For my favorite comics that are ongoing, I usually read the last few floppies before indulging in the most recent issue. So a few nights ago, I finally rounded up the 6 most recent floppies of Saga and treated myself to a trade’s worth of reading before bed. Six monthly issues is normally a lot to read in a single sitting, but I felt like I was several issues behind. I don’t think I’ve read Saga at all this YEAR, I told my boyfriend.
I was wrong. I was completely up to date, but had forgotten which developments unfolded in each issue. My mind had compressed all of the plot from the previous year into one or two issues, assuming that there were new pieces of the story that I hadn’t seen yet. Wishful thinking.
There is some truth to the idea that you should keep an audience wanting more. BKV is doing this in Saga by giving very little at a time. I’d like to point out that East of West accomplishes the same thing with the opposite strategy. By moving very very quickly, Hickman creates longing for more information about the world. Unlike Saga, each issue of East of West includes a lot of plot so the readers might stay more satisfied. Story density also allows for a lot of re-readability in East of West.
What does comprise the plot of Saga now feels overwrought and soap opera-y with more and more characters being jammed in and little hints of new characters being blown out of proportion. I feel like this character bloat may be a symptom of the slow moving plot. Oh! People like the little seal shepherd? Yeah, let’s totally make him an ongoing character. If the series weren’t moving so slowly, I might believe that BKV was planning this out, but the slow pace of the series makes me feel like he could be adapting to feedback and losing control.
So for a lot of comics, it’s difficult to describe the premise without sounding like a lunatic. That’s generally a given law of the genre. It normally goes something like, oh well it starts out being like a crazy crime procedural thing with weird supernatural stuff happening and there’s like a government conspiracy. But really it’s about a complicated relationship between these incredibly compelling characters.
This is a crucial point though, no matter how crazy the story, there must be a ‘But Really’ moment in your explanation. Saga doesn’t have a ‘But Really’ yet. It’s still all feels like preface, it’s still all just running from different bad guys. It’s got the crazy premise down really well, but I’m not sure what it’s really about yet, and that’s partially because nothing ever happens.
Even worse than not knowing what the story is about, is that we already know some of the ending parts of Saga. Hazel keeps destroying whatever suspense we have, by chiming in with observations like ‘this is how my parents started to break up’ and ‘I’m not a savior or anything.’ Of course, I have no idea if we’re supposed to trust her as a narrator, but she’s turning into sort of a jerk about spoilers. ‘I didn’t see my Dad again for a few years.’ Great, now there’s no tension for the current storyline, maybe just a little curiosity about what happens instead. I mean, maybe this book is just a giant writing exercise by BKV, some kind of perverse dare.
I wonder which parts of a graphic novel are really important. If there is stellar artwork and character design, and the writer keeps jerking the readers around using every trick possible, how long will the audience keep reading before realizing that there is no story? Will it matter? Just keep using those cliffhanger splashes and the adulation will never stop, I guess.
This must be what it’s like to read a typical super hero ongoing. blahrgh.