The Saga Re-Read: Saga #37 starts THE WAR FOR PHANG (scary)

By Zack Quaintance — Here begins Saga’s self-contained The War for Phang event story, which I remember being a tad bit disappointed with at the time. In retrospect, it’s really more on me than it is on the creator’s of this comic. Saga is not and has never been that kind of comic, the one to play up grandiose warfare into some kind of marketable event. Besides, have you seen the rest of…

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The Saga Re-Read: Saga #35, in which A LOT happens but still no reunion

By Zack Quaintance — One thing I’ve noticed often during this re-read is that there are almost two distinct types of Saga issues. The first is a surface level rapidfire burst of action and plot. The second is a slower, more emotional sort of issue that uses a lot of metaphors to get at deep truths about love, family, and relationships. This series is so grandiose (look at its title), that it certainly has room for both…

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The Saga Re-Read: Saga #34, who can you trust? Nobody...but maybe this teacher

By Zack Quaintance — The closer we get to the end of this re-read, the more I remember actually reading these past issues. With this one, for example, I can remember the very day and conversation at the cash register I had while purchasing this comic. I know it’s not that interesting...but also I’ve mentioned it twice later in this piece!

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The Saga Re-Read: Saga #33 is an Upsher and Doff journalism procedural

Saga #33 first debuted on Jan. 27, 2016.

By Zack Quaintance — Hey hey, friends! Here we are back again with the Saga Re-Read, which if I’m being honest is one of my favorite features on the site, albeit not one of the more popular. And I get it! Following this takes a lot of time and also a lot of tolerance for my personal reaction to this comic. Still! I’ve had so much fun doing it, that once we wrap up Saga in 20 weeks or so, we’re going to start another comic!

And I’ve already taken to Twitter a couple times to solicit suggestions for what that comic should be. No final decisions have been made as of yet, but I should not that it is very likely to be another creator-owned Image Comics title from roughly the same era. Books like Wicked + Divine or East of West have been bandied about, and I will say that I find both of those to be very intriguing suggestions. I just haven’t finalized my pick as of yet.

But enough talk of other comics! Let’s get on to Saga, specifically to issue #33...

Saga #33

Here it is, the official preview text for Saga #33, which was first released back on January 27, 2016...as cold a day in this world as there ever was (I don’t really remember, to be honest, and I was living in Austin then which meant less than 50 degrees would quality). Let’s get right to it…

Upsher and Doff are back on the case.

Hey! My guys are back. I’ve made no secret in these pieces that I really really like these characters. I went to journalism school, spent several years doing real news writing for newspapers, and still work as a staff writer for a trade journal today—I have a soft spot for the chase the story at all costs journalists type of character, even if I’m skeptical about any continuing to exist in the real world today.  

The Cover: This cover is a simple one, which is a trend I’ve noticed in this most recent arc, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. My favorite Saga covers are generally those that start with a simple, relatable concept and extrapolate it just a bit to the point it finds a new space that’s both poignant and weird. This one is basically just two reporters going to work, hand in hand...except underwater. It doesn’t quite hit the rarefied satirical air that some of the later media commentary covers in this series do, but it’s nice to look at and a great glimpse into this chapter’s story all the same.

The First Page: This is a solid first page on a broader story level, reminding us in one fast and good-looking stroke of who Upsher and Doff are and what their function is within this story. I should note, however, that having worked in a number of newsrooms, I found a photographer staring at a developing photo and saying out loud Goddamn did I luck into a golden triangle here...to be absolutely absurd. I like that Vaughan was going that extra mile to show that he has a nuanced understanding of how photography and photojournalism works, but it’s like having a chef say, Holy hell did I salt this brisket to the ideal taste level...if someone said complimented themselves on the basics of their job aloud like this in real life, you might wonder if they were having a stroke. Nit-picky esoteric professional qualms aside though, I think this is a solid starter for the reasons I mentioned at the start.

