Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples "Saga" #2 by some miracle manages to live up to and possibly outdo the new series' fantastic double-sized first issue. Equal parts divine character development and brisk plotting, this book continues to remind me that so many of my other comics are really unremarkable.
Vaughan's story moves along at a bracing clip as it touches on all the primary characters introduced in the first issue, pushing their stories forward and building the world even further. In fact, we are following three primary stories: The Romeo & Juliet couple, Marko and Alana with new baby Hazel in tow; a freelance assassin (one of many) named The Will, hired to kill the fledgling parents and bring back the baby; and a prince exiled to the crap planet of Cleve with orders to bring the unlikely pair down.
The result is a strange but intoxicating blend of sci-fi, adventure and realism that mixes together effortlessly. The way the characters speak (a decidedly 2012 flavor) and the problems they encounter (technology!) all keep the story rooted in a relatable way that contrasts nicely with the bizarre and highly imaginative characters and setting.
Staples' art, as it was in the double-sized first issue, is simply a dream. Her characters are rendered starkly, exhibiting a loose energy, while her backgrounds are a subtle wash of soft colors and shapes, almost like animation cels. Her character designs are inventive to the point of near-absurdity and I found myself cackling with delight at every new imagining.
Like Vaughan's script, Staples' art subverts everything so nothing is what it seems, or what you might guess it could be. The "Horrors," an idea built up quickly in this issue in a way that makes a reader's mind run wild with possibilities, are revealed to be exactly what a reader wouldn't expect. The result of all this pure imagination poured into a smart narrative structure is a landscape rife with energy with impossible to predict twists and turns that nevertheless feel natural and earned.
I find myself quite in love with this book a mere two issues in. You know you're reading something exceptional when you look around at most of your comics and wonder why the hell they're not half as good as the book you just put down.