By Zack Quaintance — Saga #13 was the first issue after one of the book’s hiatuses, which come like clockwork every six issues, and with its return, the story introduced us to two of my favorite characters—the journalists Upsher and Doff. Full disclosure, I (obviously) make no money doing this site (it actually costs me money, plus all sorts of time) and make my living as a journalist for a magazine about technology. So, I’m predisposed to like the journalist characters.
What I also like about Upsher and Doff—aside from Upsher’s sardonic attitude and the duo having the sweetest romantic relationship in this entire story—is that their role as journalists raise the stakes on the entire situation. More on all that later though, once we get down into our subcategories! Oh, the teasing….
Let’s do this!
Here’s the official preview text for Saga #13, first released on August 14, 2013:
Now that you've read the first two bestselling collections of SAGA, you're all caught up and ready to jump on the ongoing train with Chapter Thirteen, beginning an all-new monthly sci-fi/fantasy adventure, as Hazel and her parents head to the planet Quietus in search of cult romance novelist D. Oswald Heist.
This is the first issue back from hiatus, and what I’m fairly certain is the first in the series with such a verbose preview, although most of it is marketing and not really heavy on details about the plot. No matter! That’s what the rest of this piece is for…
The Cover: Although not even close to one of the most memorable Saga covers, this issue’s is a nice blend of sci-fi and family, depicting cycloptic alien D. Oswald Heist holding young Hazel as she directs an awed and curious infant gape directly into his gigantic eye.
The First Page: A subdued opener for this chapter, in that there’s no sex or violence here. No, instead we see a this world’s version of a veteran’s hospital, complete with a weathered man in a camo jacket and bear pushing a shopping cart brimming with his belongings out front, presumably homeless. This metaphor about the way forever war shapes a society tends to fall into the background a bit, giving way to focus on the family’s immediate plight and complex dynamics—and maybe that’s the point.
The Surface: What I find interesting about at least part of the plot of this issue, is that Vaughan uses realistic inconvenience to hamstring some of the characters. The Will, Gwendolyn, and Slave Girl have a damaged ship, a damaged ship that had some kind of cosmic AAA insurance but is too far out of the coverage zone for repairmen to come running. It’s a small thing, and maybe the writer just did it to keep them from showing up at the same time as Prince Robot IV, but it’s also a layer of realism that most comics (especially of this genre) lack, and it makes the other realistic moments, especially those having to do with family, ring even truer.
The Subtext: In this issue, the family lands on Heist’s planet and must immediately contend with hostile animated bone monsters. It sounds odd to say, but I don’t really see much deeper meaning there. To me, the advent much heavier with subtext is the arrival of Upsher and Doff as journalists chasing this story. Okay, maybe subtext is the wrong word, and, to be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure what the right one is. I just think adding journalists to the group chasing our family is an inspired move. The first two arcs of this story are relatively isolated from the world of Saga, with our heroes relegated to backwater galactic corners as they’re chased by proxies for the respective governments. We know if they’re caught by other side, they will likely be murdered. The journalists, however, are a wild card, coming not with hostile motives but with a cool operative belief in simply disseminating information. Their threat is not a physical one, and, really, we don’t know what exactly would happen if Upshar and Doff were to succeed on their journey. In a word, intriguing.
The Art: I’ve said this in the past (if not on this site than definitely on Twitter) and I’ll say it again—as great as Brian K. Vaughan is as a writer, the MVP of this book is quite possibly Fiona Staples (although it’s hard to discount the intangible nature of such a solid collaboration). Staples once again takes a major step forward as an artist following one of Saga’s breaks, absolutely nailing panels that she could have got away with taking off. I’ve posted some of my favorites below, all of which are otherwise mundane yet in the hands of someone as skilled as Fiona Staples, feature absolutely stellar visuals.
Foreshadowing: Here’s a note for those are you who are all caught up—a ghost version of The Stalk tells The Will that this quest will eventually get him killed. Could this be an indication of what to expect when Saga returns (at least) 39 weeks from now?
Check out past installments of our Saga Re-Read.
Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase. He also writes comics and is currently working hard to complete one.