The Summary: The story opens with Upsher rushing into the dark room and disrupting Doff, so as to break the news that The Brand—who dosed them with something that would kill them if they ever broke the Marko-Alana story—was dead, thereby freeing them from their professional constriction. After some really well-done office hi-jinx about meal reimbursement and frequent flyer miles, our intrepid duo is off in search of the galaxy’s biggest story again. They pick up right where they left off, following a (valid) lead that Alana is working on the Open Circuit...I’d say this lead is years old by now, but chances are this is all happening during the time jump.

We learn that Upsher has not stopped investigating this story, to the point that he found a lovelorn classified ad that Ginny (remember Hazel’s dance instructor?) had placed in a paper for Marko to find. As with all things Ginny-Marko, it’s unclear whether she’s interested in him or simply concerned about the well-being of him and Hazel. They go to Ginny’s house, where they find her surprisingly gruff and brawny husband, and this hilarious line when they cold call her at the door, Oh, you must be here about the trampoline. Ginny doles out a bunch of almost-truths, and the journalists are off to chase them.

The trail takes them to an icy meteorite on which they find—The Will! Who has packed on quite a few pounds since the last time we’ve seen him. The Will wounds Doff in the shoulder, reveals that he knows who they are and all about his sister’s past interactions with them, and ultimately takes the pair prisoner.  

The Subtext: This issue is absolutely loaded with media, to the point it’s almost a paean to print media. The golden triangle line aside, there are some great subtle touches in here...including the way Upsher has done his work, the editor pouring coffee and grumbling about reimbursement for travel, all the way down to how Ginny sought to find out about Marko with a paper classified ad. I know newspapers are a going concern of Vaughan’s (see Paper Girls, which would have launched a few months before the release of this issue), and it’s nice to see him play out that interest here in a future setting, seemingly making an argument that society (even a sci-fi one set among the extended cosmos) is always better with newspapers.

There’s even a bit of philosophical banter about the well-being of one’s subjects versus the way the larger world would be served by breaking a story, which in my experience is a conversation at the heart of every last decision made in journalism (or at least it should be). I also particularly enjoyed the confrontation late in the issue between The Will and Upsher and Doff, in which they get ennobled about their profession and he cops to being out only for himself and his own motives. It’s a nice way to get at something I also firmly believe about the profession: the overwhelming and vast majority of reporters (especially in today’s diminished market) are mostly doing this damn job because they think it’ll make a difference (and if they get a little money or some validation along the way, even better).

The Art: This story is essentially a journalism procedural, which let’s face it, is a pretty boring sort of narrative (I know, I’ve lived it), but Fiona Staples does a great job finding interesting visual touches to include between scenes of slow investigation. All of that leads up to a little bit of a scuffle at the end and a really interesting (and telling) reveal about The Will’s physical state.

The Foreshadowing: There really isn’t too much here, although I suppose you can make the case that because the entire issue is centered on Upsher and Doff, the creators are tipping their hand a bit that these two are going to be a continued and important part of the story moving forward.

Join us next week as we officially hit the only 20 issues to go mark—ahhhhhh!

Saga #33
Writer:
Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letterer: Fonografiks
Publisher: Image Comics

Check out previous 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.

The Saga Re-Read: Saga #32 gives us more Marko and Alana

Saga #32 first debuted on 12/23/2015.

By Zack Quaintance — They’re back! After an issue without the story’s central couple, Saga #32 is almost all Marko and Alana, with a brief Prince Robot IV chaser at the very end. It’s also one of the better issues in terms of capturing the beauty of their dynamic, of being romantic in the way that only stories about long-term relationships can. Oh, plus there’s a heist!

