Saga pushes the limits of the sci-fi genre in ways which should be a science-fiction standard, but aren’t. In a universe where Marko and Alana are chased by a half-naked spider freelancer, befriended by a ghoul who turns out to be a great babysitter, and on the run from a bounty hunter and his truth-telling blue cat, the most interesting aspect of the comics is something else entirely. Saga reminds us that science-fiction/fantasy should push the limits of social norms and gender roles as much as it pushes the limits of space travel and alien life forms. Alana and Marko are thought-provoking and complex because each embody traits which are stereotypical for the opposite sex, but it’s done in such a way that neither character is shown as being strictly masculine or feminine.
The first appearance of Alana is when she is giving birth, but it’s hardly the idyllic scene of a loving mother. In the first few pages, she is swearing and bemoaning her sex life, a stark contrast to Marko crying over the birth of his daughter. Other characters label her “dim-witted, impulsive, and a bit of a slut”. She shuns Marko’s desire to settle down because “they have a family to think about”, but instead, wants to show Hazel the universe. Initially, her skills as a mother are lacking; right away their ghoul babysitter, Izabel, points out problems with Alana’s breastfeeding and burping techniques.
Just as the series entices the reader with new conceptions of robots and rocket ships, they are also continually surprised by Alana. While she is hardly a damsel in distress, her vulgarity and inexperience absolutely do not make her a bad mother, wife, or any less of a woman.
Alana is shown initially to be strong and independent, but as the series progresses, she shows that a female can be tough while still being the protagonist of her own love story. Alana is a female character that is in a romantic relationship, but she does not exist solely to be a romantic object. She eagerly reads romance novels, but that does not take away from her strength. In fact, her love of romance novels provides the catalyst for the group to travel to Quietus. Alana is an important figure who embodies the simple truth that women can read romance novels and be a soldier, and that neither one of these box her in as a stereotypical masculine or feminine role.
Marko’s introduction is a stark contrast to Alana’s. In the first issue, he is crying over his daughter’s birth and vows to swear off all violence, much to his wife’s dismay. With his sword sheathed, he is the pacifist of the family. When confronted by Coalition Forces, Marko attempts to reason while Alana yells out insults. This is not typical behavior from a male science-fiction/fantasy protagonist, much less a former soldier. While Alana is hedonistic, Marko is spiritual, nostalgic, and sensitive. He carries a sword which has been in his family for generations, as well as engagement rings from an ex-girlfriend. In a recent issue, Marko wants to talk through their problems while Alana tries to seduce him to avoid having to discuss the issues at hand. Sensitivity and empathy are stereotypical feminine traits, but Marko carries them without becoming a stereotype.
Marko is also the first to deal with overwhelming loss when, for once, a male protagonist mourns over someone other than his lady lover. Too frequently are women in stories killed in order to advance the plot and allow the male character to show emotion while gearing up for revenge. In Saga, Marko must work through the death of his father. We get to see Marko deal with grief and loss, while still finding the strength to protect what is most important to him. Even Marko’s ex-girlfriend is currently on her way to see him, and we can be sure he won’t get off easily. But he is still a force to be reckoned with, taking out a whole group of Heavy Company troops singlehandedly, as well as being proficient in spellcasting. It’s both refreshing and thought-provoking to share Marko’s journey as a male character who can’t merely be lumped into one trope or another.