War and Peace: Saga and Hamilton

Part of what I love about Hamilton is that it’s a show about everything—well, maybe not everything but the show’s characters certainly experience a lot of what makes being a person such a wild experience. All the big ticket themes that you’d expect make appearances: Hamilton and his friends must fight a war before figuring out how to best manage the peace that they’ve won, they fall in love and suffer heartbreak, they live and they die. They also debate what friends owe to one another, struggle to manage work/life balance and bumble through teaching their children about the world. It’s a comprehensive work largely because the broad strokes of its fundamental themes are so well detailed by character-driven minutiae. That’s an incredibly hard thing to do well and succeeding here is a big part of what makes Hamilton special.

The same could be said of Saga.

Written by Brian K. Vaughn and illustrated by Fiona Staples, Saga is the story of two soldiers from opposite sides of an interplanetary war who fall in love, have a kid and are constantly on the run from militaries and mercenaries. It’s also one of those rare stories that is inclusive of a vast expanse of life experiences and which takes great pains to explore those experiences with empathy. Two passages from opposite ends of the content spectrum which clearly illustrate this remain vividly in my mind months after reading them: the first depicts the final, gruesome moments of a field medic during a chemical attack and the other shows a toddler asking for her breakfast with a noise that her babysitter translates as “her breakfast screech.” Between those two extremes is a sprawling, beautifully written and wonderfully illustrated story that I cannot recommend highly enough.

Saga may not have Hamilton’s songs but it’s got its heart.

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