Saga Vol 1-7 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

 

Publisher: Image Comics

Publication Date: October 10th, 2012 to April 4th 2017

Synopsis:

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.

Before a couple of weeks ago, my entire experience regarding comics consisted of religiously picking up Archie comics from the grocery store as a kid and rereading the Calvin and Hobbes books like it was my job. Both of these obsessions happened over two decades ago, so I was a bit uncertain on whether or not I would review Saga when I initially picked it up. Fast forward to today, just a few hours after finishing volume 7, and that uncertainty just seems silly. I have SO MUCH to say about this series, and I don’t think I could shut up about it even if I wanted to.

Full of Fiona Staples’ breathtakingly beautiful art, Saga is part space opera, part fantasy, with a whole lot of romance and family drama. The cast of characters is wonderfully diverse, including, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non binary, and POC characters.  There is a lot of nudity and sex, which I am SO HERE FOR, as well as graphic depictions of violence. I realize this may not be everyone’s bag so it’s worth calling out.

Saga tells the story of Marko and Alana, soldiers from opposite sides of a long fought intergalactic war. There is an extensive history of hate and prejudice between the two races (the wings and the moonies), when Marko is captured as a POW by the army that Alana is fighting for. After a series of events (that I won’t spoil for you here), the two fall in love and escape together, intent on living their lives in as much peace as they can find.  The entire series is narrated by their daughter, Hazel, and the first volume literally opens with her birth. Hazel’s birth is the catalyst for the rest of the story, as we follow two parents wiling to do anything to keep her safe, and carve out a life they can live together despite the constant violence happening around them.

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You guys. After this truly incredible, addictive, and immersive reading experience, I fully intend on making graphic novels a habit again. And while I may read hundreds more, I have no doubt that Saga will stay on my top favorites list for all time. Everything about this story is designed to draw the reader in and keep them as a willing captive until the very end. The world building is jaw dropping and full of lush details that I stopped to admire even while wanting to zip ahead though the rest of the story. Brian K Vaughan writes whip smart, tender, and downright hilarious dialogue and characters that I was invested in from the first panel.

I love the way there are multiple story lines going on at once that swap every couple of pages. Even though I couldn’t wait to find out what was happening to one set of characters, I immediately put them to the back of my mind to focus on the immediacy of what was happening to the rest. I cared about them all that much. There wasn’t a single arc that felt boring or less important than the rest. The sheer number of alien species and worlds that Staples creates is astounding. I was delighted by the creativity and especially loved the robot race and the way the different classes and royal family were portrayed. It doesn’t seem fair that one person can hold so much in a singular imagination.

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Final Thoughts: I cannot recommend these enough. If you’re considering jumping into the world of comics, I think Saga is a great place to start, but prepare yourself for a serious hangover and a lengthy wait for the next installment. I’m fully invested now, and cannot wait to check out other work by both Vaughan and Staples as well as other graphic novel series. If you have any good ones to recommend, please please let me know!!

Rating: Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 10.58.06 PM

Favorite Characters: Alana, Hazel, Klara, Lying Cat, Sophie, The Brand, Isabel, Barr

Memorable Quotes:

My name is Hazel. I started out as an idea, but I ended up something more. Not much more, to be honest. It’s not like I grow up to become some great war hero or any sort of all important savior… but thanks to these two, at least I get to grow old. Not everybody does. (Vol 1)

Cool. So glad I got to do all this in a towel. (Vol 2)

All good children’s stories are the same: young creature breaks rules, has incredible adventure, then returns home with the knowledge that aforementioned rules are there for a reason. Of course, the actual message to the careful reader is: break rules as often as you can, because who the hell doesn’t want to have an adventure? (Vol 3)

A lot of people who came into my family’s life looking like heroes ended up acting more like villains. (Vol 4)

Every relationship is an education. Each new person we welcome into our hearts is a chance to evolve into something radically different than we used to be. (Vol 5)

We’re all aliens to someone. Even among our own people, most of us still feel like complete foreigners from time to time. (Vol 6)

If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, then a family is more like a rope. We’re lots of fragile little strands, and we survive by becoming hopelessly intertwined with each other. (Vol 7)

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Rabbit Cake – Annie Hartnett

51VXza6M2kLPublisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Publication Date: March 7th, 2017

Listening Length: 7 hours and 7 minutes

From the Jacket:

Elvis Babbitt has a head for the facts: she knows science proves yellow is the happiest color, she knows a healthy male giraffe weighs about 3,000 pounds, and she knows that the naked mole rat is the longest living rodent. She knows she should plan to grieve her mother, who has recently drowned while sleepwalking, for exactly eighteen months. But there are things Elvis doesn’t yet know―like how to keep her sister Lizzie from poisoning herself while sleep-eating or why her father has started wearing her mother’s silk bathrobe around the house. Elvis investigates the strange circumstances of her mother’s death and finds comfort, if not answers, in the people (and animals) of Freedom, Alabama. As hilarious a storyteller as she is heartbreakingly honest, Elvis is a truly original voice in this exploration of grief, family, and the endurance of humor after loss.

