Saga is the best space opera in comics, a masterpiece of serial storytelling from Fiona Staples and Brian K Vaughan, whose character designs -- a cross between Vaughn Bode and the Mos Eisley Cantina -- and fearless war-scenes combine with masterful cliff-hanger storytelling to weave a tale that hurts even as it makes you bellow with laughter. The eighth collection in the series ships today and the story shows no sign of slowing down.

Saga is set in the middle of a generation spanning war between a technocratic race of winged humanoids and a shamanistic, magical race of horned humanoids; the wings and horns have been fighting for so long that the other races of space have been drawn into the conflict, as army irregulars, mercenaries, arms dealers, refugee shelterers, or civilian bystanders.

In the midst of this, a wing soldier and a horn soldier fall in love and produce a child, a child that is illegal and politically explosive. The family goes on the run, and their journey is narrated by the child, speaking from the future, in which she is all grown up and recounting the story of her life.

Volume 8 is well into the story — far enough that it's hard to deal in specifics without spoilers and a lot of explaining. But I can say that it is very much in keeping with Staples and Vaughan's knack for mixing absurdity with deadly seriousness — in this case, we find a planet in the style of a western movie frontier in which abortions are performed within a galaxy where a woman's fertility is still viewed with complex dread and joy. We're given more of the life story of a complicated and rather wonderful trans character, a fierce warrior haunted by her past.

We're treated to kind feral wolves and the tragic ghost of a miscarried child that never lived, and a terrifying invisible monster, and the prospect of having to sacrifice a beloved friend to stave off starvation. And there's a cliff-hanger, because Saga's all cliff-hangers. What a fantastic book — and with the creators on a regular publishing schedule, there are more coming up soon.

Saga 8 [Fiona Staples and Brian K Vaughan/Image]