Saga and the Revolutionary Power of the Opposite of War

Comic books are a vast medium.  Every genre you can imagine can be found between the covers of one comic or another.  While often seen solely as the setting of superhero stories, there are horror comics, memoir comics, true crime comics, comic adaptations of classic literature, fantasy comics, sci-fi comics, comic adaptations of films, YA comics, comics about history, comics which continue the runs of favorite TV shows, and on and on.  The comic medium truly has something for everyone.  And, as someone who’s loved comic books for nearly forty years, I don’t care about any of those other stories XD.  I’m sorry!  But I don’t!  Bring me my superheroes!  I have novels and movies and TV shows and short story collections and memoirs and nonfiction books for all those other experiences.  When I open a comic book, I want my Marvel heroes, my DC heroes, and nothing else.  Except Saga.  I want Saga.  I want all the SagaSaga is the brilliant, blazing, beautiful exception to my rule!  With sixty issues released and forty-eight still to come, Brian K. Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist) have created a masterpiece of love, family, loss, trauma, trial, and healing…while also telling one of the most poignant antiwar stories I’ve ever read.

While I normally enjoy writing my own summaries of stories before jumping into my analysis, I really like the official publisher’s summary that accompanies Saga Book One (which contains Saga #1-18 or Saga Vol. 1-3):

Written by Eisner Award-winning “Best Writer” BRIAN K. VAUGHAN (Y: The Last Man, The Private Eye) and drawn by Harvey Award-winning “Best Artist” Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), SAGA is the story of Hazel, a child born to star-crossed parents from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war.  Now, Hazel’s fugitive family must risk everything to find a peaceful future in a harsh universe that values destruction over creation.  Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in a sexy, subversive drama for adults that Entertainment Weekly called, “The kind of comic you get when truly talented superstar creators are given the freedom to produce their dream book.”

Entertainment Weekly is right.  It turns out Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan have produced one of my dream books, too.  I can’t imagine my life without Hazel, her parents Alana and Marko, and everyone else who becomes a part of her world.  I reread Saga often, taking more from it each time.  It’s unlike any comic I’ve ever read and everything I need in a story.  It fills my heart always and in all ways.  But in this piece I want to focus on one theme Saga develops in particular – namely, what is the opposite of war?

When I was a kid, I loved Garfield and I was always reading Garfield books.  I still remember the first time I read the “National Lazy Week” series of strips, first published January 5-10th 1987 and collected in Garfield Worldwide: His 15th Book.  Celebrating the merits of laziness, Garfield rings in the week with the following proclamation:

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Photo Credit – Paws INC’s Garfield

…and young me spent years wondering why anyone shows up for a war.  Before my mind could understand “war” as anything more complex than one “good” army fighting a “bad” army, I couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t just stay home.  Why would anyone ever kill someone instead of talking?  It made no sense to me and I spent years turning the puzzle over in my young mind wondering why we go to war.  Before this Garfield strip I never knew there was a choice.  After it, I’d never again understand why we choose to wage wars.  Many agonizing hours in my young life were also spent wondering how – since there is a choice – we get people to stop.

It is a question which haunts me to this day.  Although with an adult’s understanding of the pervasive catechesis of the myth of redemptive violence and otherizing, the idols we’ve made of “nations” and weapons, and the reality of human greed and the corruption of power, I understand the systemic nature of war’s sinful power and pull far more than I did then.  The glorification and normalization of war is everywhere around us and recorded human history is often told as the story of wars.  Heck, the majority of the stories I write about on this site teach violence is the way to solve our problems.  How do we save the day?  The answer almost all comic books give is, “Punch bad guys until they stop doing bad things.”  Why do we punch them?  “Well,” we’re shown, “they won’t stop any other way.”

(YAY for The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Doctor Who as being two prominent examples I write about here that model an alternative wisdom and an alternative path which teaches there are other ways to solve conflicts!)

