Graphic Novels, Tough Chicks celebrates the amazing female characters that abound in graphic novels. While many people still associate this particular form with a male readership, certain graphic novels empower women and combat feminine stereotypes through illustration and text. Tough chicks resist injustice, fight for their beliefs, and they don’t take flak from nobody. These women are capable of fighting their own battles, both literally and figuratively.
This week I jump into the whirlwind of romance, warfare, and child-rearing that is Saga Volume 1.
Author & Illustrator: Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Published: Image Comics on October 23, 2012
When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.
From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.
SAGA VOL. 1 tells the story of star-crossed (moon-crossed?) lovers Alana and Marko, and their newborn daughter Hazel. Alana was born on Landfall, the largest planet in the galaxy; Marko is from Wreath, Landfall’s moon. These two peoples have been at war for centuries, and bitter resentment has grown between them. Despite these circumstances, Alana and Marko desert their respective armies and fall in love. A love that brands them as terrorists. Now the lovers are on the run, trying to protect their daughter from both sides of this inter-galactic war.
Alana has got to be the toughest chick that I’ve encountered in my (admittedly brief) foray into the world of graphic novels. A loving wife and mother, Alana cares deeply for her family and will do anything to protect them. And I mean anything. There aren’t a lot of people out there who could gun down their enemies while holding their newborn baby, but Alana does it because it’s got to be done. People who threaten her daughter? They’re going down.
It’s wonderful to see such an empowered female character, particularly one who’s black. Like every medium, graphic novels don’t usually do the greatest job of representing POC. That said, Saga Volume 1 is not what I’d call “politically correct” and is certainly not for the faint of heart. There’s explicit violence and sexuality throughout, coupled with some wonderfully foul language. But these explicit scenes never felt gratuitous to me, instead contributing to the gritty and messy reality of love and loyalty during a time of war. Many people have made the connection between Alana and Marko and Romeo and Juliet; believe me when I say that the violence and warfare is also Shakespearean in scale.
But Saga Volume 1 isn’t all violence and war, and neither is Alana all toughness and blustering: Marko brings out her softer side – and her snarkier side. There are some legitimately hilarious moments between these two, as they navigate their way through their first few days as parents. With all their tenderness and bickering, Alana and Marko are just like many married couples I know. Except for the whole alien thing.
Hilarity aside, Alana’s desire to protect her family from those who would do them harm makes her tough. The fact that she does it all immediately after giving birth and without sleeping for days? Yeah, Alana’s the toughest chick I’ve read about so far. If Hazel’s anything like her mum, she’ll be a force to be reckoned with.