Maybe it’s because we’re now firmly into the stretch of issues that I actively remember reading as they came out, but I find myself thinking of this arc as the one in which Saga as we’ve known it in recent years really hit its stride, really found a comfortable cruising altitude. The relationships are mature, we know our central characters, and Fiona Staples artwork has become nothing short of absolutely phenomenal. It’s a beautiful thing, and for may the hundredth time I’m finding myself really grateful to be undertaking this re-read project. I will also, it should be noted, be sad once it’s over...although I may jump right into Paper Girls at that point.

Anyway, onto the other parts of this feature!

Saga #32

Here it is, the official preview text for Saga #32, which was first released back on December 23, 2015, on one of those really fun new comic book days that happen during the height of the holiday shopping season and (hopefully) don’t inconvenience the staff at shops all that much…

Marko and Alana learn something.

Welp, once again we know pretty much nothing. Although, I suppose after an issue of not seeing them at all, we do find out here that we will in fact be getting a storied centered on Marko and Alana, who were reunited in Saga #30...before being separated from Hazel by a DRAMATIC TIME JUMP in Saga #31. Let’s do the thing and take a look at the individual elements.

The Cover: This marks two in a row that I’ve really liked. Again, the composition and colors here are pretty fantastic, as is the casual romance with the even more casual fantasy/sci-fi touches, the wins on Alana and the sword/shield on Marko...it’s all very cool.

The First Page: Hey hey! For the first time in six or seven issues, we get one of (what I consider to be) the trademark sensational Saga opening pages, this one being Alana accosted and choked by a disguised Marko who’s (presumably) pretending to be holding her hostage. As we learn shortly, they’re actually running a scam and working to fool a security guard. It’s a nice way for the book to let us know that during the DRAMATIC TIME JUMP, Marko and Alana have become a cohesive team once again, as cohesive as they were before, anyway.

The Summary: The story opens with Marko and Alana trying to lie there way past a security guard in a building where there is information about where Hazel is being kept, before that goes sideways and they knock him out instead. They’re in the midst of a full-blown heist. As they go about executing it, they hash out what happened between them in a way that almost feels organic and not intended to mostly remind the audience about stuff.

They eventually get caught, and it looks pretty much as bad as it could get for Marko and Alana. That is, until a missile appears in the air. Security flees before we see that the “missile” is actually the family’s spaceship/treehouse. The excitement of it all pulls them into coitus, and they decide afterward that they’re going to need (presumably) Prince Robot IV for the next phase of the plan, which involves a rescue operation on the Wings homeworld of Landfall. The issue ends with Ghus and a surly Prince Robot IV seeing their ship approach.

The Subtext: I don’t know if this counts as subtext or not, but I found this to be a very romantic issue, at least as it pertains to the conversation between Marko and Alana as they perpetrate the heist. Brian K. Vaughan’s writing here does a wonderful job of teasing out the dynamic between them, showing how complementary they are to each other, and, ultimately, why their love really truly works. We see Marko being his overzealous self when it comes to making a mense about throwing a bag of groceries at Alana, and we see her admitting her own culpability in the frayed relations between them. We see Marko’s peacefulness and practicality paying off as Alana’s spontaneous risky thinking teases him out of his uptight shell. It’s all really sweet, and one of the best recent examples in any fiction of what it feels like to be in a happy marriage (which I maintain is part of the reason this book works so well, because it so often perfectly captures both the very good and the sometimes bad of marriage, or long-term romantic entanglements).

The Art: There wasn’t all that much of a unifying thread to be found in the artwork this week, so instead I just pulled together some of my favorite segments and panels. Gallery is below...

The Foreshadowing: There are maybe a handful of minor and inconsequential instances of foreshadowing dotted here and there in this issue, but I think far and away the most interesting is when Prince Robot IV correctly tells Ghus that everyone who gets tangled up with Marko and Alana finds themselves dead eventually, essentially predicting part of his own storyline as well as that of many of the other side characters, too. It’s also funny in how Ghus very lightly sticks up for them.

Join us next week as we get within striking distance of the 20-issues-to-go mark!

Saga #32
Writer:
Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letterer: Fonografiks
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.