If we’re lucky, we live without wars raging outside our windows forcing us to flee from our homes as hell rains down around us.  Yet war rages across our world all the same.  At the time of this writing there are twenty-seven wars around the world.  Using the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Conflict Tracker,’s Tess Lowery writes, “there are currently 27 ongoing conflicts worldwide.  The tracker categorizes conflict into three groups: ‘worsening,’ ‘unchanging,’ and ‘improving.’  Right now, there’s not a single conflict described as ‘improving.’  Of those worsening are the conflicts in Ukraine, the war in Afghanistan, political instability in Lebanon, the war in Yemen, the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, and the conflict in Ethiopia.”  Heartbreakingly, she goes on to explain, “Globally, conflict and violence are on the rise, according to the United Nations.  The UN has warned that peace is more under threat around the world than it has been since World War II,” and, “A quarter of the entire global population lives in conflict-affected areas.  Some of the worst affected places are Ethiopia’s Tigray region, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan.  According to the UN, last year, 84 million people were forcibly displaced because of conflict, violence, and human rights violations.  This year, it is estimated that at least 274 million people will need humanitarian assistance.”[1]

Twenty-seven global conflicts.  Not a single one improving.  84 million people forcibly displaced.  274 million people needing humanitarian assistance.  Yet every day we – whether by the mandate of the governments that rule us, our own personal choices/beliefs, or both – decide not to give peace a chance and instead wage war.  Is our world that different from the never-ending galactic conflict seen in Saga?

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Alana and Marko gaze at a battlefield on Cleave. / Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

If we accept Albert Einstein’s oft quoted definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results – than there is no greater example of human madness than war.  We’ve been waging war in some way, shape, or form since the Neolith Revolution saw our hunter-gatherer ancestors become landed farmers yet no war has ever crafted a lasting peace.  As my ninth and tenth grade high school history teacher, Barry Davis, once framed it, “Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong?”

In Saga, the endless war between Landfall, the largest planet in the galaxy, and Wreath, the moon which orbits it, has spilled across the galaxy.  No one can remember a time before the war and every planet has been forced to take a side.  You either stand with and fight for the Landfallians (the “Wings”) or the Wreathers (the “Horns”).  The fighting has long since left Landfall and Wreath behind as the active theatres of war spread to other planets, bringing new conscripts to fight.  As a result, those on Landfall and Wreath live their daily lives disconnected form the conflict they created.  Refugees, homeless veterans, and the dead grow in steady, staggering numbers as the battles rage. 

Hazel, the series’ narrator, is the child of Alana, a deserter from Landfall, and Marko, a conscientious objector from Wreath who turned himself over to the Landfallian forces on the planet Cleave.  While in prison on Cleave, Marko meets Private First Class Alana, who is stationed at the prison and charged with guarding him.  Their connection is formed over Alana’s favorite book, A Nighttime Smoke, a trashy romance novel by D. Oswald Heist. 

For Alana, who sees past the surface story, the book changed her life.  Eager to discuss it with someone, she tries to get one of her fellow soldiers to read it after she finished it.

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Alana overflowing with the excitement that only reading a life-changing book can bring. / Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

Alana – “This is the best book I’ve ever read.”

McHenry – “Cool.”

Alana – “‘Cool’?  McHenry, my entire outlook on existence has just been permanently altered.  Please read this so I’ll have someone to talk about it with?  I’ll get you cigarettes.”

McHenry – “What’s it about?”

Alana – “It’s the story of a rock monster and the daughter of this rich quarry owner.”

McHenry – “Yeah, I don’t really like horror.”

Alana – “That’s the thing, this is a love story!  The monster and the girl meet, but instead of trying to kill each other, they mostly just hang out and play boardgames, except sometimes they leave their apartment to eat sandwiches at the movies.”[2]

McHenry stares at Alana with skepticism on her face and, when she tries to read it, she doesn’t get very far.  However, Marko is moved by the text, too, and they begin “secret book club” where Alana reads to him as he performs his prison labor.

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Is there any better way to meet a lover than through the shared connection of a great book? / Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

Marko – “I don’t understand.  It’s like it was written just for me.”

Alana – “Really?  You’re not just saying that to be nice?  Or because you’re my helpless captive?”

Marko – “It’s not a love story at all, is it?  It’s about us, about the war between Landfall and Wreath.  But why speak in code?  Why doesn’t the author just say what he means?”

