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Comicbook: SaGa

This is an original fantasy book with no superheroes, two non-white leads and an opening chapter featuring graphic robot sex. I thought we might be cancelled by our third issue.

An intergalactic ongoing series from Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples described as Romeo and Juliet meets Star Wars meets Game of Thrones.

Far off in space, the large planet of Landfall is populated by people sporting (slightly functional) wings of various kinds. The moon of Landfall is called Wreath and is populated by people with various kinds of animal horns. The two races have been waging war for so long that the fight between the 'wings and horns' is just a fact of life. The wings have advanced technology while the horns wield magic — making the whole thing just a little more complicated and brutal.

The actual plot starts when a POW Wreath soldier named Marko gets into a relationship with his guard, Alana. They then escape, breaking out of jail and deserting, respectively, and get married. While hiding out on another planet called Cleave, Alana gives birth to a halfbreed child possessing both wings and horns that they name Hazel. As the new parents rush to escape Cleave alive both factions become aware of the union and seek to kill the parents and possess their child.

Saga contains examples of:

  • Actual Pacifist: Marko is strictly bound to a code of nonviolence and keeps his ancestral sword chained to its scabbard. He briefly breaks off from this belief to defend his family, though he still doesn't actually kill anyone. He returns to his oath and sacrifices his sword to power the rocketship.
    • Also D. Oswald Heist, who is even more committed to his ideals than Marko.
  • Adult Fear: Their governments both want Marko and Alana dead, and want their baby alive.
  • Anti-Villain: Prince Robot IV and The Will.
  • Alien Blood: People of the Robot Kingdom of course have bright blue blood. They're Blue Bloods, too.
  • Arm Cannon: Prince Robot IV has one that seems to morph out of his hand. Another Robot (Baron, specifically) also sported one, and a third, a Countess, sports a Blade Below the Shoulder, so it seems Shapeshifter Weapons are standard parts for the Kingdom. According to Alana, the cannons of the bluebloods pack a significantly stronger punch than the weapons of most Landfall soldiers.
  • Badass: The series is a Worlds of Badass which is Justified, since they're all living during wartime.
    • Action Dad/Action Mom: Marko and Alana for Hazel. Barr and Klara for Marko.
    • Action Pet: The Lying Cat, who not only can determine when someone lies, but will also not hesitate to tear enemies apart.
    • Badass Adorable: Izabel, who manages to scare off The Stalk.
    • Badass Cape: The Will has one.
    • Badass Normal: The Will seems to be the only straight human among the cast, but still completely kicks ass.
    • Badass Family: Marko, Barr and Klara.
    • Badass Pacifist: Marko.
    • Battle Couple: Alana and Marko, and Marko's parents, Barr and Klara. The Will and The Stalk seem to have been one in the past.
    • Heartbroken Badass: The Will after The Stalk is killed after a misunderstanding with Prince Robot IV.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Marko grows one after his father dies.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: The Will and The Stalk. The Will denies it, but Lying Cat knows better.
  • Berserk Button: Alana getting shot is what sets off Marko's rampage against a squad of Landfall soldiers in issue 6. He doesn't stop until she steps in. Prince Robot IV, whenever anyone threatens his wife or unborn child or makes light of the horrific experiences he and others suffered at Threshold None. During a brief interrogation with a belligerent Wreathen PoW, his facial-screen goes into static and he almost puts the prisoner through a steel bulkhead.
  • Bifauxnen: The Brand.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Cleave's blue moonspeak? Esperanto.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In-universe, when Alana starts responding to a heckler.
  • Buffy Speak: Shows up from time to time.
  • Cephalothorax: The attendants on Sextillion are giant human heads with human legs wearing fishnets. It's...gross.
  • Cool Ship: The trees of the Rocketship Forest are spacecraft. Granted you can't drive it, just ride it (it is, however, open to suggestions, if it likes you).
  • Dem Bones: "Bone bugs", as Izabel calls them, animate bone marrow of long-dead creatures to create skeletal constructs.
