kinda works for me. But feel free to shoot!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ok, looking at your post, here’s how I’d replicate it using nothing but the block editor

        1) Post title
        2) opening 2 paragraphs using 2 paragraph block
        3) insert a “line” block
        3A) under the settings of the line block, change it to “wide” to go the width of the post.
        4) insert 1 paragraph block for your book title (ie, Saga book 1). Change it to bold
        5) insert an image block
        6) add a paragraph block
        7) edit image block to align left (whenever you click on pix it shows being left aligned but it actually isn’t so you have to click it anyway) also edit the pix to be clickable per our conversation over on my post
        7) insert spacer block, size depending on how much space you want
        8) repeat steps 3-6 for your next book

        I have found the “spacer” block to one of the most effective blocks since “enter” creates a new block and soft “enter” isn’t always honored by the editor.

        Let me know if this has been any help.

        But yeah, using the new editor takes twice as many steps as the old one and I’m frustrated as ****** even while forcing myself to use it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the shout-out, Bart! πŸ™‚
    I think you’ll enjoy the second omnibus more; I do remember the feeling you describe, I had a similar case of fatigue at the end of omnibus 1 – seemed like the creators were so infatuated with the unlimited scope of their universe they somehow lost track of the story a bit; but it gets better, and tighter, and the stakes go up πŸ™‚ I’m generally a book borrower (nowadays I almost exclusively use libraries and only rarely buy books, mostly academic), so I can relate to the pain of paying so much for a book – my only consolation for you is that at some point, hopefully your kid will grab this and become fascinated πŸ˜€ Though hopefully not too early! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ah, that’s very good to read. I might still end up reading the whole thing in that case. πŸ™‚
      Do the first three wrap up a bit? Or is there a huge cliffhanger a the end of three? In the latter case, I might just wait a few years until it’s fully finished.
      I’m a buyer out of necessity. While we have a splendid library system, the amount of English books our libraries carry is limited, let alone speculative fiction. For general English literature, our academic libraries are very good, but I’m not living in a city anymore, and as I read mostly speculative stuff, it would be of no help anyhow.
      There’s a fair amount of books I sell to the second hand shops afterwards, but what you get for it is peanuts. In an ideal world I’d borrow everything and then buy the 4 and 5 star reads afterwards. Luckily, there’s not too much I don’t finish, but still. Conincidentally, this week I started two non-fiction books that turned out not to be for me, so that’s 50 euros down the drain. I have also learned not to instantly buy 4 of 5 other books of a new author I come across and whose one book I’ve read I really liked. Taking it one book at a time helps too to not end up with too many duds.
      I just checked Saga, I could get the first two comics in Dutch translation via an interlibrary loan, but that’s it, nothing else.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Glad to hear that!
        As to whether they wrap up a bit – yes; but there’s a lot happening in the third omnibus, some significant deaths and changes, so there is somewhat of a cliffhanger πŸ˜‰

        That sucks; I used to buy much more when I lived in Poland, like you out of necessity, because the libraries there simply don’t have English books. I used to buy a lot from Amazon marketplace, second-hand books could’ve been obtained quite cheaply from UK. And I did borrow a lot from Piotrek, too πŸ˜‰

        I have a similar leaning to buy only very good books that I’ve already read and I’m sure I want to have them on my shelf; the only exception I usually make is for hard-to-get academic books that I have no chance of getting otherwise – these I order online from Amazon or Book Depository.

        What non-fiction did you buy that doesn’t work for you? Incidentally, this you can try to sell on Amazon marketplace – you might get a better price for them there (though I haven’t used this for a long time, the situation might have changed significantly).

        Liked by 2 people

        • Amazon marketplace is a good tip, thanks. I’ve strangely never considered it, though I buy from it occasionally. A significant chunk of my buying is second hand too, especially older SF, as lots is OOP, and there’s also a good brick & mortar that has lots of English SF in the city nearby. That saves a bit of money. Most online buying is Book Depository too, and the local competitor to Amazon, who amazingly seems to be able to keep Amazon at bay in the Benelux.

          Those 2 non-fiction books were ‘What we cannot know’ by Marcus du Sautoy, very annoying way of writing, too anecdotal, and a bit too much focused on math as well for my tastes. The other was ‘World Ordering: A Social Theory of Cognitive Evolution’ by Emanuel Adler, 2019. I guess I wasn’t the target audience: that book spent way too much time positioning itself in the overall field of international relations & sociology, instead of just presenting its theory. The result was too much specific information I didn’t need, or didn’t have the background on. Pretty dense writing style too, could have used a better editor, but as I said, it was aimed at those in the know, so maybe I’m not the one to judge that. The actual theory seemed to be descriptions of processes that are kinda obvious, but I dropped out after 45 pages, so I might be mistaken.


  4. Ah snap. Sorry to hear how Saga didn’t work out for you. Like Ola mentions, I think the following book contains a much tighter storyline that could revive your interest in it? Then again, if the price is the main problem, I’d only recommend finding a cheaper or free alternative to indulge this series. Great thoughts on these! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m reading the graphic novels of moebius right now: the incal and the world of edena. Are you familiar with them? I had a quick look at saga and saw people with donkey ears and lost all interest, to be honest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I’ve read some of the incal 20 years ago, but I’m not sure I’ve read the complete series. A friend of mine was heavily invested in French/European comics, I borrowed lots of his. I did read Metabarons however, at least the original series. Tops Saga easily, in my memories. Technopriests lost me.

      What I also remember enjoying was Enki Bilal, Aldebaran & spin offs, Lanfeust of Troy (plus the Stars spin off),… There was lots more but I don’t remember.


    • Looks like I might have check out Edena. Looks very interesting.


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