Alana – “Because it’s too dangerous.  He’s saying that this war between our people has gone on too long, that it has to be stopped.”

Marko – “But remember what that mermaid told Contessa in the diner scene?  What if the writer is suggesting that war will never end, that it’s a self-perpetuating cycle of pointless brutality that can only be ‘stopped’ with more war?”

Alana – “Okay, now you’re just reading too much into things.”[3]

As they bond over A Nighttime Smoke, they begin to fall in love.  In an impetuous moment, Alana blasts Marko’s chains and they run away together.  Marko proposes to Alana in a dirty alley on Cleave and she gives birth to Hazel in a machine shop, whose owner Marko bribed so they could have the place to themselves for the night.  At first, the Landfallian forces believe Marko kidnapped Alana to use as a hostage in his escape.  But when Landfall and Wreath high command learn what really happened, Alana, Marko, and their daughter become the most hunted and feared people in the galaxy.  Both sides hire the most lethal professional assassins – The Will, The Stalk, The Brand, The March – to hunt down and kill Hazel and her parents.

When Special Agent Gale, a member of Landfall’s covert black ops unit, asks his boss, Director Croze, why she’s ordering he murder Hazel and everyone she’s ever met she tells him, “Because she’s not a girl, you insufferable prick.  She is an idea, one that can still undo the fabric of our entire way of life.”[4]

The potential of this idea, of what Hazel could represent, was apparent to Marko and Alana as soon as they began having sex.  With the reality of their lives on the run and what a child of theirs would mean crashing over her in waves, Alana is horrified when she realized Marko came inside her.

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Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

Marko – “Why?”

Alana – “Um, because we’re fugitives, wanted dead or extra dead by at least two different armies?”

Marko – “Thanks to you, we’re finally free.  What good is freedom if we can’t do what we want?”

Alana – “First of all, we’re not free, we’re hiding on a fucking rooftop on fucking Cleave.  And second, are you seriously talking about knocking me up?  Because I don’t even know if that’s possible between our teams.”

Marko – “Did you ever think what just happened in there would be possible?  I know it wouldn’t be easy, but is there a better symbol for this terrifying new peace that you and I have forged than a child?”

Alana – “A child isn’t a symbol, it’d a child!  It needs applesauce and, and, and playpens and an ass-load of other things we can’t provide while we’re on the goddamn lam!”

Marko – “Just to be clear.  Your exact words to me were: ‘Please shoot it in my twat.’[5]

Hunted by Freelancers across the planet as they care for their newborn, Alana and Marko reach the sentient trees of the Rocketship Forest and blast off, leaving Cleave behind.  As their family – now joined by Izabel, the ghost of a teen who died on Cleave because of a landmine, and Klara, Marko’s mother who magically boarded their ship mid-takeoff – debate where to go, Alana is adamant they head to Quietus.  Quietus is the planet where D. Oswald Heist lives and she believes he will know what direction their family should take.

When Heist sees them on the beach outside his house, awe washes over him as he takes in their family.  “A Nighttime Smoke,” he says with astonishment.  “You read it.  You got it.”[6]  This – their love, their sexual union, the family it produces – is precisely what D. Oswald Heist was trying to explain with A Nighttime SmokeThis was the revolution he wanted to incite, this was what he understood had the power to undo the war which had ravaged the galaxy for generations.  In Alana, Marko, and baby Hazel he sees his message take root.  The seeds he tried to plant have bloomed.  Alana tells him, “We named our daughter Hazel after the librarian who first recommended your work to me.  When I was younger, your stories literally saved my life.  Literally!”  Holding Hazel in his arms, Heist begins reciting his own work, “‘And the two heavenly bodies danced around their star.’  I never dreamed.”[7]

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Heist reads to baby Hazel in his home on Quietus, surrounded by one of the many families which will form around Hazel in her life. / Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

Hazel is the incarnation of the idea which can undo the war which has waged for generations.  Landfallians and Wreathers don’t have to hate each other.  They don’t have to fight.  They can coexist.  They can love.  They can come together in the most beautiful, most intimate, most powerful and spiritual of ways and create life.  For generations the Wings and Horns have been told they must destroy one another but Alana and Marko have lived a different way into existence.  They created instead.

