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!
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!
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.