The Saga Re-Read: Saga #31 and the DRAMATIC time jump

Saga #31 was first released on 11/25/2015.

By Zack Quaintance — Well folks, here we are on the back half of the Saga Re-Read Project, examining an issue that features the series’ second (and so far most recent) DRAMATIC time jump. I’m going to take this as a brief and rare occasion to discuss the current ongoing Saga hiatus. After Saga #54 came out, the creators quickly announced that the book would be going on a one-year minimum break, maybe waiting until we all that fateful comic in our hands so as not to tip a major and devastating plot development.

That book came out on July 25 of last year, meaning we’re a scant 4 and half months plus change from the minimum amount of time before it resumes. Rumors have flown suggesting there would be a time jump (I tend to agree), and that the break might be much longer (I’m not sure and am maybe preparing for that so as to not be disappointed. Anyway, it all makes me think about what we’ve gotten from the book so far, which is in my opinion 54 of the best and most coherent issues of any one comic, ever. It’s a wonderful thing, so let’s enjoy the remaining 20 so weeks of re-reading and savoring and discussing this series!

Onward!

Saga #31

Here it is, the official preview text for Saga #31, which was first released back on November 25, 2015, which seems like only yesterday to me. Hey, waitaminute, what if there was a time jump in my own life and I’m just now figuring it out?! Best not to think about it (because it’s dumb), and move on...

After a dramatic time jump, the three-time Eisner Award winner for Best Continuing Series finally returns, as Hazel begins the most exciting adventure of her life...kindergarten!

Wow! That’s downright descriptive relative to other Saga preview text, although I guess a good portion of it was spent celebrating the team’s well-earned Eisner Award accolades. We do, however, learn that going into this issue there has been a dramatic time jup and now Hazel is in kindergarten. Wait, didn’t we see all that on the last page of Saga #30? We did! No matter, let’s look at the individual elements in play here.

The Cover: A very cool Saga cover, one that also clues us in on what we can expect from the upcoming plot, which is maybe a little rarer in Saga than it is in most series. I really like the use of perspective in this image, using the high walls as both a means of showing how small and inconsequential the teacher and Hazel really are (juxtaposed as well against a literal map of the galaxy), and letting us know that Hazel’s current situation is that of a prisoner. It’s all quite striking.

The First Page: One of the cuter Saga openings, and it somehow doesn’t even feature Ghus! Joking aside, I really like this four panel grid as a first page, working in an intriguing way to just straight up clue us in on what’s been going on with an aged-forward Hazel. This is all business that could have felt like an information dump (stories always run that risk following a time jump), but it doesn’t. It’s smooth and welcome all around. It also reminds us—as this book is wont to do at all times—that war and violence are always always always horrific.  

The Summary: The story opens with a few pages of Hazel just being a regular kid in a kindergarten…which is monitored by armed guards. We then flashback to the exact logistics of how Hazel was captured and by whom—the same Robot Kingdom guards who were pursuing Marko and IV, turns out. This is convenient, because as Last Revolution fighter Lexis points out, Drones don’t negotiate, so they can’t use Hazel as a bargaining chip, which means her captors don’t understand what she really is.

Klara, Hazel’s paternal grandmother, concocts a story upon capture that they were in a prison camp, and as a result, Hazel, Klara, and Lexis are sent to detention center for non-combatants, run by the coalition, which are—we remember—the side of the wings. Some shenanigans from ghost nanny Izabel means Hazel doesn’t get a proper medical examination, and her captors are none the wiser about her hybrid status. The majority of the issue takes place in the detention center, which is also where we meet Petrichor, who becomes integral to the plot moving forward.

The major plot point in this issue involves Hazel revealing to her kindergarten teacher that she’s a daughter of the two sides of the conflict...which then causes the teacher to fall and hit her head (quite honestly, I don’t recall whether she was fine, although I think we see more of her).