This is why Hazel and her family are such a threat to the governments of both Landfall and Wreath.  As a result, their idyllic peace with Heist is eventually broken when Prince Robot IV, heir to the throne of the powerful Robot Kingdom which has aligned itself with Landfall, tracks Alana and Marko to his doorstep.  With everyone hidden upstairs, Heist does his best to talk his way out of things with IV but IV isn’t buying it. 

I invite you to take a moment and consider this question: What is the opposite of war?  In this scene Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples offer Saga’s deeply subversive (which subverts both our expectations as well as the power of war itself) answer.  From that Garfield comic strip in my youth to the last twenty years of studying and teaching religious studies, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering how to subvert war but I’d never considered the answer Staples and Vaughan offer.  I wasn’t ready for it but, as soon as I read it, I saw it’s deep insight and incredible power.

In your mind, dear reader, what is the opposite of war?  Take a moment.  Breathe.  Find your answer.  Now I invite you to consider what Saga suggests.  As they continue their high stakes tête-à-tête, IV notices a manuscript beside Heist’s typewriter on his desk. 

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Heist tries to throw Prince Robot IV off of the truth to protect Hazel and her family. / Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

IV – “‘The Opposite of War.’  What do we have here, another of your overlong polemics on pacifism?”

Heist – “I’m gonna need a better title.  Why the hell does everyone thing peace is the opposite of war?  It’s just a lull in the action.”

IV – “So what do you suggest is combat’s true antithesis, maestro? [….] What’s the secret message of your newest agitprop?”

Heist – “You said you’ve had a couple of near-death experiences, right?  On the battlefield?”

IV – “I’ve had a close call or two, like most.  Your point?”

Heist – “When you almost shuffled off…what did you see?”

IV – “The usual, I suppose.  Tracer fire, smoke from signal flares, my own bodily fluids spilling out onto the mud.”

Heist – “That might be what you think you remember.  But if you really concentrate, what did you actually see?

IV – “Like did my life flash before my eyes or any of that ridiculous – – Ah.  That.”

Heist – “Nice and filthy, eh?”

IV – “How did you know my vision was…explicit?”

Heist – “Who were you with?  Your wife, a stranger, your date to the senior prom…?”

IV – “It was my entire platoon.  Every man and woman I’d ever fought alongside of, we were all mixed together in…I’m not sure there’s another word for it than ‘orgy.’

Heist – “Your squad ever been involved in something like that for real?”

IV – “Of course not.  I share a deep bond with all my fellow troops, but my feelings were never romantic, certainly not for the males.”

Heist – “So in this fever dream of yours, you were being taken against your will?”

IV – “No, I’ve seen soldiers…ravish enemy combatants before.  This was nothing like that.  We may not have been making love, but we were certainly making something.  I’d never felt anything quite like it.  For the first time in my life everything was…as it should be.”

Heist – “And why do you think that is?”

IV – “Because the opposite of war…is fucking.”[8]

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Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

There you have it.  The opposite of war is fucking.  And just like that, Saga spotlights the true antithesis of war.

If you think about it, it makes so much sense.  The terminology is important.  Fucking.  As IV tells Heist, “We may not have been making love, but we were certainly making something.”  There is a difference between “fucking” and “making love.”  Colloquially speaking, “fucking” covers a broader range of sexual activity which may or may not contain the emotional intimacy of “making love.”  So it’s not just making love that’s the opposite of war, though that is certainly a part of it.  Rather, it’s the full range of what fucking entails which is war’s antithesis.

Fucking is creative; it can literally create new life and you can do it in all sorts of fun ways, too!  Fucking is intimate; it brings people together physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Fucking is fun (no further explanation needed).  Fucking is spiritual, which is why all religions have their own rules around sexual activity.  Fucking can heal, giving you a sense of connection, security, and intimacy when you need it.  Lastly, fucking is natural.  It’s the most natural thing in the world!  Birds do it.  Bees do it.  Even educated fleas do it.

War is none of these things.  War isn’t creative or intimate, fun or spiritual, it doesn’t heal and it certainly isn’t natural.