  • Die or Fly: A literal example occurs when Alana, who is convinced her small insectoid wings are useless even for slowing a fall, is shoved off the top of a lighthouse with Hazel in her arms after they and Marko are cornered. Partially subverted in that Marko knew she could still fly.
  • Distaff Counterpart: The Brand resembles The Will a great deal - a presumably-human Freelancer with an animal sidekick and a weird moral framework. Even their outfits, when considered as a whole, are the same ensemble (long and flowing outer garment over white shirt, crooked belt with holster and pouches, archaic-seeming weapon, loose pants, distinctive shoes) composed using different elements. The Brand especially makes the similarity kind of eerie when wearing a helmet a lot like the mask on The Will's cape. It stops being so odd when you discover that they're siblings.
  • Dirty Coward: By the standards of their respective factions, both Alana and Marko. Alana was demoted to guard duty after a listed case of "abject cowardice" in her first battle. Marko surrendered while claiming to be a conscientious objector. In reality, they tend to be far braver protecting things they care about. They just don't much care about the war.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The newborn Timesuck, an "astrologic super predator." The Will saw one take out a whole armada.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The Will is still obviously carrying a torch for The Stalk, he's kind to Slave Girl, and there are hints that he and Gwendolyn might be interested in each other. And when his sister The Brand shows up at his bedside, she looks utterly heartbroken to see him in that condition.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • When The Will kills an alien child sex trafficker. Hazel notes in her narration that he's a monster, but some monsters are worse than others.
    • The government of Wreath may have hired assassins to hunt down and kill Alana and Marko, but they made sure to specify that Hazel is not to be harmed, and even The Stalk has to back down and mutter "Damn, bitch," to herself when Alana herself holds Hazel at gunpoint just to keep The Stalk away. Landfall and Prince Robot IV however, not so much.
  • Expy:
  • Fantastic Racism: The folks of Landfall and Wreath sure do hate the heck out of each other. Prince Robot IV even notes that the whole war has been going on for so long it's now just self-perpetuating: lacking in purpose beyond avenging the latest development in itself.
  • Fantastic Slur: "Moony" is a very common one for the people of Wreath. "Goat-head" is another one. People from Landfall get various unflattering nouns after the word "feathered", and Alana gets called a "housefly". The Robot Kingdom has "machine head," "drone," and "blueblood" - although the latter is literal and might just be an inoffensive nickname.
  • First Episode Spoiler: The first issue makes it clear that Hazel will survive the series, her narration suggests that at least one of her parents might not; although this has been complicated by issue #19's revelation that Alana and Marko are going to split up.
  • Forever War: It's been going on so long it's an ingrained part of both cultures.
  • Fourth Wall Psych: One issue opens with a full-page spread of a shirtless Marko looking straight at the "audience" and saying "Please don't stop reading." The next page reveals that he's talking to Alana, whose reading her romance novel aloud to him.
  • Genki Girl:
    • Izabel is pretty excitable and pleasant for a ghost of a kid who stepped on a land mine.
    • Prince Robot IV's attaché during his trip to the prison complex is jarringly enthusiastic about everything.
    • The mouse medic who treated Prince Robot IV at Threshold None is also cheery, frank and talkative - even mildly flirtatious - until she dies graphically and gruesomely in a gas-attack because no one bothered to give her a mask.
  • Grey and Grey Morality: Prince Robot IV's wife feels the war is, at this point, a battle of two fairly "good" groups, since neither side has either the moral high or low ground.
  • Gun Safety: 'You took a firearm?! Are you insane?! Do you have any idea how what the statistics are for parents who keep one of those in [the home]?!' Note this is before said parents even have a home. Or a life expectancy.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: Both the higher-ups on Landfall and Wreath are specifically concerned over Hazel's existence, but in terms that imply utter disgust.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Barr saves the life of his family with a difficult magic spell, knowing full well that his ailing heart probably can't take the strain. He was, sadly, correct. He also knew that he had less than a month to live anyways.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Doff and Upsher come from a planet that has institutionalized homophobia, forcing them to go off-world in order to remain together.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Will's Lying Cat points out when people are lying. That means fooling The Will is nigh-impossible. Unfortunately for him, the Cat also has a tendency to point out when The Will himself is lying (for instance, when he claims to Gwendolyn that he's going to need more money to hunt down Marko and Alana).
