Saga: Volume 2, by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

After an action-packed and utterly captivating first book, Saga: Volume 2 (which collects issues #7 – #12 of the comics) slows down a little – though that’s not a criticism in the slightest. The first book’s focus was on introducing the core characters and making us care about them; with that in place, volume two is free to flesh out the series’ universe and give a sense of context.

The book opens with a flashback, showing Marko learning about the history of the Wreath / Landfall conflict. Vaughan and Staples cleverly sidestep the pitfalls of retroactive exposition by using almost no dialogue, with just Hazel’s narration and Staples’ stunning art painting a sombre, violent picture of the war.

Subsequent flashbacks (which are spread throughout the volume) are not quite as impactful, but add a welcome extra layer of depth to Marko and Alana’s relationship. We see how they met – Marko a captive, Alana a prison guard – and ultimately fell in love and turned their backs on the war, thanks to some anti-war propaganda hidden within a romance novel.

Of course, it’s not all flashbacks and backstory – there’s plenty going on in the here and now, too. The pace and writing in these parts is just what you’d expect from the first volume; it’s exciting, often hilarious, and all underscored by great characterisation. This time around, some of the secondary characters get some decent attention. The Will, a bounty hunter chasing Marko and Alana, and his companion, Lying Cat (a giant feline who can tell when people are lying) really steal the show – they’re some of the most complex, relatable, sympathetic “bad guys” you’ll encounter in comics. There are plenty of truly unexpected twists scattered throughout, too.

The sheer, bizarre creativity of Vaughan’s script lets Staples really go nuts with the art in Saga: Volume 2. From the hideously well-endowed (though not as you might expect) ogre-like giant called Fard to the sleek Lying Cat, every character is brought vividly to life. From graphic fight scenes to beautifully intimate, emotional moments, every scene is perfectly realised, never faltering in selling whatever tone the writing demands.

If you liked Saga: Volume 1, you’ll want to pick up Volume 2 (and Volumes 3 and 4) right away. As good as the series was from the outset, it’s only getting better as it goes on.

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Matthew is a freelance writer and reviewer with a love of all things nerdy. Comics and graphic novels are his main area of interest, but he’ll read anything that grabs his attention, be it romance, historical non-fiction, or anything in between. Some of his favourite books are The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, the Sandman comic series by Neil Gaiman, and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. When he’s not reading, you’ll probably find him playing video games, eating pizza, watching cartoons, and trying to keep up with his cats, Clementine and Frankie.

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