In their use of sex through the narrative (remember how the publisher’s blurb described Saga as “a sexy, subversive drama for adults”?), Vaughan and Staples illustrate all those dimensions of fucking, both in the act itself and in symbolic ripples throughout their story.  In so doing they challenge both the nature of war and our own comfort around sex.  I’ve used the word “fucking” twelve times (well, thirteen now) in the last five paragraphs.  I imagine it landed differently for every reader, based on their own comfort with discussing – or even contemplating – the vast variety of sexual activity and sexuality.  This makes sense as the whisper of culture has taught us to feel shame (at worst) or discomfort (at best) around public discussions of sex and the nature of our own desires.  Or, as Madonna observed on “Human Nature,” “Oops, I didn’t know I couldn’t talk about sex / I must’ve been crazy.” 

Are you ready for the “NSFW” part of the post?  Well, “NSFW” only because of the cultural hang-ups we’ve placed around fucking.  We’re going to explore one sequence to illustrate how Saga presents sex so a) we have a sense for how they depict it, b) should you decide to read Saga as a result of this post (which I support!) you’ve seen how they depict sex, and c) it’s hypocritical to praise their vision of the opposite of war and not show it.  And in showing it, we move within Saga’s subversion.  We look at images of violence all the time.  Culture teaches us violence is ok but images of sex are taboo.  That’s part of what Saga challenges.  But this can make us uncomfortable so I wanted to give you the heads up.  Coolio?  Coolio.

In these scenes, Staples and Vaughan don’t just subvert war in their use of fucking but they challenge and subvert our own discomfort by presenting it in all its variety.  It is hard (if not impossible) for us to understand how fucking can be the opposite of war if we cringe at contemplating fucking to begin with.  It is not unusual for Saga to give us sequences like this, the five pages which open Saga #50, where Alana and Marko have sex in the oceans of the planet Jetsam.

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Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

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Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

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Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

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Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

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Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

It’s erotic.  It’s sexy and sexual.  It’s intimate.  But it’s also so human when Alana comes and we see her insecurity, even with her husband of seven years, and his reassurance.  Then their sex gives way to conversation, talking and joking, as they evaluate their lives’ direction floating in the water beside each other after her orgasm.  It’s a beautiful scene as Vaughan and Staples give us a very honest, very intimate exchange between these two characters.

And, depending on our comfort with such scenes and/or our familiarity with Saga’s style, it may catch us off guard and it may make us uncomfortable.  This is only natural.  Well, I say natural when it’s more societally conditioned but it’s a conditioning that is so woven into our lives that it feels natural.  In the introduction to her text A Curious History of Sex, Dr. Kate Lister, university lecturer and curator of the online research project Whores of Yore, explains:

Humans are also the only creatures that stigmatise, punish and create shame around their sexual desires.  While all animals have courtship rituals, no wildebeest has ever gone into therapy because it’s struggling to express a latex fetish.  The queen honeybee will shag up to forty partners in one session, return to her hive dripping in semen and clutching the severed cocks of her conquests, and not one drone will call her a slut.  Male baboons will happily bugger each other all day long and never fear being sent to a gay conversion camp.  Yet the guilt we humans feel around our desires can be paralysing, and severe punishments have been doled out to those who break ‘the rules.’

                Columbian novelist Gabriel García Márquez once wrote that ‘everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life and a secret life.’  Paradoxically, our secret life is us at our most honest.  We force this honest piece of ourselves into secrecy because the systems we have created have rendered it incompatible with our public and private lives.  In an effort to control this secret part of ourselves, humans have turned sex into a moral issue and developed complex social structures to regulate our urges.  We invented categories to try to control it: gay, straight, monogamous, virginal, promiscuous, etc.  But sexuality does not fit neatly into manmade boxes; it spills over, and that’s when things get messy.  When we try to suppress our desire, it becomes a fault line running underneath our structures of morality, ethics and decency.  But when the pink mist descends, people will still risk the earthquake to have an orgasm.[9]

Many, many, many factors have shaped how we view sex in our culture.  To trace just one example from my own area of expertise in religious studies, let’s turn to Augustine of Hippo (354-430), a theologian, philosopher, and bishop of the Christian church.  Ultimately, he would be beatified and become Saint Augustine within the Catholic Church.  As William Placher, a postliberal theologian of church history, frames him in his A History of Christian Theology, “More than anyone else, Augustine shaped Western theology and made it different from the traditions of the East.  For the Western half of the church throughout the Middle Ages his authority stood second only to that of Scripture…For better or worse, today’s thinking about God, or human personalities, or history, or sex still owes him a great deal.”[10]  When it comes to Christian theology, Augustine’s kind of a big deal. 