The Subtext: There’s quite a bit of subtext in this issue about identity, mostly bore out in the scenes of Hazel revealing her wings and Petrichor, a trans-woman, taking a shower, which results in Hazel asking questions about identity. Maybe I’m projecting, but I think the underlying subtext of it all is that antiquated feelings about individual identity are something that can be manipulated to further the goals of power structures. In our society, that often results in political pandering and polarization, and that’s what it seems to do on the page. Case in point, the scene where the Wings guard insinuates that Klara and Hazel are not human because of their species identities and again later when in a nearly symmetrical scene, Petrichor points out that some of her own species didn’t see her as human and she was expelled from the army.

The Art: Saga #31 is less visually-dense than the preceding issue, which had a whole lot of plot. There are three full-page splashes in this one, one of violence and the other two of nude or semi-nude bodies. I haven’t identified any sort of clear trend to which issues have more splash pages or why. I do, however, think all three of those in this issue work well.

The Foreshadowing: It’s pretty spare in this issue, which mostly works to fill us in on some things we’ve missed during the time jump. Hazel does note briefly that Lexis becomes protective of her over the years, but it’s unclear whether that means during the space we missed out on due to the time jump, or in later plot to come. My hunch (and vague recollection) is that Lexis does not end up being all that important of a figure moving forward.

Join us next week as we DRAMATIC time jump an entire month to look at Saga #32!

Saga #31
Writer:
Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letterer: Fonografiks
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.

The Saga Re-Read #30: Saga #30 is an action-packed story arc finale

Saga #30 was first released on 7/8/2015.

By Zack Quaintance — The end of the most recent story arc is upon us, and so is the shift into what I’ve come to think of as the more recent issues of Saga, those essentially published after the book went from big-time comics hit to somewhere closer to broader cultural touchstone (although it still needs the inevitable TV/film adaptation to go all the way), and this finale is a good one.

I’ve written about this elsewhere during our Saga Re-Read project, but I’ve found this arc to be more unpleasant than those that came before it. This is, presumably, by design. The book was maybe running the risk of turning into a series of madcap adventures that the core family continues to escape mostly unscathed. This arc changes that, using temporary separations in a way that emphasizes the stakes for those are basically as high as they would be when dealing with injury or death. Just...different. Anyway, what we get with this finale is a packed adventure story with tons of consequences. It is, in a word, good.

Let’s take a look!

Saga #30

Here it is, the official preview text for Saga #30, which was first released back on July 8, 2015. This issue has a special significance for me, because it was after this one that I decided to make the crazy jump from Saga trade waiter to Saga monthly reader, which then opened to door to buying a whole slew of creator-owned comics monthly and ultimately starting this website. Ah, the follies of financial irresponsibility. Onward!...

Sooner or later, everything dies.

Sigh. A preview that is both mysterious and terrifying, meaning that the only way to figure out even part of what it’s talking about is to read the damn comic. In other words, I supposed this morbid vaguery has done its job…

The Cover: This is without question my favorite cover from this arc, featuring as it does a clearly alien flower atop an ample splattering of blood. It gets to two of my favorite facets of Saga—the imagination and the backdrop of shattering relatable tragedy. I also think the color choices on the leaves provide a nice (if subtle) contrast to the deep crimson of the blood splayed over the ground. Great stuff.

The First Page: Yet another divided first page, this one used well to show us Marko and his current plight (with a dash of foreshadowing...but more on that in the foreshadowing section). The shot start on the planet where Marko has crashed, zooms in, and then zooms in again to show him splayed and wounded in the snow. It’s as intriguing a set of images as an establishing first page for a long-running story can offer, and it’s made even more powerful by Hazel’s narration, which suggests her father might be hurt worse than we think.