  • Horned Humanoid: Marko and the other inhabitants of Wreath. Being half-Wreathen, Hazel has them too - in addition to wings like Alana.
  • Humanoids Are White: Very thoroughly averted, as the page quote notes. The winged people of Landfall, the horned people of Wreath, other humanoid aliens like Heist, and the seemingly "normal" humans like The Will and Sophie appear to come in the same variety of skin tones and features that Earth offers (and then some).
  • Imagine Spot: The Will dreams that The Stalk survived being shot, and that they go to Sextillion to save Sophie.
  • Interspecies Romance: Marko and Alana.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Doff and Upsher, a couple of tabloid reporters who are following the rumors of Hazel's birth because more respectable sources dismiss it entirely and assume it's all rumors. Despite their tabloid journalist status, they manage to score interviews with Alana's old commander (who's in the middle of an active war zone) and Special Agent Gale (who, naturally, denies the rumors entirely).
  • Killed Off for Real:
    • The Stalk in Issue 5.
    • Barr, Marko's father, in Issue 11.
    • D. Oswald Heist, the cycloptic author, in Issue 17.
  • Laser Blade: Sextillion enforcers invoke the trope when The Will points what seems to be a sword handle without a sword at them, asking him if he's going to kill them with his "faggy laser sword". The Will promptly shuts them up by impaling one of them without even leaving the spot he was standing at - it's not a sword, it's a lance. (It's not a laser weapon for that matter, either).
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When spoken, the Wreathen's native language is written in speech bubbles with blue text, implying some kind of accent or — most commonly — that they are using magic. When Marko introduces Alana to his parents for the first time, he has to point out that Alana "doesn't know how to speak Blue yet". The in-universe name for the blue text is Blue! Possibly justified. Since their language is so heavily tied to magic, it is possible that some inherent magic in the language induces a specific form of synesthesia in anyone hearing it, thus making them perceive the spoken language as blue.
  • Living Lie Detector: The Lying Cat, despite the name, is actually not a liar herself, but instead points out whenever someone's lying (Sophie nicknames her "Honest Cat" instead).
  • Living Ship: Rocketship Forest is a very, very literal name.
  • A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away...: As to hammer the point home, the only (apparently) straight up humans we've seen are The Will, Sophie, and The Brand.
  • Magic Versus Science: The people of Landfall use high technology and those of Wreath use magic. They seem pretty evenly matched.
  • Magitek: Very liberally sprinkled throughout each issue thus far.
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance: An in-universe example. D. Oswald Heist, the author of Alana's favorite book that changed her life, considers it hackwork that he wrote to pay the bills. Subverted in that he's lying in an effort to mislead IV.
  • Male Frontal Nudity
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Alana and Marko's relationship. The higher-ups on both sides are not happy about it, and are outright disgusted that they've had a child.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Alana is foul-mouthed, pragmatic and trigger happy; Marko is nurturing, idealistic and romantic. Also applicable to Klara — a sharp tempered, no-nonsense Mama Bear — and her husband Barr, who is much calmer, level headed and knows his way around a spinning wheel.
  • Mechanical Lifeforms: Prince Robot IV's people.
  • Meddling Parents: Prince Robot IV's father doesn't care that he's trying to start a family and settle down after surviving a hellish campaign. His demanding orders are pretty much the driving force in his son's life. And Marko's parents Barr and Klara, arguably.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: The Stalk.
  • Murder, Inc.: The Freelancers, overlapping with Weird Trade Union occasionally for comedy. In a lot of ways, they represent a power in and of themselves to equal (or at least be considered in the same breath as) the warring races and their allies, except that they're neutral, accepting contracts from both sides at their own discretion.
  • Never Found the Body: Prince Robot IV apparently never recovered from his near-death scrambling at Heist's place, since he still hasn't shown up as of issue #19. His wife goes so far as to threaten a nurse that assumes he's dead after their baby is born.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. Alana says that it "feels like I'm shitting!" when giving birth to Hazel(this is a common side effect of childbirth), and Prince Robot IV is seen on the toilet in issue 5. Note that this is the first page, while the cover to issue 5 is a royal portrait with the Prince in full regalia.