His two most prominent works were The City of God, a text on Christian philosophy, and The Confessions, widely understood as the West’s first memoir or autobiography.  In The Confessions, Augustine explores his own struggles with his sexuality with staggering honesty and moving intimacy.  In The Confessions’ most famous line, Augustine recounts the prayer of his adolescence when he asks God, “Grant me chastity and self-control, but please not yet.”[11]  In modern terminology, Augustine would most likely be consider a sex addict and he felt great shame around his sexual appetite.  Due to his importance and thus the importance of his writings, this is a shame we’ve inherited. 

To do just a bit of history, the Roman Empire stretched across the ancient world.  In 380 CE, Emperor Theodosius made Christianity the official religion of Rome.  When the Roman Empire fell in the 400s, Christianity itself became the major unifying force through Europe.  The Empire was gone but its religion remained.  As the Dark Ages gave way to the Middle Ages, Christian kingdoms rose across Europe and Christian theology remained a major force shaping culture and kingdoms.  When the Age of Imperialism arose and European kingdoms began to forcibly take lands from indigenous peoples across the world and import their culture to those same shores, Christian theology followed in this imperial wake.  Given Augustine’s importance in Christian theology and given the importance of Christian theology in shaping the western world, Augustine’s wounding, trauma, and shame around his own sexuality were exported, too, and became a key factor in shaping how we see sex now.  Some of the guilt, shame, and stigma Lister discusses in her introduction grow from each generation picking up Augustine’s wounding as our own.

This is just one tiny piece of the puzzle (presented in a very off-the-cuff way) but learning to see and understand it is important.  As Lister says in her introduction, “Sex remains a deeply divisive issue around the world, and in many places is a matter of life and death.  These attitudes will turn and turn again – hopefully for the better.  But we will never arrive at a place where sex is free of stigma and shame unless we first know where we have come from.”[12]  Her brilliant (witty, fun, and very accessible) text (which everyone should read!) helps us to do just that.  With Saga, Staples and Vaughan invite readers to explore our own comfort and biases around the reality of sex while presenting fucking as the revolutionary tool at the opposite end of reality’s spectrum from war.

It’s not just the act of sex Saga presents so openly either.  Saga #1 begins with the following five pages which present Alana in labor as Marko delivers Hazel and then hands her to Alana who begins breastfeeding their daughter.

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Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

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Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

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Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

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Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

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Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

While I wasn’t reading Saga when issue #1 was released (I’d start reading the series in the trade collections first), I remember the controversy around their depiction of breastfeeding which, sadly, is unsurprising.  Just as we have stigma and shame wrapped around sex, we have done the same to breastfeeding and the breasts which nourish our children.  But just as Saga challenges stigma by normalizing the wide variety of ways people can have sex in their narrative, so too do they challenge stigma by normalizing breastfeeding. 

Fucking is the opposite of war because fucking is an act of creation.  Breastfeeding is essential to nourish the life created in that act creation.  War destroys.  Fucking creates.  Brilliantly Saga shows birth and breastfeeding before it ever depicts fucking.  To have one without the other would be disingenuous.  You can’t have breastfeeding, you can’t have life, without first having sex.  And you can’t have sex without it eventually leading to new life which needs to be nourished and cared for.  In starting with the latter, Saga grounds its entire story on the reality of creation.

As the story of Hazel’s life unfolds, Saga just as clearly shows how varied and beautiful the family which follows the act of fucking can be.  As Hazel narrates in issue #43, “Still, if there’s one thing I learned from the unlikely allies we made over the years, it’s that family is about much more than blood.”  Amen, Hazel.  AMEN.

