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 #25-30
The last volume of Image Comics’ magnum opus left our star-crossed family in a dire predicament. Alana and Marko were separated for the first time. The former was captured by a distraught rebel while the latter teamed up with an enemy. Meanwhile Team The Will has become Team The Brand as they search for a cure.
Saga‘s fifth volume is the most different so far, relying heavily on an intriguing but separate A-B-C narrative structure. It feels like a natural evolution for the series while still focusing on a small cast of characters, and the phenomenal writing and art I’ve come to expect.
Our story begins with our main cast in diaspora. Alana, daughter Hazel, and Marko’s mother/grandma Klara are kidnapped by a rebellious man of the robot race named Dengo. He had murdered Princess Robot and kidnapped the newborn prince, as a misguided form of revenge after his own son died to a treatable disease. He blames the government and this is his version of a wake-up call.
Over the course of the story Dengo becomes a very interesting character and sympathetic character. He calls in reinforcements from the rebellion to the current intergalactic war between Alana and Marko’s people.
But the rebellion isn’t the starry-eyed good guys from Star Wars – these folks are basically cold-blooded terrorists. In typical Saga fashion, each of the half dozen members are given crazy cool designs and just enough teasing dialogue to learn their individual personalities. Alana has her hands full convincing Dengo to do the right thing, and Klara provides a suitable foil who wants to solve everything with violence.
Marko had stormed off after their fight at the end of Vol. 4, only to watch his family get kidnapped. Prince Robot IV was hunting the man who killed his wife and kidnapped his child, which supersedes his hunt for Alana and Marko. I enjoyed this twist where these enemies work together for the common goal of saving their families.
We also continue with the B-story (now a C-story) of The Will hunting down the others. The Will was injured in the last volume, however, and we were introduced to his sister The Brand. She joins forces with Gwendolyn and Sophie to hunt down a cure. It’s entertaining and provides some outlandish settings and creatures (dragons!) but it’s also completely removed from the main action. Their story never intertwines with the two family paths, unlike previous Volumes.
For that reason Volume Five feels quite a bit different. The plot is less intricately interwoven. Instead each side gets room to breathe and develop.
We see more of Marko’s past and his struggles with violence. Prince Robot openly defies his people (and father) in going after his son. Alana continues to Never Say Die, and use her people skills to sway others to her side. And The Brand became my new favorite character with her dry wit and pragmatic attitude. So I was doubly shocked when she’s killed off – literally eaten in half by a dragon.
Saga is very cavalier when it comes to character deaths – think Game of Thrones. In this Volume we lose both The Brand and Yuma, both sacrificing themselves to save others. Dengo is shot in the head at the very end when our two families reunite – Prince Robot doesn’t even hesitate. It’s a shocking moment, even when we anticipate his actions. Dengo had come full circle and was becoming a worthy ally, despite horrible mistakes.
The biggest shocker is that some of the rebellion members get away – with Klara and Hazel still in the ship. An epilogue at the end of #30 shows Hazel several years later in a Kindergarten military prison school. The time jump is jarring, though her omniscient narration did warn us that it would be many years before she saw her father again. This was a total fake-out, as I assumed that meant Marko wouldn’t find them. Instead he did find Alana but Hazel was kidnapped in an even worse fashion.
Having our two leads separate made for an interesting and refreshing change to the formula. But I’m also glad it’s semi-resolved by the end of the arc.
I can’t wait to see how Prince Robot acts now that he has his son – and the two people he was supposed to capture in the first place (but, now he himself is a fugitive!). Plus now we have Alana and Marko back together, but sans their daughter. I imagine their sole motivation for the next story will be in tracking down and rescuing Hazel.
The only thing that really fell flat was Gwendolyn’s story. I enjoyed those characters but they just didn’t have anything to do with the main adventure. By the end they do save The Will, who’s understandably distraught that his sister died in the process. Hopefully we’ll find a way to tie them back in a more meaningful fashion.
Saga continues to impress. Thirty issues in and I’m still heavily invested in these characters, and continually amazed and surprised by this insane sci-fi world that still feels infinitely relatable. Vaughn’s writing effortlessly draws me in and makes me love every character – even brief one-shots. And Staples’ art is simply the best thing in comics right now. Another fantastic Volume.