  • Papa Wolf/Mama Bear: A running theme throughout the entire series.
    • Marko breaks his vow of pacifism and single-handedly destroys an entire squad of heavily armed, power-armoured Landfall soldiers with his sword alone, defending Hazel and avenging what he thought was Alana's "death".
    • Alana makes it very clear she would rather see Hazel dead by her own hand than alive in the hands of monsters.
    • Prince Robot IV shoots The Stalk dead the split-second he thinks she's about to pull a weapon. As he does so, a rattle appears on his monitor, implying that his thought process was that he had to be alive to raise his future child at all costs.
    • The Will in what counts as a Pet the Dog moment, is more than prepared to kill dozens of Sextillion gangsters and risk his own death in order to save Slave Girl, who he so far seems to have 'adopted' until he can find her a home.
    • Marko's parents sold their house in order to get the magical tools that would allow them to find Marko.
    • D. Oswald Heist is an unusual non-violent version. When his son committed suicide as a result of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Heist risked his own career and safety to write a subversive anti-war novel aimed against the two most powerful — and most dangerous — powers in the galaxy, the Landfallians and the Wreathens.
  • Planetary Romance
  • Pleasure Planet: Sextillion.
  • Professional Killer: The Will and The Stalk. The name used in the series is "Freelancers".
  • Refuge in Vulgarity: Between TV Head Robot sex and... well, everything on Sextillion, Vaughan and Staples pack in plenty of gleefully disgusting awfulness.
  • The Reveal:
    • Issue 12 is an entire issue dedicated to Prince Robot IV interrogating author D. Oswald Heist about his book and if he knows where Marko, Alana, and Hazel are. Cue the very last page, where Marko, Alana, Hazel, and Klara are all in the very same house as Heist and IV, and have been there for a week.
    • In Issue 15, The Will's visions of The Stalk, encouraging him to settle down and start a new life, are actually a hallucination brought on by parasites in the planet's indigenous flora and fauna that make their hosts violently want to stay put.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Prince Robot IV's entire race. In addition to having sex and bearing children, there's also a case of Prince Robot IV using a toilet. And having erectile dysfunction.
  • Saint-Bernard Rescue: Brutally inverted with The Brand's pet, Sweet Boy - a dog (or dog-like creature) that is very similar to a Saint-Bernard, but with absolutely terrifying Glowing Eyes of Doom. Sweet Boy does carry a little barrel around his neck... labeled with a skull and crossbones - he is not a rescue dog but an assassination dog.
  • Science Fantasy: Let's see: Space Travel, Space Wars, Ridiculously Human Robots, Magic, Ghosts...
  • Small Universe After All: Alana suggests running away to another galaxy because she heard that draft dodgers have been offered sanctuary.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: The Robot Kingdom is modelled after English nobility, so when Prince Robot IV's in a temper he gets to say things like "Now be a dear and fuck the fuck off."
  • Space Opera
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Freelancers have names in the format of 'The <Word>'. Notable in that "The" is always capitalized and is almost always included ("Good luck, The Will"). Her being called "The Stalk" also gives Marko pause and makes Alana immediately realize she's a Freelancer when they first encounter The Stalk. Other known Freelancers include The Import, The March, The Fluke, and the Brand.
  • Stun Guns: Alana has a Heartbreaker, a small pistol that isn't lethal, just paralyzing. Marko describes the effect as what it felt like when his dog died, so it seems to not so much stun as overwhelm the target with emotion (sadness, judging by the name and the effect as described), leaving them temporarily incapable of taking any effective action. It's later stated that a shot from it would probably kill Hazel, so presumably there's also some kind of physiological effect.
  • Stylistic Suck: D. Oswald Heist's novel "A Nighttime Smoke" is an outwardly bad romance story about a rich woman and a rock monster. The novel actually is a subversion of many tropes tailored to deliver an anti-war message: two people who should be monstrous to each other but wind up as lovers. The author disguised it as a drab romance novel he wrote to make a quick buck to hide its true nature from the authorities.
