The best-selling Image Comics series Saga announced that it would be going on an intermission earlier this week to the dismay of many fans. Over its 54 issues and six years of publication so far, the series has regularly taken three-month breaks after each new six-issue storyline. This is something different with co-creators Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples stating they plan to take at least a year away from the series in order to spend more time with their families and return to it revitalized. While it may be disappointing to know there won’t be a Saga #55 until August of 2019 at the earliest, especially after the events of Saga #54, this intermission does provide new and old readers a great opportunity.
It’s easy to take great ongoing comics series for granted. For fans of the series, it has become something reliable, a monthly dose of top-notch storytelling. For those who haven’t read it yet, it has likely become that thing you know is good and just need to get around to eventually. The next year is not only a chance to finally get around to reading Saga for the latter group, but an opportunity to experience the full six years of work so far as a whole for the former. While there is a lot to Saga, an entire year presents the perfect time frame to read the complete series so far without ever having to rush ahead before the next issue comes out. If you need any more convincing as to why now is the perfect time to catch up, here are three big reasons.
This break in publication provides a lot of time to catch up, but it also offers a great arrangement for both collecting Saga and experiencing it thematically. For new readers the concept of buying 54 issues of comics can seem overwhelming. Luckily, within the next year all of Saga will be collected in much more manageable (and affordable) trade paperbacks and hardcovers. Each trade paperback is composed of six issues, meaning there will be a total of nine available by this fall when the most recent one is released. The hardcovers contain 18 issues each, which means when the third is released in time for Christmas that everything can be read in three volumes that also looks great on a bookshelf.
More importantly, the events of Saga #54 provide a great breaking point in the series. Without giving too much away, they signal a thematic and temporal stopping point, one that is likely to either shift the perspective of the series in a radical way or set it up for an endgame. No matter what happens next, the first 54 issues come together to make for a compelling read all on their own with much of what happens in the most recent issues reflecting themes and characters arcs from the very beginning. To place the series in terms of another popular sci-fi franchise, catching up now would be like watching A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, before Return of the Jedi is released. And just like in this hypothetical example where you haven’t seen Star Wars, it’s difficult to justify staying away any longer.
Still a Great Comic
The shine can come off a lot of comics series over the course of a few years, much less 54 entire issues. Many Image Comics series have run down their premise after an initial arc and then insisted on pushing forward to ever diminishing returns (and readers). We are here to assure you that is not the case with Saga. When the series first began, Vaughan stated that he intended for it to run longer than either of his most popular creator-owned endeavors to date, Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina. These series ran for 60 and 50 issues, respectively, and filled every single one of them with significant new plots, characters arcs, and twists. He is a writer that plans for the long game and Saga has only reaffirmed this ability. As the series has grown and the cast has evolved, it is clearly following a plan. The events of Saga #54 re-establish this in an especially clear fashion as multiple bits of foreshadowing and key themes from the very first story arc are fulfilled.
Current readers are just as likely as new ones to appreciate the growth of Fiona Staples’ stellar artwork throughout the course of the series. Staples was made a star upon the publication of Saga #1, and for very good reason. No other storyteller in comics had an imagination, style, or approach quite like hers. Comparing Saga #1 and Saga #54, it’s still stunning to see how much all of those elements have evolved over the course of 6 years. The work has become more fluid and use of watercolor-like fills even richer. It is an impressive evolution worth experiencing no matter how much of Saga you might have already read.
Still an Important Comic
Saga is a lot of things. It’s a great adventure, an emotional roller coaster, an imaginative sci-fi travelogue, and more. There is so much about the series that could be described in purely visceral reactions that it’s sometimes easy to overlook the heart of the story. No matter how crazy the events of the series become it always remains a story about family and the incredible challenges of loving and surviving our world. That was a story that felt important in 2012 when the series began, and feels even more important in 2018.
Across the course of 54 issues Saga has explored an incredible array of themes through its growing family unit. Frankly, it is more difficult to imagine a significant concept the series has not touched upon. War, refugees, drug use, journalism, abuse… the list goes on and on, and every single element is approached with nuance and compassion. This perspective has formed a series that reflects an entire universe through the eyes of a single family, making it clear that while they are but a few members of a massive setting, that it all matters. It is difficult to imagine many more important ideas than that.