By Zack Quaintance — I think the fact that we’re doing a literally 54-part series on Saga, which is written by Brian K. Vaughan, speaks to the respect and admiration we have for Brian K. Vaughan as a writer. But you know what? All of these weeks in now, I don’t know if we’ve really heaped much praise on the guy, especially not his scripting.
We’ve talked quite a bit about the plotting and the accompanying subtext he brings this series, but we don’t often get into the nuances of his scripts, not past just saying he writes great dialogue most of the time. Here he does one of the things I think is supremely valuable for a good comic book writer to know how to do: he walks an expert balance between stepping aside and incorporating prose-based flourishes, stepping aside during the action and arguing, and incorporating a brief and rapid flourish to almost eulogize poor D. Oswald Heist.
Mom and Dad wanted to stick around for a proper burial, but my devastated Granny argued that Heist would have appreciated where he ended up...mixed amongst the ashes of his creations.
It’s good stuff. Now onto the rest of the issue!
Here’s the official preview text for Saga #18, first released on Jan. 29, 2014, which is (duh) juuuuuust over 4 years ago. So so so much has changed right? I was still living in Austin, Texas back then! Anyway, summary time…
Our heroes' stay on Quietus reaches its inevitable conclusion.
...the ol’ inevitable conclusion. We’ve known this issue has been coming since pretty much the start of this arc, since it kind of tipped what was about to happen (while withholding most of the context) back in issue #13. If you are savvy enough to know these things happen in increments of six, well then, the writing has been on the wall.
The Cover: One of my favorite characters here...but not one of the my favorite covers. It’s an ultra-detailed closeup where Lying Cat has gore of something slain hung from its lips. For those who don’t know the outcome of the arc, though, maybe this whole thing plays as ominous, which makes sense given the shadows. The idea of this cover being aimed at generating suspense connects right on to the issue’s first page...
The First Page: ...which is Lying Cat sticking its fangs into Marko’s mom’s face, while a voice off panel (presumably Gwendolyn's) tells it: If she gives you any trouble, kill her. Now that, folks, is a suspenseful opening to the finale of an arc that has essentially been three plot points heading for a single intersection.
The Surface: The plot in this issue all felt sort of inevitable, which is a testament to the good and thorough job the creators did throughout this arc building up to it. While a bit predictable, the execution is engaging as hell, with the scene where Alana rises up on her wings to save the day (and show us her and the baby aren’t dead) inspiring me to all but through up a fist in triumph. There’s almost a happy ending all around here for a our three separate sects of characters, albeit with Marko’s mom weathering the loss of Heist. Oh! And a time jump at the end of this one sees Hazel develop from infant to toddler.
The Subtext: Like most of the rest of this arc, this issue was pretty light on subtext. Really, there was just too much rapidfire plot for that. The scene with Gwendolyn and Marko felt real and familiar, but it was still pretty overt. I do suppose, though, that the journalist being magically silenced under threat of death (and deciding to ultimately drop their story) is a metaphor for how vulnerable the press can be at times when targeted by vast resources and power structures. Again, as a former newspaperman my own self, I dig this sort of thing.
The Art: The thing that maybe most amazes me about Fiona Staples work on this series is how she continues to improve throughout. The art in this issue is phenomenal, with a panel in which Prince Robot IV emerges ominously through smoke and flames as a standout visual (although all the shots through the flames are absolutely stellar, and also so is the action storytelling and Gwendolyn’s face when she confronts Marko and Alana, and...), but you know what? It’s not even her final form. Not even close. The work in this issue will be topped and then topped again and on and on until we continue through this series.
Foreshadowing: I didn’t think there was any in this issue...until Doff tell’s Upsher No story’s worth dying for...and my heart just about cried out through my chest. Oof. Why am I doing this to myself? It’s only going to get worse...and I can’t wait for the devastation. See you all next week! We are now fittingly within nine months of finishing this long long long reading project.
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.