[27 May 2014]
After witnessing a robot give birth to an infant with a TV for a head, I will never be the same person again. And that’s only page one of Saga #19. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples manage to top themselves, commanding your attention and setting Saga apart from every other comic on the stands. It is an epic, galaxy-spanning journey that you can’t possibly predict where it’s going but you can’t wait to find out.
If issues 1-18 were Act I through III, issue 19 feels like it should the beginning of Act IV. It’s not a major game changer, other than a minor jump forward in time, but we’re definitely embarking on a new chapter in the lives of Marko, Alana and daughter Hazel, now walking and talking. They’re still fugitives on the run, currently hiding out on Gardenia, a neutral planet in the war between their home worlds. They’ve managed to make something that resembles a relatively normal life for themselves, but for how long? It’s clear that the planet hopping will continue and they’ll be blasting off again in a matter of issues if only so Vaughan can explore the rest of this universe he and Staples are creating. This isn’t simply world building. It’s universe building, and Saga is Vaughan’s Star Wars.
I have not been this invested in a comic since, well, Y: The Last Man. And that’s not to say there haven’t been plenty of captivating comics produced since then, but there’s nothing quite like a Vaughan story with Vaughan created characters. This is the kind of thing he should always be writing and in a way, he shouldn’t waste his time writing for other pre-established comicbook characters he didn’t create. Even working on a TV series like Under the Dome, adapted from Stephen King’s novel, is beneath his talents compared to this. Vaughan has such a unique voice in comics that he should use it to its fullest and just as Yorick in Y felt like an extension of his personality, I detect shades of Yorick in Marko as well.
The reason Saga succeeds is because we easily connect with these characters and despite the rocket ships and ghosts and aliens that fill its pages, Marko and Alana are a couple whose struggles we can relate to. Sure, their struggles might be a bit more of the life-and-death variety and although they may inhabit a galaxy far, far away, it does not feel like a long time ago or even futuristic for that matter. Saga feels like it’s happening now and we’re witnessing the story of the most contemporary and progressive couple of our time. The only way this book works is if we root for these star-crossed lovers and Staples makes it that much easier, ramping up the emotion with pitch perfect facial expressions that capture the emotion of Vaughan’s words. She is unquestionably his equal in this creative partnership and I can’t imagine how this book would look without her touch.
As easy as they’ve made it for us to fall in love with the Romeo and Juliet of space, we’ve also bonded with Hazel through her narration from the future. This storytelling device brilliantly adds tension at the right times while also dropping hints as to where the plot is going, careful to fan the flames of our anticipation without divulging too much, too soon. Just when it looks like things are settling into a new pattern, Hazel drops a bombshell on us in the final page, setting the stage for what lies ahead and hooking us even deeper. Nobody pulls off the cliffhanger quite like Vaughn, and this issue is no different.
With everything our protagonists have been put through so far, there’s clearly a lot more story to be told before we eventually catch up to our narrator’s timeline (if that is in fact the plan). It’s way too early into the journey to see an end in sight and Saga is in no danger of wearing out its welcome anytime soon, but one wonders if Vaughan and Staples know how the story is going to conclude and are planting the seeds now or if they’re seeing what direction the characters take the story. All good things must come to an end but for now, let’s hope that Saga lives up to its name and enjoys a long life because once it’s gone, there will never be anything like it ever again.