With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.
Of course, occasionally I may even explore comics outside of Marvel if they come highly recommended or simply peak my interest. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Artist: Fiona Staples
Issues: Saga #13-18
Saga continues to blow me away with every volume; soon I shall catch up to its current issue and experience the agony of having to wait for the next volume. For now I’m still catching up on back issues, and Volume Three finally brings our various storylines and characters together in a tense, dramatic moment that’s deliciously spread out between issues #17 and #18.
The end of Volume Two featured an epilogue that we now know took place a bit in the future – Prince Robot IV meeting with D. Oswald Heist, the cyclopean, eccentric author that wrote the star-crossed romance book that so infatuated Marko and Alana. The two start with verbal jabs, then relax into a casual interrogation, then go to full blown standoff. Volume Two ended with the ‘camera panning up’ to reveal that Marko, Alana, Klara, Izabel, and Hazel had already been there for weeks, and currently hiding from their robot pursuer.
Volume Three jumps back in time a bit to have out heroes first landing on the planet Quietus, and the remote lighthouse that Heist lives in. First they’re attacked by bone-creatures in a very Dungeons & Dragons moment, and Klara (Marko’s recently widowed mom) loses an ear in the fight. Artist Fiona Staples has never shied away from explicit sex or violence, but always in service to the story and never particularly gory or gratuitous. In both the strong language and portrayal of mature themes I’m constantly reminded that I’m not reading a mainstream Marvel comic, in a good way.
Our heroes make it to Oswald Heist’s and the slightly crazy but lovable old author instantly becomes a delightful character, if he wasn’t already from his introduction at the end of Volume Two. The universe is filled with all manner of inventive alien creatures, and thus far Vaughn and Staples have done an excellent job creating a truly memorable supporting cast. This creates a constant state of anxiety as, like Game of Thrones, you never know when they’re going to actually kill someone off! In fact, most of my favorite characters have been slain (The Stalk, Barr), and sadly Heist also does not survive the end of this Volume.
You can tell Brian K. Vaughn really loves the Heist character, as he’s an obvious cipher for many of his thoughts and opinions on being a writer, and a writer’s relationships with artists, other writers, and the audience. Much of Marko and Alana’s scenes in Volume Three are mostly just them hanging around Oswald’s place talking books, relationships, or the nature of war, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t riveting.
Of course that story is only part of the Volume. Our other team, The Will and his partner Lying Cat, has grown over the course of 12 issues to include a rescued slave girl from the sex planet Sextillion and Marko’s ex-fiance Gwendolyn. The Will was hired to track down Marko and Alana, and Gwendolyn arrived with a personal vendetta and a desire to keep The Will focused and on target, despite his recent loss of his ex-girlfriend, The Stalk, back in Volume One.
After the climactic star ship battle at the end of Volume Two, The Will and crew have been stranded on a lovely grassy planet. The Will begins to have doubts about the mission, wanting to hang up his life as a bounty hunter, but Gwnedolyn will have none of it. We get a few nice scenes of her learning to use his exotic lance-saber weapon and dealing with repair guys, but it all comes crashing down for them when they learn (too late) that the food on the planet contains a powerful hallucinogenic. The slave girl is coerced by the planet’s visions of her mom to stab The Will in the neck. Gwendolyn realizes what’s happening (thanks to Lying Cat) and saves them all, though now ironically she renews their pursuit of Marko, this time to learn a healing spell to save The Will.
Like the end of Volume Two our stories intersect in an exciting way. The timeline finally matches up with that scene of Prince Robot IV and Heist. A wounded Heist was just about to get through to Prince Robot IV when Klara, spurred by her feelings for Heist and her general passionate demeanor charges from their hiding spot and attacks, leaving both her and Robot IV wounded.
At this point Gwendolyn, dressed in The Will’s magical bullet-proof cloak, barges in the front door. Lying Cat pounces on Klara, and Gwendolyn and Heist see each other with weapons drawn. Gwendolyn reacts first by slashing him through the eye with The Will’s lance, killing him instantly. Nooo! Gwnedolyn’s reaction is equally incredulous as issue #17 comes to a crazy close.
In the final issue, a very distraught and upset Gwendolyn advances on Marko and Alana on the top of the lighthouse. Marko doesn’t exactly say the right things and Gwendolyn attacks, causing him to push his wife and newborn off the edge. Turns out Alana’s wings do in fact work – and she blasts Gwendolyn and everyone escapes. For a volume that was mostly talking and not a whole lot of action, these two final issues were exhilarating and fantastic, a very satisfying payoff to all the events thus far.
Even so, our characters are split up again and most end up surviving (save for poor Oswald). Both Prince Robot IV and The Will are very wounded and I’m not sure if Lying Cat permanently lost one of her eyes when Klara gouged it. We’re introduced to another viewpoint in a pair of journalists on Landfall asking questions and seeking the truth about Marko and Alana’s escape and possible union. Their queries get them attacked by another freelancer, The Brand, that poisons them and prevents them from continuing their investigation. At the end it’s revealed that The Brand is The Will’s sister, so our roster may be expanding even more.
So far Saga has focused almost entirely on the relationships and situations of our main and supporting cast without pulling back the scope to the greater war around us. The political implications of Marko and Alana having a baby haven’t really been explored yet, other than our two pursuers being hired to catch them. I’d love to see that make headway, as long as it doesn’t sacrifice the excellent plot and pacing that Saga has provided so far. For 18 issues now Saga has refused to disappoint and it’s quickly becoming one of my all time favorite comics.