The Summary: Marko, Prince Robot IV, and Ghus crash land, with Ghus staying to tend to an injured IV while Marko storms off to find his family. Speaking of his family, Alana, Klara, and conflicted murderous kidnapper Dengo (who gets humanized here) fight their way free from the Last Revolution. Things...do not go well for the Last Revolution, but the survivors of manage to abscond with Klara, Hazel, and a spaceship without much fuel. Once they do, Alana turns to kill Dengo and is stopped by Marko. The reunion, of course, is quite satisfying.  

As they struggle over whether to hurt a now-vulnerable Dengo, Prince Robot IV shows up and wastes him immediately as recourse for Dengo did to his own wife, quickly turning to enjoy his own reunion with his son. Elsewhere, Sophie, Gwendylon, and Lying Cat sneak The Will from a hospital (off page), and administer the antidote to him, waking him from a years-long incapacitation. The Will is devastated to learn that his sister died in the service of waking him. Finally, this arc ends with a shot of Hazel presumably interned in some kind of jail/kindergarten. Intriguing.

The Subtext: This is one of those issues where the plot mostly crowds out any potential subtext. What room there is for reading between lines is also mostly devoted to foreshadowing events to come. Still, there is the continued beating of the all violence is bad drum that has in many ways been the foundation of the commentary in this series. Any sort of broader familial subtext here is lacking.

The Art: There are a lot of panels in this issue of Saga, at least relative to some of the other recent issues. I didn’t expressly count, but it’s quite possible the only splash page in the entire issue is the final cliffhanger. As such, Fiona Staples is asked to pack a lot of intricate action into several busy pages...and she unsurprisingly pulls it off with ease. See below...

The Foreshadowing: There’s a good deal of foreshadowing in this comic, from the first page hinting that Hazel will lose Marko, to Hazel telling us later that she would spend a great deal of time separated from her own family. As noted in the subtext section, Hazel’s narration also hints that problems have always and will continue to stem from Marko and Alana struggling to limit their own use of force, as does her narration when The Will awakes from his coma: Nobody knew exactly what kind of nightmare had been awakened that evening...but in time, my parents would find out.

All in all, this is a pretty telling issue, at least in retrospect upon re-read. The first time through, the action made it hard to focus on anything past what happens next! It should also be noted that IV wasting Dengo for killing his lover as Dengo begs for mercy is an eerie parallel to something that happens to IV much later...

Join us next time for the start of a brand-new arc, the one that began after Fiona Staples went off and helped Mark Waid re-launch that new Archie line, which as far as I know are the only other comic interiors she’s drawn since starting Saga...

Saga #30
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letterer: Fonografiks
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.

The Saga Re-Read #29: Saga #29, the rigors of sacrifice

Saga #29 was first released on 6/10/2015.

By Zack Quaintance — Welcome back to The Saga Re-Read, where eagle-eyed readers may notice we’ve made a minor tweak...we’ve changed the surface level category to be a straight up summary. This is great, because it allows us to unpack more in the subtext section, while also turning these pieces into minor reference guides for myself and anyone else who might come in search of a literal plot summary of the major things (and some of the little ones too) that take place in each issue.

So, where are we at now in terms of this story arc? This is the penultimate issue. Next week will see the finale of this first arc in which the family at the story’s center has been separated by its plot. This has been a tougher arc to read, which is something I didn’t get during my first time through but definitely feel now. I just want them all to face these things together, damn it. Though suffering in stories will ultimately make the good times better, just like in life, amiright?

On to the individual elements!

Saga #29

Here it is, the official preview text for Saga #29, which was first released back on June 10, 2015. You know what that means? The Saga Re-Read project here is on the cusp of turning 30. We can only hope and pray that it has less anxiety about that than I do about turning 30 in my own life. Anyway!...

The Last Revolution makes their move.

Hey now! That’s an enticing summary, and—dare I say it?—even a bit revealing, at least by Saga teaser standards. The Last Revolution has essentially been coiled and ready to strike since the start of this arc, and now all signs point to that strike coming. Which brings us to the first of our individual elements, the cover. Onward!

