Saga: Chapter 7

I read the first few issues of the Remender / Opena run on Uncanny X-Force. I’ll be honest, it’s pretty good. The art is impressive and, even more so, the story actually makes sense (so long as you’ve a rudimentary knowledge of X-Men lore). I was let down by the Avengers Vs. X-Men event that Marvel published earlier this year. Everything was disjointed, the plot made little sense and there was almost no character development. Everything felt like a ploy to sell more comics, like you’d be missing out if you didn’t buy the tie-in titles. There’s something of a loss there, when art becomes about profits.

That said, I found Uncanny X-Men to be a breathe of fresh main-stream air. There’s a lot of substance, a lot going on. And like I said, the art is beautiful, the design is wonderful, visually speaking it’s a bit of a masterpiece. That said, it’s interesting that so little is done with so much. I’m talking about the story, and the plot, and the world they develop. Exposition is leaned on heavily here and, for the most part, it works. However, after reading the first six issues, it’s interesting to consider how much has been left out and, of course, how little has occurred.

I have a reason for bringing that all up. Just before reading Uncanny X-Men, I read the seventh issue of Saga by Brian K.Vaughan. It’s a fantastic series. The story is amazing and perfectly complemented by Fiona Staples art. In my experience, it’s the best ongoing series that’s currently in publication, and I can’t overstate how badly you need to be reading it (like, right now).

What most impresses me, as I realized while reading issue seven, was how much is done with so little. A whole universe has been created with so little being explained. Yes, the art does lend to the development of this universe, but Vaughan’s writing is so exact that an entire reality is created with so few words. It makes reading exciting, like an act of discovery, where a world is reveled to you with every turn of a page.  This is impressive, because the reader trusts the world they’re in from issue one. Everything feels supported, nothing seems like a lie.

Vaughan writes with a literary style, utilizing pacing and reveal like a master novelist. That’s something I appreciate, especially when reading the blander (if not more visually striking) Uncanny X-Force.  Vaughan let’s everything layer into one another, where everything means something to everything else. It’s hard to do, but Saga’s writing accomplishes it in as few words as possible.

My favorite moment of issue seven is the very last moment. Marko explains, earlier in the series, that spells need ingredients. It’s cute, honestly, and not something you’d think much of at the time. The spell that Marko is attempting to conjure is one that requires a secret. At the moment it’s entertaining and completely successful.

But that’s what makes Vaughan so impressive, that he creates a rule that is momentarily interesting while remaining a surprising and, even more importantly, a working plot mechanic.   The moment I’m talking about, my favorite moment, comes when Marko’s father tells Alana that he only has one month to live (the secret is used to as an ingredient in spell casting). Everything is so damn well thought out.

It’s a lot to consider, when in contrast to Uncanny X-Force, because everything is so much more complex. Saga tells a story with so little, but with so much thought, where X-Force moves so slowly with so much action.

I think this all speaks to something larger, the differences between these two comics. Marvel pays, if I’m not mistaken, by the page. Image is a publisher who only accepts creator owned material, and will cut a deal after submission to pay out a percentage of profit. The two models are very different, and I think they affect the craft  in a very obvious way. Uncanny X-Force and all Marvel comics are written because they’ve been paid to be written. Saga was created because Vaughan wanted to, because he was passionate about it. In my opinion, it shows.

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