The “star-crossed lovers” trope is pretty much the oldest, most worn-out convention in literature. It was old news when Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, though no one can dispute that he did it with exceptional flair. It was certainly long since old news when Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan conceptualized Saga, yet theirs has been one of the most engaging and innovative independent comics of the last several years. There is no single reason for Vaughan and Staples’s success, as they are an exceptionally talented team and the story and characters they have created are brilliant, but they have managed to hit on something specific that gives new life to their own star-crossed lovers tale: filthy, nasty sex.
We made this baby, it was awesome.
Content warning: graphic sexual/anatomical comic book images below the cut.
I don’t know if I would say that Saga is my favorite comic, but that’s probably because it’s just so good, and so consistently so, that it’d be like saying that I like breathing air. I take it for granted that Saga is going to be one of the best comics out there every time I pick up a trade. The fifth trade collection just debuted this week and it got me thinking about motherhood and characterization. The main characters of the story are Alana and Marko, the parents of our narrator, Hazel. Alana and Marko are from Landfall and Wreath, respectively, a planet and its moon that have been at war for as long as anyone can remember. The fact that they’ve fallen in love and had a baby has put them at the top of both their homelands’ hit lists, and they’ve been on the run for the entirety of the story, trying (and failing spectacularly) to find somewhere safe to raise their child.
One of the things that I love about Alana is that, while she is absolutely and fiercely dedicated to her daughter, it shows in a way that is consistent with her character. She will fuck up anyone who threatens to lay a hand on Hazel, but she’s not the best at motherhood or at being a decent person, and her best-laid plans too often go awry. She’s also still got interests and desires outside of simply raising her daughter; she didn’t stop being a person when she started being a mother. She loves the trashy romance novels that helped her bond with Marko when they first met. She developed a drug problem while trying to support her family on the run. She felt miserable and unsexy when she and Marko tried to have sex while she was pregnant. She can fire a rifle and curse a blue streak but still struggles to get along with her in-laws. In fact, Alana as a character is more in line with what we usually see of fathers in pop culture.