The Cover: This cover, in all its neon orange glory, puts the Last Revolution front and center, which connects nicely to the issue’s solicit. Front and center there we have the scantily glad fish-woman character, who reads to me like a riff on an era of superhero art that was maybe in its death throes when this issue was published: an era of butt floss and stripper gear and just overall general objectifying of female characters. It’s not just the scantily-clad fish woman character though, the entire team plays like a parody to me, a send-up of the type of revolutionaries that are often glorified and made lead characters in galactic war stories like this one. Just a reminder that Saga aspires often to be capital S, Subversive.

The First Page: See above, at least to some extent. This first page is all business, reminding us that while The Last Revolution might look like early Image characters (like early early...back when they were under Malibu), they are ruthless zealots who only care about their own causes, so much so that they’d sell a literal child to a military industrial complex who is being pretty clear that it’s goal is to kill said child. Not the most visually scandalous Saga front page, but pretty appalling from a morality standpoint.

The Summary: The issue opens with The Last Revolution trying to negotiate a trade of Hazel to Wreath High Command in order to further its own fight. Talks, however, break down when the murderous android kidnapper Dengo is spotted. Even though he literally murdered Robot Kingdom royalty, the woman from Wreath is clear that she will not under any circumstances negotiate with “one of those death machines.” Just a nice little insight into how deeply-entrenched the war is at this point. The Last Revolution immediately throws Dengo under the bus to make the talks tenable again, thereby completing Dengo’s now-intense disillusionment with them. In the brig, Alana tries a desperate negotiation of her own, aimed at saving Hazel’s life. That’s not necessary, as Klara and Dengo save the day, however violently.

Sophie, The Brand, Lying Cat, and Gwendolyn, meanwhile, continue their quest to get the alien dragon semen (I think) that they need to save the life of The Will...and we get one of Saga’s trademark scandalous visuals, the alien dragon having some...fun...with himself across two pages. They get the sample, but at a pretty steep cost. RIP, The Brand.

As this unfolds, Marko, Prince Robot IV, and Ghus find themselves in a space battle. They take a big risk and retreat...right into an ice storm. That goes about as well as it sounds (much like Rick Moody’s classic suburban ennui novel, The Ice Storm, but I digress…)

The Subtext: This is another issue in which Hazel’s future self narrates the subtext into pretty much being regular text. She notes throughout that parents often make sacrifices for their children, as we watch the three separate storylines all require sacrifices to save the day: The Brand distracting as Sophie gets the dragon semen, Dengo killing again to save Hazel, and Marko and Prince Robot IV realizing that Yuma made the ultimate sacrifice for them last issue. I don’t know if there’s really any deeper meaning here than that. There’s certainly something to be said about glorifying revolutionaries and the disillusionment one often suffers as a result, once they show themselves to be either too extreme, too selfish, or a combination of both as we see here, but it takes a significant backseat to the more latent (sub)text about familial sacrifice, especially as it applies to children.

The Art: Whereas for Saga #28 we saw the finest work being done in facial expressions, this time around Staples talent manifests most clearly in a pair of action sequences, detailed in the full pages we’ve clipped below:

The Foreshadowing: I suppose one could read all of Hazel’s narration about sacrifice as foreshadowing for the events of the most recent issue, Saga #54, but it’s a bit of a reach. The events in that issue continue to strike me as more of a commentary on the end results of aggression and war, than any sort of statement on what we all give up to have families. Still, it’s there if you want to make that connection.

Join us next time for the conclusion of this arc as well as the inevitable existential crisis that’s likely to come before, during, or right after our little re-read project’s 30th birthday!

Saga #29
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letterer: Fonografiks
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.

The Saga Re-Read: Saga #28, boys and girls

Saga #28 was first released on 5/13/2015.

