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Saga comic series returns after long hiatus

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

None of us like it when our favorite stories are interrupted, whether it's a TV show or an award-winning comic book. That's been the case with "Saga," the epic sci-fi tale that's been playing out since 2012. The creators took a break in 2018. Now, almost three years later, a lifetime in the world of entertainment, "Saga" is finally back. NPR's Mallory Yu has more.

MALLORY YU, BYLINE: Writer Brian K. Vaughan says he meant to step away from "Saga."

BRIAN K VAUGHAN: But I can't stop thinking about it. So, you know, I think most of my hiatus was really spent still focused on "Saga" and sort of plotting out the next several years of these characters' adventures.

YU: If you call running for your life while deadly assassins shoot lasers at you adventures. See, at the heart of the story is a family - Alana and Marko and their daughter, Hazel. Alana and Marko are star-crossed lovers from opposite ends of a centuries-long intergalactic war. When their home planets catch wind of Hazel's existence, they put a bounty on her head.

VAUGHAN: Basically she's, you know, on the run.

YU: From the minute she's born, Hazel is a fugitive.

VAUGHAN: You know, her family is protecting her, cradling her, carrying her, trying to help her survive.

YU: In their journey for safe harbor, they meet and battle both friendly and sinister forces, beings with televisions for heads, assassins with eight legs and sharp teeth, even stern grandparents peering out of nowhere. It can be a lot.

VAUGHAN: I think my specialty is writing weird, far-out, shocking, unexpected things, and Fiona somehow takes that wackiness and makes it so grounded and so relatable.

YU: Vaughan's talking about his co-creator, artist Fiona Staples. He says she's 99% of the reason that "Saga" works, and his job as a writer is mostly staying out of her way. Take main characters Alana and Marko, for instance.

VAUGHAN: I said this main character, the male, has horns, and the female has wings. And other than that, I don't really care what they look like. I said at the time, I think there's kind of a glut of redheads in comics, so maybe don't make the wife a redhead. And Fiona said, well, do they have to be white?

YU: They didn't, so Alana has darker skin. Staples has said she envisions her as biracial. And Marko is Asian.

Now, just because this is a series about a young family does not mean it's family friendly. There's full-frontal nudity, graphic sex and a lot of violence in "Saga's" pages.

VAUGHAN: In my personal life, I think I'm a radical pacifist who despises violence. And as a creator, I recognize that violence is just awesome to watch.

YU: And indeed, blood splashes across the page in beautiful arcs. Characters die in gruesomely inventive ways. And when they die...

VAUGHAN: There's going to be no sort of magical resurrection. And because we're telling a story about a sort of never-ending war, violence and death and loss are always going to be part of this.

YU: Vaughan says he wanted all that violence in "Saga" to have real stakes, real consequences. No character is safe from mortal peril or death.

VAUGHAN: Even when our heroes do something that feels emotionally hugely satisfying in the moment - you know, dispatching a villain in a violent way - we will see that that usually has a cost for them down the line.

YU: It's part of why he started writing the series in the first place.

VAUGHAN: I'm a parent now, and I wanted to tell a story that's not really about escapism so much as me trying to process my misgivings, my fears, my hopes for bringing children into a world that is sometimes nightmarish and beyond comprehension.

YU: And fans are eager to return to "Saga's" universe, one that may often be nightmarish and beyond comprehension, but one that's also full of grace and hope and creation, just like ours.

Mallory Yu, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SYRIANA'S "BLACK ZIL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.