Brian K Vaughan Wings and Horns

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TV ad using the Panasonic Orbitel TV set.

In her depiction of the robots, Fiona Staples gives us a sort of disturbing sideshow representation of an alien race that is grotesque in a very good way. The race of robots in Saga have human bodies and old 1960s-style 12 inch televisions for heads (complete with rabbit ears).

So far in the story, the alien species are not given any names. I mean they are identified by their own given names and sometimes referred to by their planet of origin or some variation of but no race or species name. They are (sometime derogatorily) referred to by their shared anatomy “Wings” because they have wings and “Horns” or “Moonies” because they have horns and live on the moon. They are also referred to by occupation like in the case of the “Freelancers,” mercenaries and bounty hunters who have no allegiances to either the Moonies or the planet they are fighting with Landfall.

I don’t think Brian K Vaughan ever states why the Wings and the Horns are fighting. It reminded me of Shirley Jackson’s Lottery, the story about the citizens of a town who continue a barbaric tradition for no other reason than its always been done, or a documentary I saw in a college ethnographic film class about the Yanomami, who were depicted as warring with one another for the sake of tradition.

It’s also a very Shakespearean story — very Romeo and Juliet — with the warring houses being the Wings and the Horns instead of the Montagues and the Capulets. Brian K Vaughan begins his story with the anxious humor of a birth during wartime. The first page of the book is a full page close up of Alana’s sweaty, panicked face asking, “Am I shitting?” There is the frustration of having to wait for nature to take its course and the stress of knowing that you are being hunted and time is precious.

Alana is a “Wing.” Her husband, Marko, is a “Horn.” And Hazel, their child, is both a “Wing” and a “Horn,” which has set Alana and Marko up as a third (though unwilling) side in the Wing and Horn war. It’s a Wing-Horn-Alana-and-Marko war now. While the new family wants to escape the tragedies of war, both Horns and Wings want to disavow and bury any knowledge of Alana and Marko’s cross-species relationship and their daughter.

Wikipedia says that Fiona Staples makes all of the visual decisions in the book. If this is true, she makes excellent visual choices that really enhance the story Brian K Vaughan is trying to tell. She expertly juggles Brian’s third person storytelling with his first person narration as the child being born (so you know it lives). Just a few pages from the full page of Alana asking if she’s shitting, is a full page of Marko, smiling dumbly, “It’s a girl.”

I have a bad habit of ignoring the artwork in comic books most of the time. I am not yet discerning enough to distinguish the different talents. However, in Saga, Fiona’s artwork helps pace the story and expertly sets up dramatic moments in Brian’s script. In addition to the robots, I like how she imagined The Stalk, a Freelancer hunting Marko and Alana. The Stalk is a human-spider hybrid. She is a blonde Venus de Milo (no arms) with the arachnid’s body beneath her torso. She has eight legs/arms and a spider’s abdomen.

Saga has been one of the books on my “To Read” list. A story that sounded interesting but not interesting enough to distract me from whatever was reading already. However, as a result of having read it as a part of a discussion group, it has become one of my favorite comics. I like the story, the artwork, and the underlying social messages about war, bias, and social conflict.

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