COMIC BOOK REVIEW: SAGA

 Brian K. Vaughan’s sci-fi/fantasy comic book Saga is what you would get if Romeo and Juliet weren’t the children of rivalling noble families, but alien soldiers fighting on opposite sides of a galactic war. The protagonists, Alana from planet Landfall and Marko from its moon Wreath, fall in love despite the deep-rooted hatred that exists between their people, leading to nothing short of absolute chaos.

The Saga series captivates you as soon as you rest your eyes upon the very first pages of its first issue, which depict Alana giving birth. Before the happy couple can even agree on a name for their precious new born they are ambushed by soldiers from both Landfall and Wreath.

Though they surprisingly manage to escape, the attack sets the tone for the rest of the series.
The couple want nothing more than to live a quiet life, but many will stop at nothing to destroy them. This is because their very union undermines a war that consumes the entire galaxy by showing that not only is it possible for the people of Landfall and Wreath to coexist, but even love each other. Alana and Marko, however, are determined to stay together and raise their daughter, even if that means they will be forever on the run.

Saga is creativity personified. The world building is excellent and every planet has a distinct look and feel. Such as Sextillion, where no sexual fantasy is too perverse. Or the Robot Kingdom, where citizens walk around with TV screens for heads, which put their inner thoughts on display for all to see.

Fiona Staples manages to bring all of this to life through her beautiful artwork, with even the smallest details complementing Vaughan’s writing perfectly. But what is most impressive about this fictional universe is that it never allows you to forget that a war is taking place. Each planet and its inhabitants are scarred by the war in some tragic way, and none of the wackiness distracts from that.

There is a lot of graphic violence throughout the series, but it is dealt with responsibly. You can see how it negatively impacts the characters. They do not get to mindlessly end lives and skip off into the sunset.
Whether it is through the ghosts of small children who haunt the planet where they were killed, or the introduction of revolutionaries who want to punish those that have fuelled the war, you are reminded that violence is not something to cherish or glorify. In fact, it is the cause of many, if not all, of the bad things that take place in the series.

The characters in Saga are incredibly well written and complex. It is very easy to root for Alana, Marko and their charismatic daughter Hazel who grows before the readers’ eyes. But thanks to Vaughan’s skilful writing, you become equally invested in some of the vicious adversaries that are intent on killing them — though it is wise not to get too attached to any of the above, as many beloved characters have ended up taking their exit in a very Game of Thrones-like fashion.

Saga starts off as a classically romantic tale of forbidden love, but there is so much more to take away from it. In addition to dynamic characters and crazy adventure, the comic takes the time to address serious issues such as abortion, LGBT rights and racism — and it does so without it feeling forced.
When one of the main characters has a miscarriage, for instance, the unfortunate event does not seem distasteful or misplaced. It is a heart-breaking moment in the character’s story arc which mirrors something that many people sadly experience in real life.

So with all that goes on in the world of Saga, Vaughan always returns the story to its core themes of love and family. Alana and Marko’s love is constantly tested, but it continues to flourish as they fight for their wildly unconventional family.Saga is unpredictable, emotive and a lot of fun! The only downside is that you have to wait for a month to read each issue, instead of being able to indulge all at once.

 

Mini Reviews #1

      DEAR IJEAWELE    


One of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s friends asked her for advice on how to best raise her daughter as a feminist, and this book presents us with her response. This brief feminist manifesto addresses extremely relevant topics and challenges many problematic social norms. Such as the fact that girls are taught to aspire to marriage but boys are not. While reading I did not think that this book was particularly radical – but that could be down to the seamless way Adichie presents her views. They don’t seem like shocking revelations, but simple truths. For Adichie feminism boils down to never forgetting that women matter equally. I really appreciated this clear cut exploration of feminism. If you believe women matter just as much as men then you are a feminist – it can be as simple as that. Though Adichie points out that this belief should not be superficial. You may not agree with everything said in this book, but it really encourages you to evaluate your beliefs as well as society at large.

HARLEY QUINN (THE NEW 52)

Harley Quinn is one of my favourite fictional characters so I was sure that I would like this comic, and I do! Harley gets up to a lot in this solo series from becoming the landlord of an apartment building full of crazy characters. To taking out assassins in the most sadistic and gory ways possible. She definitely is not the cutesy but obsessive henchwoman that was first introduced in Batman: The Animated Series. I certainly understand why people prefer the old Harley Quinn, but I also enjoy seeing her as a more independent figure. We are given a modern Harley that has overcome her toxic relationship with the Joker, and is free to have adventures of her own. There are aspects of this series that are very over the top and Harley sometimes seems a little too crazy – but that’s all part of the fun! The vibrant and detailed artwork transports you into Harley’s world and is really engaging. I am currently on Issue #8 and look forward to finishing the series.

