by J.D. Cook
The best Science Fiction is coming out of comic books right now. What is the best kind of Science Fiction you ask? Well in my opinion that would be “Social Science Fiction”. This is the best sub-genre of Science Fiction; where shows like The Twilight Zone would be categorized, or Ray Bradbury’s various works of fiction. This is Science Fiction which reflects the real world we live in while giving us great characters and epic stories.
Shaun of the Dead, Looper and The Dark Knight would be some of the biggest examples of Social Science Fiction in the last few years. Each story is utterly fantastical while each one points to a deeper issue within society. Shaun of the Dead shows us that people aren’t far off from zombies even when they aren’t actually zombies. Looper gives us a glimpse at how easy it is for us to be good or bad depending on our life experiences and The Dark Knight comments rather heavily on the War on Terror. Now that our term has been defined let’s back up the initial claim.
Saga is a space epic written by comic’s legend Brian K. Vaughan and given life via the wonderful artwork of Fiona Staples. The backdrop of the story is that two civilizations are at war in the cosmos. The moon of Wreath’s inhabitants wield magic and the planet of Landfall fights with technology…oh yeah the moon of Wreath is orbiting the planet of Landfall. They’ve been at war longer than anyone can remember but the fighting no longer occurs in the immediate area; instead proxy wars are fought off in space while a strange truce lies between the planet and the moon. Sounds a bit like some real life places doesn’t it?
Out of this war flees Marko and Alana from Wreath and Landfall respectively. The story isn’t about stopping the huge war or starting some crazy resistance it’s simply about Marko and Alana trying to start a family with their newborn daughter Hazel. Unfortunately neither side of the war effort wants it’s people knowing that their two sides can procreate and love each other so bounty hunters and soldiers are dispatched to hunt them. Vaughan’s stories are epic in scope spanning multiple locations and including tons of characters that are all intricate and well developed. Each issue is filled to the brim with deep philosophy, political commentary and relatable life experiences all while never forgetting that Saga is a comic book at its heart. Look no further than the most recent issue, Eleven, for proof of this where one character is happily saved and another tragically dies.
Over at Marvel Comics there is one writer doing a hell of a good job with characters and an unexpected plot that keeps its readers on their toes all the time. That would be the scribe Rick Remender. He pulled me back into reading comic books with his initial run on Venom which started in 2011. Venom was a series that delved deeply into one character on a level I’d never seen in a comic book before.
Now Remender is in charge of The Uncanny Avengers Marvel’s flagship book in their “Marvel Now initiative”. The first four issues have had literal ‘issues’ with delays due to internal problems but the first arc was a barn burner as the super villain the Red Skull stole part of Professor Xavier’s brain and used it to further divide Humans and Mutants. The only thing standing in his way? The Avengers Unity division; a coalition of human and mutant super heroes working together to fight for Professor Xavier’s dream.
The concept of this comic is far more X-men then basically all of the current X-men books on comic shelves. The most recent issue has a fantastic moment when the leader of the team Alex Summers, Cyclops younger brother which is a great choice in itself, tells a reporter to simply call him Alex instead of defining him as a mutant. Real world parallels abound in that moment and many other moments in the story but at the same time just like Saga this is a comic book story with a great comic book plot involving the time traveling villain Kang stealing his enemies at child birth to raise them as his own so he will not have to deal with them in the future; or at least that’s what it looks like he’s doing.
There is literally too much good stuff in both of these comics to write about. All I can say is it is a great time to be reading comic books and if you like reading great Science Fiction you should be checking these titles out. They both represent the best things comic books can do in terms of their art work and highly detailed storytelling, which while going towards grand stories never fails to tell the smaller character driven tales that actually invest readers with the desire to keep picking up their books week after week.