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Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

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Ghüs riding his animal, Friendo, are just about the most adorable characters I’ve ever seen in a comic EVER. I mean, the whole scene is cute but Ghüs! / Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

Family is an act of creation, too, and Saga shows how powerful those loving bonds can be once created.  Within the open arms of family, strangers can be welcomed as strangeness fades, enemies can be embraced as connection is found, and those bonds of love are as limitless as the heart which creates them.

We may stigmatize sex in all manner of ways.  We may stigmatize all manner of families, too.  Culture teaches us to place rigid parameters around our avenues of creation, judging and damning that which falls outside of those boundaries.  But with Saga, Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan model an alternative wisdom.  On this path, the power of war is eroded when we fuck and create families without shame.  Yes, at this very moment twenty-seven different wars rage across our world and, just like the war between Landfall and Wreath, it feels inevitable.  This is who we are.  It is what we do.  But, as Garfield first taught me all those years ago and Saga illustrates with a beautiful and insightful form of subversion in every issue, it doesn’t have to be that way.  We can make a different choice.

We don’t have to chose to destroy.  We can choose to fuck instead.  We can choose creation, intimacy, fun, spirituality, and healing as opposed to destruction, separation, tragedy, and pain.  We can do what comes naturally to us, what is natural for all living things.  We can fuck and in that fucking find freedom from the horrors of war which have held us for millennia.  To close, I can only echo the words of Zach Braff’s John “J.D.” Dorian from the “My Dirty Secret” episode of Scrubs, “Maybe the dirty little secret about sex is that it isn’t so dirty after all.  The weird thing is even though it’s natural, sex can make us uncomfortable.  But if we work at it, we can get beyond that discomfort and realize that sex can actually be a comfort.  Sex can even be a cure.  How do I know all this?  Because no one understands how important sex is better than someone who isn’t having it.”[13]

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Hazel explains how she was born to her teacher. / Photo Credit – Image Comics’ Saga

[1] Tess Lowery, “10 Heartbreaking Facts About Ongoing Conflicts Around the World,”, Published April 1, 2022.  Accessed August 2, 2022.,and%20the%20conflict%20in%20Ethiopia.

[2] Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples, Saga, no. 8, December 2012.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples, Saga, no. 58, April 2022.

[5] Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples, Saga, no. 11, May 2013.

[6] Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples, Saga, no. 14, September 2013.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples, Saga, no. 17, December 2013.

[9] Kate Lister, A Curious History of Sex. (Unbound: London, 2020), 1-2.

[10] William C. Placher, A History of Western Christian Theology: an introduction. (The Westminster Press: Philadelphia, 1983), 108.

[11] Saint Augustine, Preface to the Vintage Spiritual Classics Edition of The Confessions, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B. (Vintage Books: New York, 1997), xxi.

[12] Lister, 4.

[13] Chris Koch, dir. “My Dirty Secret,” Scrubs, season 3, episode 9, NBC, 2003.

7 thoughts on “Saga and the Revolutionary Power of the Opposite of War

    1. Thank you! I’m happy to know the quote resonated for you, too. Her book was really eye opening and mind expanding for me. She took a lot of things I’d thought or felt before and showed a historical/scientific/psychological grounding for it. And I laughed out loud as I read, too, so that’s always a plus :).


    1. Yay! Thank you so much, Mei-Mei! Comparatively, I know far fewer people who’ve read ‘Saga’ than Spider-Man or the Avengers or Harley Quinn or what have you. So it fills my heart to know you love the comic, too! And it means a lot to know my piece resonated with someone who loves the series like I do.

      Thank you for sharing it, too! What a compliment :).

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I put off reading Saga for years because I thought it was too pervy, but the entire series is so much more than that! I’m so glad that it off it’s hiatus and new volumes are being released.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know! I had put it on my pull list at my local comic shop months before it came back…and then they forgot to pull the first two issues for me! It was only after you told me you’d got yours that I went to look into it. Thankfully they still had some.

      I love that we still have almost half the series left to go. I can’t even begin to imagine what’s ahead but that’s par for the course for ‘Saga’ as I couldn’t ever guess what was going to happen next as I read the first half! I just love it so much :).

      Liked by 1 person

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