Legend Comics, destination for comic book lovers

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Latest issue of Image Comics’ Saga sure to please fan

By Phil Brown, Reporter

Legend Comics knows exactly what it is. 

The great thing about places that specialize in a certain genre or category is the sense of focus it brings, and for somebody who knows what they want, that can be a very satisfying experience. In contrast to a department store, or even a department bookstore like Barnes & Noble, a smaller, more niche establishment is much more enjoyable to shop in. 

While comics make up a tiny fraction of the many departments in a Barnes & Noble, Comics is one of only two things Legend Comics & Coffee specializes in. The comics section often feels like an afterthought in a big bookstore, but that afterthought is the raison d’etre for Legend. 

The great thing about “nerdy” pursuits like comics or board games is enthusiasm. Getting involved and invested in a certain type of media and a shop like Legend that only exists to pursue that media offers a tangibly more interesting atmosphere. 

Similarly to Spielbound, the board game bar that recently opened in Omaha, Legend’s unashamed embrace of nerdiness is a great experience for anyone who shares even a small aspect of that journey. I’m not the biggest comic book fan in the world, but there are a few series, writers and artists that I have come to love, and finding a place that shares those feelings is great.

Legend isn’t the largest store, but it’s larger than the comics sections of a bigger bookstore. I was able to find exactly what I wanted in a matter of seconds, and the attached coffee shop gave me a great place to read my loot. 

Legend also prides itself as a “full service” comic bookstore, so if I hadn’t known what I was looking for, I suspect I would have found it anyway.

I would argue that one of the reasons a shop like Legend’s or Spielbound can stay open nowadays is that “nerdiness” has become more of a societally accepted, if not actively encouraged, type of behavior. More and more people are discovering the joy and comfort of obsession. 

Netflix gives rise to the binge-watcher, Tumblr gives a platform for endless circulation, and we already had sports nerds with TV channels dedicated to them. Everyone is a nerd about something or someone, whether a book series, TV show, or a rapper.

And similarly to watching a football game with friends, an entire business dedicated to your particular nerdy specialization can be a cathartic, rewarding experience. For comic nerds, Legend Comics & Coffee is certainly all that.

“Saga,” Chapter 27

The particular comic I was looking for at Legend was the 27th issue of “Saga,” this month’s chapter in the critically and popularly adored series. 

It is grippingly penned by Brian K. Vaughan and spectacularly inked by Fiona Staples. The issue has been out for several weeks at this point but this was the first chance I’d had to grab it. I looked for it in Boston’s Newbury Comics earlier in the month but it was already sold out.

It’s also the first time I bought a hard copy of an individual issue as its original release. I first read the compilation hardback of Book 1, which included the first 18 issues, and the Volume Four paperback, which included issues 19-24, and filled in the gaps with digital copies. 

The series has been around for a while, having started over three years ago in March 2012. After every six issues, the creators take a two-month break, but apart from that, the series chugged on steadily since.

It has gathered more and more adoring readers in its wake, including this writer. 
It would be easy to call the series, as others have, “Game of Thrones in space.” But that’d be a bit of a disservice to both properties, probably. 
They certainly share some elements: the warring races and sects, the blood-soaked, cynical violence and the lurid — but admittedly entertaining — sex and relationship drama. But Saga sets itself apart as a unique work of art with the quality in writing and art by Vaughan and Staples, respectively. 
Staples’s work is the most immediately recognizable element of the series. Staples eschews pencils altogether in the artistic process, drawing in digital ink at the out-set. Built from the ground up in the thick, dark lines, the characters are rendered with a sense of incredible depth. 
Staple’s greatest triumph on the series is the expressions of her characters. When her characters are wrought by anger or sorrow, their features seem to disappear into shadow. The ink, heavy and black, transfers every emotion with a remarkable effectiveness. 
Vaughan’s work on the series isn’t as obvious as Staples’s, but the series is his own brainchild. The epic scale of the series is due to the mind of Vaughan alone, although execut-ed perfectly by Staples. 
Every character is very complex, heroes and villains alike, every issue unwrapping like an onion. The se-ries is complicated in plot in a way that only such a huge series can be, but immediately relatable on an emotional level at the same time, drawing the reader in inexorably.
There’s not much I can really say plot-wise about “Saga” #27 to those who haven’t read the previ-ous 26 issues, and not just to avoid spoilers. It would be impossible to explain in any coherency what has taken place in the three years-worth of plot that passed before this issue in this column. What I can do is 

talk about theme and execution, which are fascinating.
Chapter 27 deals thematically with the circular nature of violence. It’s a theme that could’ve fallen very flat if delivered through a monologue, for example, or some other device. 
Instead, Vaughan and Staples join forces to deliver the theme in a memorable, heartbreaking way. The issue follows Marko, one of the two main characters, as he experiences a bad trip, a feverish sequence of memories colliding with his tragic reality. 
The memories deal with his complicated relationship with violence: as a soldier fighting as a nationalist, 
a child fighting cruelty, as a lover fighting to defend those he loves and as a husband violently quarrelling with his wife. 
The most memorable sequence is communicated almost entirely through Fiona’s ink as Marko’s pacifist father beats him in a childhood memory for attacking another child. The contradictory nature of violence is illustrated with incredible poignancy in a few frames.
Saga is a collaboration of two artists at the very top of their respective games. And, three years in with no end in sight, Saga has never been more intriguing, memorable or tragic.

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