Rabbit Cake is a coming of age story about loss and grief, full of humor and quirky characters. Despite the dark subject matter, I found myself giggling out loud and shaking my head in disbelief as I read about the crazy antics of Elvis and her family. This has been compared with Where’d You Go Bernadette, a personal favorite of mine.  And while it’s not quite as much fun as Bernadette, I soon found myself both understanding and agreeing with the comparison.  It was also very reminiscent of Ginny Moon, and I think that is because of the young age of the narrator and the innocent and analytical filter through which she views the world.

Elvis Babbitt is living a relatively normal, happy life in Alabama with her two parents, who she gets along well with, and her older sister, Lizzie, who she is convinced hates her. At ten years old, she’s getting ready to start junior high, when her mother drowns unexpectedly while sleep walking. Elvis navigates through this loss over the next eighteen months, checking each week off of her grief chart as one crazy thing after another happens. Hartnett writes in a unique and beautiful voice, of a family trying to put itself back together in the wake of this unexpected loss.

While I think I would have loved this book in any form, I’m really glad I chose the audio version of this one. Katie Schorr delivers the narration in a simple and straightforward way that completely captures the essence of Elvis. At one point, through her voice, we’re listening to Elvis describe her father, walking around in her mother’s old silk bathrobe, her lipstick on his face, while having a conversation with a parrot who can imitate her mother’s voice. This book is a bag of cats and it’s just so much fun.

Final Thoughts: I cannot recommend Rabbit Cake enough. It’s a quick read and enjoyable read that feels light despite the substantial subject matter. Annie Hartnett has one of the most original voices I’ve read in a while, and I cannot wait to see what she comes out with next. This is a truly terrific debut, and I have no doubt I’ll come back to it again. If you’ve read this, please let me know what you thought in the comments!

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Favorite Characters: It’s rare when I love all of the characters in a book, but for this one, I totally do. They are all zany and crazy and wonderful and oh so memorable.

Memorable Quotes:

It’s not easy to label people one illness or another. We’re all different combinations of crazy.

Goodbye, Vitamin – Rachel Khong

51+SgqT67tL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Publication Date: July 11th, 2017

Page Count: 208 (Hardcover)

From the Jacket:

Freshly disengaged from her fiancé and feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job, leaves town and arrives at her parents’ home to find that situation more complicated than she’d realized. Her father, a prominent history professor, is losing his memory and is only erratically lucid. Ruth’s mother, meanwhile, is lucidly erratic. But as Ruth’s father’s condition intensifies, the comedy in her situation takes hold, gently transforming her all her grief.
Told in captivating glimpses and drawn from a deep well of insight, humor, and unexpected tenderness, Goodbye, Vitamin pilots through the loss, love, and absurdity of finding one’s footing in this life.

When I initially read the jacket for this book, I considered not starting it. Expecting a sad, despairing narrative about a young woman watching her father slowly decline from Alzheimer’s disease, I was very pleasantly surprised to find Goodbye, Vitamin really isn’t about that at all. Ruth does in fact, return home to care for her father, Howard, who is losing his memory. However, the plot focuses on a year they spend together, while Khong expertly weaves in details from the past. It’s about love and the complexities and dysfunction of families. Written in journal entires that flow together almost like a stream of consciousness, it is impossible to put down. Khong’s prose is so stark and tender and I think it’s the simplicity of it that pulled me in.

This story is so quirky and bittersweet. Ruth’s father keeps a journal of all of the things she says to him as a young child, and these tidbits were my favorite part. The limitless imagination of children is perfectly rendered in these entries and they pulled mightily at my heart strings. Each one a reminder of how fleeting the time is when children are young and full of wonder. Despite being exhausting, and often feeling like each day is just surviving to the end of it, it made me pause and remember to cherish these moments with them.

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Final Thoughts: This book is heartwarming and tender and quirky and even funny, despite the dark subject matter. The overall impression is very bittersweet, but I still enjoyed it immensely. It’s a quick read and the writing is truly terrific. I will definitely pick up more by this author in the future.

Rating: Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 11.10.19 PM

Favorite Characters: The Howard who writes the journal entries

Memorable Quotes:

If I were you is something I’ve never really understood. Why say, “If I were you”? Why say, “If I were you,” when the problem is you’re not me? I wish people would say, “Since I am me, ” followed by whatever advice it is they have.

What imperfect carriers of love we are, and what imperfect givers. That the reasons we can care for one another can have nothing to do with the person cared for. That it has only to do with who we were around that person — what we felt about that person.

At one point Dad emerges, shirtless, into the kitchen, to brew himself coffee. I get my nipples from him, I realize, alarmed.