By Zack Quaintance — I’ll get into this more below, but this arc to me feels like a less concentrated set of chapters than those that came before. This is, I assume, partially by design, what with Marko separated from Alana/Hazel for the first time. Saga is at its core a story of a little family, and now that family is separated. As a result, the story starts to feel less streamlined than it has in the past. It doesn’t, however, lose much of its momentum or any of the continued thematic interests it’s determined to explore.

Saga #28, for its part, uses the separation to get at some questions about the roles of men and women in war, and whether the obvious line of thinking—that men are more likely to be killed and killers, so it is therefore harder on them—is the right one. In this story, we get Marko and Robot IV fighting for something, while Alana, Hazel, and Marko’s mom struggle to escape captivity. The politics that has laced the arc since the extremists showed up takes a backseat to individual circumstance (as it took a backseat to Marko’s anger issues last time), and that’s just fine.

Let’s check it all out!

Saga #28

Here it is, the official preview text for Saga #28, which was first released back on May 13, 2015. Time is really flying now, eh? On to the preview text, which I’m sure will be detailed and ample…

Alana acts.

What a surprise. It...wasn’t. Although I suppose that tells us a lot, given that the last time we saw Alana she was being held quisi hostage by a radical group of potentially murderous terrorists, or at least terrorists who were holding her captor in high esteem for having murdered a woman tending to her child. Let’s look at the individual elements of this issue.

The Cover: It’s certainly concerning, with Hazel tumbling in the fetal position while her mother, Alana, lunges toward her with a look of panic on her face. It stands alone in the regard that you can probably look at it without knowing anything about this story and surmise that this is a mother trying desperately (and maybe failing) to protect her child, which is also what’s happening inside the book.

The First Page: This opening page (see below) tells a quick, three-panel story that shows a group of our characters sleeping and camped before culminating with The Brand presumably finishing a lengthy explanation to Sophie about what abortion is. Saga is filled with oblique references to concepts like this—a small child being frankly told what abortion is—that shouldn’t be faux pas but maybe are to certain folks in certain parts of the country. To me, first pages like this one (and, indeed, many of the others) seem to simultaneously want to know, Are you scandalized by this?! and, Why?   

A story in three panels.

The Surface: This isn’t the neatest issue of Saga, and I’d actually put it among the slowest of the series so far. That’s not to say that what’s happening on the page isn’t interesting or consequential, it’s just far more scattered. In fact, this entire arc has lacked the breakneck urgency of the previous two, or the intriguing world-building and character development of the earliest chapters. What it essentially comes down to is that this is a book about a family, and it loses its fastball when it starts to keep the members of that family apart. That said, there are some really memorable visuals in this one (more on that soon), including the ending panel, which I feel like should be a meme on Comics Twitter, or at least something trotted out every April the 20th.

Also, there’s a fantastic line in here where The Brand tells Sophie she hasn’t killed all that many people, and Sophie replies with, You want me to wake my cat? (I am nothing if not an utter shill for Lying Cat.)

The Subtext: The book comes right out and makes Hazel’s narration directly about this, but there’s a real division of the genders thing going on here, presumably to illustrate how a similar situation affects each. We have Marko and Prince Robot IV in one contingent, and Alana, Hazel, and her grandmother in another, while Hazel describes how war affects women. The subtext for it all ends up being—perhaps unsurprisingly—that war is no good for anybody, which is, of course, the overarching subtext of the entire series, too.  

The Art: I say this week in and week out, but as good of a writer as Brian K. Vaughan is, the all-time great work being done in this comic is that of Fiona Staples. This issue is so plot heavy that it feels almost procedural, and still Staples manages to steal the show left and right with the most basic of comics storytelling ingredients: the emotive facial expression. Below is a quick gallery of four of my favorites from this issue.

The Foreshadowing: Eh, not all that much of it this week. Which is fine. Last week’s Saga #27 was essentially a roadmap for Marko’s story arc in later issues, at least for re-readers it felt that way.

Saga #28
Writer:
Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letterer: Fonografiks
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.