PHASES: A SHORT STORY


Phases is about a young woman called Eva who has the perfect boyfriend. Avery is handsome, adoring and thoughtful. The only problem is that he dumps Eva within the first chapter. Eva experiences intense heartbreak as a result, and embarks on an uncomfortable journey of self-reflection. I really enjoyed this book and I think it portrays an important message – that you cannot love anyone until you love yourself. We have all heard this before but it reigns true. Eva has a good man that loves her, but she drives him away with her insecurity and distrust. It is not easy to present an entertaining and complete story in so few pages, but K Daniel does this well with a smooth writing style. This book is a quick read, with amusing characters, gripping scenes and a theme that pretty much anyone can relate to. Be sure to get your copy!

 

THE BLUEST EYE

The Bluest Eye is a heart breaking story about a young black girl called Pecola who longs for blue eyes. She equates beauty and happiness to whiteness, and her suffering to her dark skin. Beliefs that are constantly reinforced by the people around her. This is my first time reading Morrison’s work and I can see why she is celebrated. Her writing is poetry, and she has the ability to make anything sound beautiful. She also fills this novel with characters that are so intricately and sympathetically written that it is surprising they are not real. In writing this book Morrison set out to expose the impact of internalised white beauty standards, and does so successfully. My only issue with the novel is that it felt slightly disjointed due to the multiple perspectives, and Morrison uses a fragmented structure. Which meant that Pocola became an afterthought at times. I however do not think this gets in the way of the overall message or enjoyment of the book. I would definitely recommend this read, but it is not for the faint of heart. It contains instances of incest and sexual abuse, and should be approached with caution.

What have you been reading recently?

Book Review: The Hate U Give 

 

Angie Thomas’ bestselling debut novel became a must read the second I heard about it! A book  inspired by Tupac Shakur and #BlackLivesMatter, which  explores racism and police brutality ? I’m in!  

 The book follows the story of Starr Cater, a 16 year old girl who seems to be living in two different worlds. One being her posh high school filled with rich  kids. And the other being her poor neighbourhood filled with poverty, violence and crime. Starr tries to strike a balance when navigating both worlds, but this becomes increasingly difficult when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend Khalil.

The Hate U Give  shows the potential YA novels have to deal with real-world issues in a sophisticated and honest way. Thomas recognises this potential, runs with it and excels! This coming of age tale pulls the curtain back on many of the harsh realties that black children have to deal with. And much of what Starr feels and experiences is shaped purely by the colour of her skin. Such as her desire to supress valid emotions in order to avoid being labelled ‘angry,’ ‘loud’ or ‘ghetto’. Or even having to be sat down for ‘the talk’ at the tender age of 12, no not the one about the birds and the bees. The one where parents coach their children on how to interact with the police, so that they can hopefully make it home alive. Thomas’ depiction of Starr and her experiences as an African American are bold and truthful, it’s not all Hip Hop, dance crazes and Brazilian butt lifts. As Starr herself says;

                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Its dope to be black until its hard to be black

   

This book also deals heavily with the idea of activism, and raises many questions about dealing with injustice. As the controversy surrounding Pepsi’s recent advert has highlighted, there are right and wrong ways to speak out about social and political issues. Starr is plagued with confusion and self-doubt in the beginning of this story, but works towards solidifying her identify as both an activist and a young black woman. All while mourning the death of her beloved friend, which is an amazing process to read about!

Thomas has a raw writing style reminiscent of many of the ‘Urban fiction’ stories I’ve come across on online platforms such as Wattpad. This book is filled with many light-hearted moments with pop culture references, from Drake and The Fresh Prince of Bel air ,and from Harry Potter to the infamous ‘Black Twitter’. While it may not be the case for everyone that reads this book, I could relate to some of the character’s interests and experiences. They seemed like people I could come across in real life and that fact made my empathy for them run deep. These characters are complex and dynamic, their bold personalities fly off the page and even the most seemingly predictable and stereotypical characters ending up surprising you.

The most important thing about Angie Thomas’ writing is that it made me feel, which is what I anticipate whenever I pick up a book. The Hate U Give made me joyful and tearful. It made me laugh and it made me feel deep anger and frustration. But most importantly, it made me proud. Proud of the individuals behind movements like Black Lives Matter, that band together in the face of adversity and speak up for what is right!

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Rating:

The Hate U Give gets 5 stars from me as I honestly don’t think it could be improved.  I highly recommend this book to anyone that struggles to understand the sentiments behind the Black Lives Matter movement. But if you simply want to be entertained by a well written, gripping and emotive story, this is also the book for you!