Saga, the creator-owned gonzo science fiction comic from Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples may be the best sf comic since Warren Ellis's Transmetropolitan, and the three collections published to date are already canon, with the long-awaited number four around the corner. To get all your friends ready for it, there's a new gorgeous, massive hardcover volume collecting the first three installments.

The problem with creator-owned comics is that the darned creators get to go off an have a life, producing work to their own schedule at not rushing their creative process. There's no tyrannical Stan Lee figure standing over them, barking "Kirby, I don't need it good, I need it Tuesday, and I got six more guys just like you who'd kill to get a crack at X-Men!"*

* Disclaimer: As far as I know, this dialog only took place in my imagination. Also, I'm totally in favor of Vaughan and Staples getting to have lives, etc. I just want moar Saga.

What I'm saying is, it was a long-ass wait between getting hooked on Saga and reading the first two volumes and the third volume coming out, and book four isn't coming out until next month.

And the Saga story is so good: weird, pervy, exciting, thoughtful, imaginative. Staples' prodigious artistic talents and bizarre visual imagination are the perfect complement to Vaughan's plotting, which readers will be familiar with from his prior work on Y: The Last Man.

I gave about ten sets of book one/two for Christmas last year, and this year, I'm giving out ten more of these hardcovers, which are the perfect way to get my friends hooked, which is good, because then we can all sit around doing hate-kegels as we mentally urge on Vaughan and Staples to get book five out.

For those of you who've missed it, here's the Saga premise, from my review of books one and two:

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.

But that hardly scratches the surface. There's so much heart and so much high weirdness here that it's impossible to summarize, you really have to experience it. And the book features additional material that sheds light on both Vaughan and Staples's creative process — scripts, sketches and articles, which constitute a great peek behind the scenes at a great piece of work.

Saga Deluxe Edition Volume 1 hardcover