At this point it’s basically impossible to review an issue of Saga without gushing endlessly about how lovely it looks or how wonderful its story is. Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples have mastered Saga’s intriguing blend of the weird with the ordinary. And it’s this curious melding of the strange and familiar that continues to make Saga a knockout of a series.
Picking up from the personal tragedies of the last few books, this new “season” of Saga cleverly brings its readers up to speed with an in story recap in the form of a Landfall soldier’s interview with tabloid reporters. They are, of course, interested in the scandalous story of Marko and Alana–the Romeo and Juliet of Landfall and Cleave’s ongoing war, whom most would rather see dead than living happily ever after. It’s another stunning and immediately informative character design from Staples. Unlike the winged inhabitants of Landfall or the horned folks of Cleave, these reporters are reptilian, almost dragon-like, maybe even a little amphibian, but most definitely sleazy paparazzi. They only appear on one page, but it’s oh-so-obvious they’ll return again, and it’s likely to only spell more disaster for Marko, Alana, and their refugee family.
Vaughn’s use of humor could not be better timed as it lightens the mood in what would be a very bleak and depressing outlook for our heroes. Marko, now with customary, grizzled beard of grieving, is not the same man we saw last, but has become quite sullen since his father’s passing. Even with such oppressive sadness permeating the rocketship tree they call home, Vaughn still finds time for infant poop jokes and more wife/mother-in-law conflict for Alana and Klara. The source of their conflict is the book by author D. Oswald Heist that Marko and Alana first bonded over. And it’s Heist they’re on their way to meet in hopes of garnering wisdom and guidance.
Klara isn’t the first to disapprove of Heist or his works, and it’s at this point one wonders if Vaughn is setting up our beloved couple for disappointment or validation? Is Heist really a subversive leader to a revolution, or just a crappy romance novelist? Vaughn, through Hazel’s narrative, makes a point of the awfulness of a writer’s first impression so perhaps, no matter in what state they meet Heist, it’ll be deceiving of his true nature.
Speaking of first impressions, The Will, a character initially assigned to hunt down and eliminate Marko, Alana, and their love-child Hazel, has quickly turned from absolute baddie to charming rogue. By freeing Slave Girl and now cavorting with Marko’s ex, Gwendoline, The Will has (reluctantly) begun to make a family for himself. And it’s changed him for the better. At this point he’s easily the most sympathetic character in Saga, and surely Vaughn has only more surprises in store for wherever The Will’s slow change of heart takes him.
Come issue’s end the rocketship tree puts its roots down on Quietus, home of D. Oswald Heist. True to its name the planet is eerily deserted. Staples illustrates this through a very desaturated background, filled mostly with misty, translucent smoke. The world is completely covered in bones as if it were a mass grave or an abandoned battlefield. Not only is this terribly creepy, but it allows for characters to really pop from the page with their bright and of-the-living colors. It’s also another opportunity for Staples to show off her prowess with facial expressions. She’s capable of expressing so much emotion with the tiniest, subtlest changes to her linework. Especially for Alana, whom from one moment is terrified for herself and Hazel and in the next determined to wipe out a giant bone monster with a mace. Alana (and Staples for that matter) continue to astound with such feats of badassery.
If by now you’re still not reading Saga, you’re missing out on one of freshest, most original, and endearing books on the stands.