Alex Wilson writes for Bleeding Cool;
Comics should always be a source of amusement for their reader. After all, comics are a part of the entertainment industry and when a comic becomes uninteresting people stop reading it. An old saying from our favorite caped crusader “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” is what happened with The Walking Dead. The series could have left gracefully with people wanting more, but now it has started to descend into the territory of simply waiting for the series to end. Many comics are poised to take the mantle of The Walking Dead. The one most likely, in my opinion, is Brian K Vaughan’s new book, Saga.
The Walking Dead just hit 102 issues, while Saga is just entering into its 7th issue. Over the years The Walking Dead has proven some of the most enjoyable stories for me in my comic book career with arcs as imaginable as cannibals and keeping dead zombie loved ones as pets, but the book has had it’s run. There is only so much you can do with a zombie series before you’re just spinning your wheels and Robert Kirkman, the writer of The Walking Dead, is doing just that. The recent stories have been tiresome and when new characters are introduced, it feels they are just there to die later in the story.
Saga, the brainchild of famed comic writer Brian K. Vaughan, has presented a truly original take on the Romeo and Juliet story type with characters who don’t whine about every little problem that comes across their path. Saga, on one hand, is about literal star crossed lovers who have a child and their home planets hire bounty hunters along with robot princes to track down the couple and retrieve the infant. This book is imaginative, creative, and original. Saga gives readers an unpredictable story with unknown elements that have yet to be established. We are thrown into a complex and impulsive universe with character types and story elements that shadow a series which seems to be as compelling as it is wild. Saga builds off itself with each issue’s ending adding to the growing “puzzle like” universe Vaughan has created. The story moves at a very enjoyable pace, not holding on moments for too long, while breaking up the main arc with a compelling side stories.
The Walking Dead, on the other hand, is an average zombie story that caught on during the zombie craze that swept the world. Zombies made their way into mainstream culture with the success of novelists like Max Brooks (Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z) and films such as Zombieland with an interesting mixture of comedy and horror. Kirkman took a normal idea and then created a really well done zombie comic. The first 48 issues (full of well written dialog, compelling stories, and intense action) are amazing and deserve a place in comic book history along with the Eisner in 2010, but lately, the series has become lazy. In past issues you felt like time was passing, but in recent issues the story seems stagnant, staying in one place too long. In more current issues the stories feels choppy and contained with a new twist at the end of each issue that makes the reader cease to care about the previous issue’s twist.
The book turned into a simply gory comic in a rut. Kirkman psychoanalyzed all the characters in the attempt to make them more human but instead took a lot of action out of the comic and made Rick, the main character, cry every other issue if not every issue. Like I said, it was a cool and well-done idea that has gone on too long. It’s a really awesome and funny joke that has been told too many times. I would like to point to the death of one of the longest living characters in the series, Glenn, in issue 100. Every year The Walking Dead has an issue premier at Comic-Con and we always expect something amazing. At issue 75, Kirkman put a full color alien side story in the back of the comic but this year featured the mere death of Glenn and it wasn’t particularly surprising as it was gruesome. It was simply shocking gore.
The Walking Dead is starting to feel tired and warn. Our group of survivors gets in trouble, someone dies, and then more characters are added so they can die later. If Kirkman really wanted to shock us, he should have killed off Rick in issue 100 and had the story continue on without him. This would have thrown readers for a real loop what I expect to be a truly amazing issue since the book was hitting issue 100.
Saga doesn’t have this tired feel to it. And why should it? Saga is new and unpredictable with everything from ghosts that tether their souls to babies to rocket ship forests that fly through the galaxy. Saga is for all the Star Wars fans that wished the series had become more adult with them. The Walking Dead is just depressing with all its tears and character death in a way that just saddens the readers, while Saga presents adult issues but still makes them seem fantastic and appeal to the inquisitive child inside all of us.
Saga portrays a world we haven’t seen before. I can go read any piece of fan fiction about zombies and they all have the same setting. Readers always see mass chaos, zombies chomping on people, and tough choices. Vaughan has already proven himself to be a creative writer with Y: The Last Man and his run of The Runaways, but he has outdone himself by providing an adult fairy tail that has, for its so far short run, not failed to capture at least my imagination and interest. He has created very interesting characters with a dominant female lead in Alana and a pacifist warrior male lead Marko. They are the parents of the omnipotent narrator, Hazel, who during the series foreshadows events from the future, as if telling us this mysterious and enchanting tale.
I still get The Walking Dead monthly and I’ve gotten Saga from issue one and I can only hope that Saga does not fall in the same rut that The Walking Dead has. The difference between the two is that The Walking Dead feels like a chore to read while I wildly look forward to Saga every month.
The above is the opinion of Alex Wilson. All zombie hate mail can be directed to him, where it will be ejected into the heart of th sun.