By Zack Quaintance — Here we are at the end of another Saga story arc, the fourth story arc, to be exact. This has been one of the more uncomfortable arcs, even as the characters involved face down less danger, at least physically. This story was very much rooted in the emotional strain of starting a new family in a stressful world, looking at what happens after the initial rush of having the baby, escaping two sides in a galaxy-spanning forever war, and settling into the everyday realities of married life. That old canard.
And, really, we mostly got our emotional finale last issue, with Marko heading home to make peace with his strained family and finding they’d gone, likely being put into danger. It was powerful stuff. This issue, meanwhile, catches us up with a group of characters we’ve been wondering about since the conclusion of the third arc: The Will, Gwendolyn, Sophie, and Lying Cat. It’s a different but not unwelcome way to structure a narrative arc.
Let’s take a look at the individual elements...
Here it is, the official preview text for Saga #24, first released all the way back on Oct. 29, 2014...a spooky pre-Halloween issue for a less scary time...
Hey, it's The Brand and Sweet Boy!
This is a more specific teaser than we’re used to, albeit one with just as few words. It, however, doesn’t really clarify all that much, at least not for me, a guy who is on his second full read of this story and doesn’t know who either The Brand or Sweet Boy are off the top of his head. Although, context clues suggest to me that it is perhaps the two characters on this cover...
The Cover: Well, this is certainly a sinister cover. As I noted above, I don’t off the top of my head know who The Brand or Sweet Boy are, but context clues suggest to me that they are indeed these two characters on the cover. I recognize the humanoid as maybe the shadowy figure who’s been pulling some strings trying to get our family taken out, a CIA type who I think hired the freelancers to go after them in the first place. This cover doesn’t stand all that well on its own, as many of my favorite Saga covers do, but it’s effective in terms of conveying something ominous to come for the climax of this fourth arc. Now, let us move on and see if this first page is just as sinister...
The First Page: ...it’s not. It’s absolutely 100 percent super cute, sporting as it goes the little fuzzy walrus man, Ghus, dopey half-smile on his innocent face as he asks, Are you lady folk? Not the most stunning or salacious or brutal Saga first pages, but we’ve got our share of those (and will get more in the future), so I’m willing to just enjoy the adorable simplicity of this one. Plus, it’s Ghus. Who doesn’t just love Ghus?
The Surface: We finally start to get some closure on what’s up with The Will, Gwendolyn, Sophie, and Lying Cat! I like the way this arc was structured, withholding this subplot until the very end of it so as to put more focus on the strain placed on the relationship between Alana and Marko. Works well for all involved, although I’m not sure I felt the same way when reading this monthly. In the time since we’ve last seen them, Sophie has grown and Gwendolyn has become a much better fighter, presumably by necessity. Anyway, this issue focuses mostly on them, strongly implying they’ve been engaged in a long-term quest to study and procure a remedy for The Will’s condition. We do, however, ultimately shift back to our little family, doing so in a way that incorporates Ghus into the plot longer-term (yes!) and also gives us a fantastic last page cliffhanger that sees Marko and Prince Robot IV teaming up as desperate dad bros on a mission, hell bent on doing whatever it takes to find and free their families. It’s self-serious paternal responsibility at its most badass, folks.
The Subtext: There’s a little bit of commentary about broken for-profit medical practices—Healthcare Syndicate has been paying these trolls to keep it off the market…—but that’s all pretty overt. The more rewarding subtext to me was to see how happy and healthy Sophie seemed now that she has love and support around her. Once known as Slave Girl and kept inside a brothel, she’s now thriving, even stopping short of using profanity against The Brand and instead calling her an evil B-word! It kept making me recall the panel where she suggests she’s irreparably damaged inside and Lying Cat tells her, Lying. Sweet stuff, all things considered.
The Art: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the very graphic love-making flashback scene between The Will and The Stalk, and I’m actually a bit surprised the panel of him on top of her wasn’t trotted out for a shock value first page. All told though, I think the reappearance of Lying Cat is better Fiona Staples artwork. The creators here know they have a fan-favorite, series mascot emerging here, and Staples gives Lying Cat’s entrance the gravitas it deserves.
The Foreshadowing: There’s really not all that much of it to be found here, although I suppose the last page (double dads doing their duty!) lets us know a little bit about what to expect from the next arc. This was, so far, one of the less consequential story arc finales, in that it mostly concerned itself with catching us up on Gwendolyn, The Will, Sophie et. al. rather than giving us a major payoff. Which is fine. This uncomfortable arc was rooted more heavily in emotions than action. One of my favorite qualities throughout Saga is the way this story is expertly built to make room for both.
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics
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.