Saga: visually stunning, sweet and exciting space opera comic from Brian "Y: The Last Man" Vaughan

Brian K Vaughan is best known for creating the wonderful apocalyptic adventure-comic Y: The Last Man. His new project, Saga, is a significant departure from Y in setting and tone, but it is every bit as great -- and a little bit better, if you ask me.

The setup is that two posthuman species -- a moon-dwelling tribe of horned magic-users and a planet-based race of high-tech winged people -- are locked in an endless war that spills out across the galaxy, embroiling all the races of all the planets in a series of vicious, permanent proxy-wars. In the midst of this, Marko and Alana, soldiers from opposite sides of the war, fall in love, desert and have a baby, and kick off a sprawling space-opera as they flee from their respective armies and the bounty hunters they hire.

Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples let their imaginations run wild with this story, giving us a galaxy populated by creature-shop aliens that are somewhere between Duchamp and Disney, a Mos Eisley Cantina times a million. Vaughan weaves a splendid romantic adventure around this, with sweet Nick-and-Nora dialog that never feels forced. But the story transcends mere pace-pounding, and manages moments of sweetness, sorrow, and sentiment that will have you daubing your eyes between laughing and gasping over audacious battles. It's like The Incal, but with a more straightforward (and more self-disciplined) storyline, and it's a reminder that as a visual medium, science fiction has tricks that are just stupendous.

I've just read the first two collections in a single sitting, and they are spectacular. Best of all, they're from Image Comics, who just announced a DRM-free comics store, so you can keep up with the book in print or online without surrendering your right to actually own the comics you buy.

I can't say enough about the visual style deployed in Saga -- check out some of my favorite panels and pages after the jump.

Saga Volume 1, Saga Volume 2