  • Time Skip: At the end of issue 18. About two years, give or take.
  • Translator Microbes: Marko and Alana have rings that were enchanted with a translator spell. Gwendolyn has a pendant that does the same thing. They're actually a matched set.
  • TV Head Robot:
    • Prince Robot IV, disturbingly enough. The screen is usually blank but it sometimes displays what he's thinking/talking about, who he's talking to, or something related to what he sees. When he's overly emotional it shows random, vaguely appropriate images.
    • Due to a misunderstanding between Comixology and Apple, issue #12 was initially not available for purchase through the iTunes stores because of this. Prince Robot IV has a flashback to a time he got shot in battle and his face monitor is covered for several panels with pictures of pornography, presumably as a robot way of dropping a Cluster F-Bomb. It's later shown to be a kind of near death experience-cum-sex fantasy.
    • King Robot may as well be the king of this trope. Just look at him!
  • Unstoppable Rage: Marko in issue 5 after Alana is shot in the shoulder by a Landfallian soldier.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The series is littered with it! There's Prince Robot IV's people, the Robot Kingdom, who are metallic humanoids with TVs for heads; The Stalk, a chalk-white woman with eight red eyes whose bare humanoid torso is armless while her spider-like lower body has eight limbs with opposable clawed thumbs; the unnerving and distinctly nonsexy inhabitants of Sextillion; and on, and on, and on...
    • Sextillion gives a rather hilarious example - after walking around the city and witnessing things like a massive orgy of Landfallians, a dinosaur toy with a gigantic dildo dick, and something which seems to be a cross between a naked woman and a centipede, The Will complains that everything he's seen so far feels "too safe". Of course, this is the same guy who was once romantically involved with said nightmarish spider-person with eight eyes and no arms.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Subverted. The Stalk, killed earlier, reappears alive to help The Will save the Slave Girl... but it's just a dream The Will is having.
  • Vapor Wear: In the early issues, Alana usually doesn't wear anything under her coat, so she can nurse Hazel at a moment's notice.
  • Visual Pun: Marko's rather aggressive mother wields, appropriately enough, a battle-axe. Isabel even calls her that out at one point.
  • War Is Hell: And for more reasons than just the obvious. The front lines are exactly as horrifying as you'd expect in a galaxy where one side wields roughly modern weapons and the other inventively deadly magic. But both sides realised at some point that they couldn't continue the war on their home turf - destroying Wreath or Landfall would see its opposing celestial body hurled out of orbit and destroyed too. In order to continue the conflict, they outsourced it, effectively dragging every other world into their fight. There are conscripts and enlisted soldiers who just want to finish their service and go home, risking and losing their lives (some only there for the entitlements offered soldiers, like tertiary scholarships); planets whose whole native populations have been wiped out, and nobody knows or cares which side it was; refugees in camps where they're kidnapped by or sold to sex/slave traffickers; thinning resources; orphans, widows and widowers not just from violence but also from mentally-shattered or mutilated veterans committing suicide. It goes on and on. You could sum up Izabel with the trope name: the ghost of a teenage girl, parents rebelling against both occupying forces but personally uninterested in fighting, who stepped on a land mine and found herself stuck defending her planet in death. Her people were wiped out anyway, and she doesn't even know who was responsible.
  • Was Too Hard on Him: Barr regrets not having been a better father to Marko. Marko, however, seems to have fond memories of his dad from being a kid.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: The Stalk.
  • Wham Line: Final page of issue 19. This is the story of how my parents split up.
  • Winged Humanoid: Alana; it's a characteristic of Landfall natives. Hazel has them too.
  • Wizards from Outer Space: Marko. Well, all of the Wreathens.
  • Woman in White:
    • Gwendolyn.
    • The Stalk, who normally wears a black dress, wears a white one instead when The Will is dreaming that she recovered from Prince Robot's shot. It's likely intended to be reminiscent of a wedding dress to symbolize The Will's love for her.

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