Best Comics of 2014: Saga

Best Comics of 2014: Saga
We didn't include Saga in our end-of-year list for 2013. It wasn't that the comic hadn't been any good, more that it didn't quite jump out as staggeringly new and brilliant in the way that it had done in 2012 (plus, we were busy being wowed by another Brian K. Vaughan book - The Private Eye - and in the interests of variety, didn't want to include two by him in the list). But that's a hard policy to keep going for 2014, a year in which the series once again reminded us of just why it's one of the most consistently excellent things being published anywhere in comics.

For starters, its year began with that jump forwards at the end of the third arc. The "time jump" is a sometimes-cliched tradition in storytelling, but it's hard to deny that there are occasions upon which it's hugely effective - and this was certainly one. Despite being followed by the customary several-months break between issues, it seemed to revitalise the series somewhat - there'd been enjoyable material in the "hiding with Warren EllisHeist" storyline, but it did feel like it maybe went on for a little too long in one place.

When the series resumed in May, it was in an entirely different place, both literally and figuratively. The first part of arc four threw yet another patented BKV last-page mic drop ("This is the story of how my parents split up"); and from then on the drama for Hazel, Marko and Alana became much more personal, even as the backdrop for the wider story ramped up the intrigue (and the violence). Where the series really shone at this point was in portraying the messy, never-straightforward dynamics of a family flung together and just trying to get by. Hazel's family aren't screwy and messed up because they're caught in the middle of an interplanetary war - they're screwy and messed up because they're people.

(This particular storyline also seemed to suit Fiona Staples best - for whatever reason, whenever the series is actively striving to break your heart seems to be when she really brings out her top game when it comes to character expression. And the trippy Fadeaway sequences expanded the scope of her storytelling, too. Of course, it almost feels like the astonishing visuals of Saga are something to be taken for granted, but they really shouldn't be - it's remarkable that the series always looks so perfect, every single issue, and that needs to be spotlighted even when there's not really anything new to say.)

And this is when Saga's at its best - the (for want of a better word) human drama. Indeed, while it's often difficult to keep track of just exactly what's going on with the Prince Robot storyline (at least on a month-to-month basis - this all reads a lot better at trade pace), there's always a clear heart and through-line in the main story. This is what keeps us invested: the "saga" of the title (as if it needed saying) has nothing to do with the epic conflict going on elsewhere, but is in fact the entirely smaller (but not less important) story of this family. And this year, that story got right inside us and wrenched our hearts out.

Plus, Lying Cat came back.