When I first started Saga, I burned through the first three trades in three days. I was so blown away by the story that I, for the first time ever, started picking up the single issues. Going to the comic book store to get the new Saga was always the highlight of my month, but there was also always an undertone of trepidation. “Alright,” I thought as I rushed to the shop, “I’m going to pay $2.99 for 30ish pages, I hope it’s worth it!”
And guess what, it totally was! Every time! Saga was my gateway into single issues and I have been constantly flabbergasted by the quality of story and art I get to experience each month. The new arc is back better than ever. I am so happy that The Brand and Gwendolyn are getting their deserved amount of page time again. Issue 26 is a golden example of why I love this series and also why I often want to throw it across the room in angst.
As Marko searches for his family, he struggles with his own aggression and propensity for violence. His internal conflict is heartbreaking and lying cat would have something to say if I claimed I wasn’t worried about him. Back on the tree ship, Hazel builds the suspense in the way she tends to do with her cryptic narration. Radicals abound as Dengo meets up with the Last Revolution and things are looking pretty grim for Alana and her family. Also Alana is wearing a super cute hipstery scarf, which would go well with Sophie’s oversized wire rim glasses, so y’all can cosplay in style. Speaking of Sophie, she gets to show off her smarts in this issue and it’s wonderful. There’s also the surprise appearance of a new character on the dragon planet. I won’t spoil who it is, but I think their arrival will lead to an exciting turn of events.
Saga #26 continues Saga‘s history of being high caliber, intensely engaging work. If you haven’t read Saga, go binge read all the trades and then pick up the latest two issues. If you have been reading Saga, keep reading! You won’t regret it. (Although be prepared to dissolve into a puddle of sadness and worry when you read the last page.)
This month, everyone in Saga is running on empty. Brian K. Vaughn’s script revolves around the nature of family. As Hazel narrates, “having a kid means a rapid expansion of your social circle, whether you like it or not. Every day pulls some strange new somebody into your family’s orbit…and you just hope they end up doing more good than bad.” While Hazel’s words reflect a black and white idea of “good” and “bad,” the actions of the characters indicate otherwise. The “good” of the family pushes heroes and villains to their limits and encourages them to take actions that they never would have considered otherwise. It’s the reason why Prince Robot IV, originally intent on murdering Alana and Marko, now works with the latter to save his kidnapped son. It’s the reason why Marko, despite being an interplanetary wanted man, is willing to risk his life to save a random shop clerk who has a family of his own.
Externally, not much happens in any of the three main stories this month. Marko and Prince Robot IV’s alliance to save their children from robot rebel Dengo is as tenuous as ever; Gwendolyn and her crew make marginal progress in finding a cure for The Will; and Alana, Hazel, and Klara come face to face with members of the terrorist group The Last Revolution, whom Dengo is working with. We see Vaughn and Staples inch the plot forward and introduce some new elements to the plot which should come into play quite shortly, but ultimately, this issue is lacking in a distinct way. Vaughn’s dialogue is as sharp as ever, but Staples’ art isn’t given much opportunity to shine. All the story locations are pretty desolate, ranging from a cramped spaceship to a snowy blue tundra. She doesn’t have much opportunity to play, which leaves a lot of the visuals in this issue feeling stale, even though her character work is still beautiful. It’s telling that the most compelling scenery of the issue is the convenience store at the beginning of the issue with its bright and varied color palette.
What this issue of Saga lacks in visual splendor is partially made up for by two incredibly compelling conversations penned by Vaughn. The first is between Alana and Dengo. In an attempt to get close to her captor and avoid The Last Revolution, Alana appeals to Dengo’s role as a mourning father. Dengo’s actions, though incredibly violent and reprehensible, have been in the name of family. His son died due to the lack of clean drinking water in his commoner robot community, and he sees the kidnapping of a young robot royal as a bartering chip meant to even the scales and to make sure no other families suffer the way his did. Throughout the series and in this scene, as she reaches for a stake hidden in the back of her jeans, Alana has shown a similar propensity to do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of her family. Both of these characters are traitors to the governments of their respective worlds, but find a sense of unity over their children. While Dengo doesn’t stop the meeting with The Last Revolution, Alana does break through to him, and in doing so, humanizes him. This is Saga at its best, offering readers the opportunity to sympathize over the most ruthless of characters, who in this case ripped a spine from another man’s body only a several issues ago.
