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 #19-24
The following phrases were exclaimed during my time with Saga‘s fourth volume:
“Crap crap crap”
“Oh snap – hell yeah!”
I devoured Saga Volume Four in a single day. The incredible (yet incredibly relatable) adventures and drama of new parents Alana and Marko continue to be one of the most impressive stories in modern comics.
Vaughan effortlessly builds an intriguing cast of wacky guest-stars and returning favorites, and isn’t afraid to kill or main them (or have sexy time) in a maturity level that would make Game of Thrones blush. Fiona Staples continues to be one of my favorite artists working in comics. While Saga Volume Four may be the weakest volume I’ve read thanks to some predictable family drama, that’s mostly due to how amazing the first three volumes were.
Issue #19 opens with our family on the run currently hiding out on the relatively peaceful planet of Gardenia. Alana is working her dream job as an intergalactic actress for a silly superhero-themed show, while Marko, ghostly teenage babysitter Izabel, and Marko’s sassy mom Klara raise toddler Hazel.
The entire volume resembles a single season of a long-running TV show. Unlike the previous planet-hopping escapades of the family, here they get a chance to set down some roots and live a relatively normal life – where family drama ensues.
Alana becomes disillusioned with how dumb her job is that she starts taking drugs from a coworker. Meanwhile Marko meets a cute girl at the park who offers to teach them dance lessons. Huge credit to Staples for somehow making what looks like a bat-girl completely adorable – the sheer variety of alien life in Saga‘s universe continues to impress.
Both Marko and Alana’s stories are designed to pull them away from each other, and sure enough they have a big fight and she kicks him out. Hazel’s Wonder Years-style narration has a heart-breaking moment at the end of the first chapter when they’re all family hugging, and she says “This is the story of when my parents split up.”
The other major storyline is an entirely new character – Dengo, a janitor of the royal Robot family. Prince Robot IV is still recuperating from his transformative experience with Oswald Heist in Volume Three (as well as the injuries he sustained in the battle). He recoups by going to sex planet Sextillion, of course.
Meanwhile his wife gives birth to their son, but she’s brutally murdered by Dengo. Dengo thus becomes the series new primary villain, as both previous family-hunters The Will and Prince Robot IV have been given enough layers to become sympathetic and possibly have their views altered.
Dengo steals the baby and plans on using it for a political uprising for his unhappy people. He goes to Gardenia to broadcast his message using the theatre troupe, and there his path crosses with Alana and Marko. Issue #23 ends on a cliffhanger as the spaceship takes off with Dengo pointing a gun at Klara (who’s ripped off his finger) while Izabel and Alana protect Hazel. Marko is trying to return and make things right, and Prince Robot IV shows up looking for his son! It’s a really fun way to intersect the characters’ stories and reflective of the crazy violent meeting that also ended the previous volume. I’m excited about the Robot IV/Marko team-up that’s teased at the end as they go to rescue their families.
The weak link in Volume Four stems from pushing aside its breakout characters Gwen and The Will until the final issue. Their ongoing story of hunting Alana and Marko hit its apex during the explosive events of the last volume, and The Will was rendered catatonic thanks to some hallucinogenic drugs and a mind-controlled Sophie.
Marko’s former betrothed Gwendolyn, rescued child sex-slave Sophie, and loyal Lying Cat are on a mission to heal likable bounty hunter The Will, and they get a spiffy action scene before meeting The Will’s equally badass androgynous sister The Brand.
I enjoyed that final issue more than any of the family drama that Marko and Alana suffer through throughout the first five issues of the Volume. Saga‘s balanced approach to multiple storylines was always a strong suit, but introducing Dengo and his violent actions pushed other plots a bit too far out of the way for my liking.
Even a weaker fourth volume still makes Saga one of the best stories in modern comics. The serialized storytelling still works well, and remains incredibly rewarding for fans of these excellent three dimensional characters. Volume Four gets a little bogged down in family drama that takes up too much screen time relative to the more interesting stories happening around them. Hopefully Volume Five (which just released last month) brings Gwen and company back into the forefront.