The second conversation is between Marko and Yuma. Back at the convenience store, Yuma scavenges several tablets of Fadeaway, a psychedelic drug, off of the robber that Marko knocks out. Later, as they are flying through space, Marko expresses that he fears he might be an addict; a man who can’t control his emotions and lashes out at criminals and even his own wife. He fears that he has lost control of himself, and ironically, finds himself talking to a drugged up Yuma, who is more interested in the vastness of space than the immediate problem facing the man next to her. He confronts her and asks why anyone, including Alana, would use Fadeaway. What did she want to feel? Yuma answers: “peace.” At the end of the issue, we see Marko drugged up and smiling for the first time in a long time. Vaughn does an excellent job of portraying Marko’s downward spiral in this issue in a very limited amount of space, and really hammers home Marko’s use of drugs as a means of escaping his powerlessness to control his more negative emotions. Ironically, in order to do so, he gives up even more of himself in the process. Marko is a shell of who he once was, and it will be interesting to see whether or not he’ll be able to climb out of the hole he has dug for himself.
Ultimately, while this issue of Saga felt slow, it was also incredibly powerful. Staples’ art was beautiful as always, though not given much room to explore. Vaughn’s writing, however, was consistantly on point. The Saga team is clearly interested in answering some big questions in its run, and as long as things start to pick up soon, I think we can forgive the team for taking their time to smell the roses this month.
Luke Miller: 4.5/5 stars
Saga #1 was published approximately on the same day my daughter was conceived. Saga hit the stands 3/14/12, and my daughter was (if she had not been a few days impatient) scheduled to hit the streets 12/13/12. This series has consistently served as a “new parent’s guidebook” of sorts. It isn’t so much that I read this and think, “now that’s what I should be doing.” It’s more that I read this and think, “oh, good, I’m not the only one screwing this up.” This book is 100% pure, mainlined, uncut parenting catharsis.
Have I made terrible decisions that hurt my family? Yep. Will I make them again? Undoubtedly. Will I ever stop trying to be better for them, to be the best that I can be for them? No, not a chance. That’s basically Marko and Alana (and me) in a nutshell. Their problems are considerably more complex and dangerous and outer-spacey than mine, but, I relate nonetheless. This issue continues to see Marko trying to atone for his own perceived shortcomings (and failing), while Alana tries to protect her daughter (and doesn’t really succeed.)
Then we have Sophie. Strong, smart, resilient Sophie – reminding us all that kids are a lot tougher than we give them credit for, and might just do okay in spite of everything that gets thrown at them.
My only quibble is that the pacing has slowed a bit, since there are now three main groups of characters that each issue touches upon. I’d rather get a full issue on each group and rotate them until they’re all back together, but that’s a personal preference and doesn’t really affect the story. If I were reading this in trades, that wouldn’t matter at all.
My other reviewers touched enough on the plot that I don’t really feel like I need to – and honestly, what would I say? The goatman and robot continue to hunt for their kidnapped babies with the help of a tiny otter and tree lady. Meanwhile, the kidnapper, a semi-deranged robot who is also holding captive the goatman’s mother and fairy-esque wife, enlists the help of terrorists in his populist uprising/revolution. Oh, and mercenaries are hunting for dragon sperm. I mean… if one wasn’t already into this book, or in an altered state of consciousness, I don’t think whatever it was I just wrote is going to convince anyone. Just go read this. Do it. It’s damn near perfection.