Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Saga 8, originally released December 19th, 2012.
Patrick: Shelby sometimes thinks we are a little bit too detail-oriented around here. But by and large, our assignments are “write about what you find interesting in this issue,” and details can be damn interesting. Saga 8 is one of those issues where what’s good about the experience of reading it might not be the same as what’s interesting about the issue. Heads up, I’m about to lose sight of the forest for the trees. But that’s only because I see some really neat trees and we already know the forest is amazing.
The main action of this issue centers on the same pairs we were concerned with last time, engaged in more or less the same activities as in the previous issue. Marko and his mother are still looking for Izabel on a planetoid, and ducking under gigantic swollen scrotums; while Alana and her father-in-law are still getting to know each other on the plant-ship. Each pair makes incremental progress: Alana and Barr establish a little bit more trust (and he weaves her some flattering magical body armor), while Marko and his mother cast a binding spell on the triclops and learn that the planetoid they’re on is actually an egg about to hatch.
But surrounding the main story are two diversions: one into the past and the other to the far reaches of space. The issue begins the day Alana and Marko meet — she is a guard and Marko is her prisoner. But before she has that fateful moment of meeting Marko’s loving gaze, Alana’s raving about a book she just finished reading. It’s a book called Heist by D. Oswald and judging by Alana’s description of it, and the final page (which we are treated to in full), it appears to be a beautifully mundane love-story with bizarre characters set in a science fiction universe. This is Saga, and Alana is engaging in an activity all of us know too well: trying to make your favorite book sound like it’s not the dumbest thing in the world.
Alana claims that the experience of reading the book has changed her, so the fact that she’s about to meet the future father of her child is interesting. Mind you, she’s not immediately smitten: their meeting ends when she pounds him in the face with the butt of her rifle. What I find so fascinating here is that the whole series revolves around the one experience that everyone says actually changes you: having a child. I can’t tell if this is meant to elevate the experience of reading a transformative book or trivialize it.
Vaughan has said that he writes to work through things that scare him: Ex Machina dealt with with fear of politics, Y dealt with his fear of women, and Saga deals with his fear of starting a family. Which is to say that he places a great deal of value on the art in his life — specifically his comic books. I don’t know what to do with the fact that this narrative loops back around to The Will’s agent taking a complaint that the client “(has) no interest in a replacement. They want the man they hired to complete his task.” This is a peculiar complaint for a someone looking to have some people killed — why would it matter who did the killing? This is a complaint that sounds more like that of a comic book fan: “I want more Batgirl, but I only want it written by Gail Simone” (to cite a recent example).
But like I say, I don’t really know what to do with either of those pieces of information. In fact, I might be trying to apply meaning to something that is simply meant to show the audience another mundane way in which Marko and Alana’s universe is like our own. And that’s not nothing — this series gets wacky as fuck. I can’t blame Vaughan for trying to ground the narrative when the issue features a naked three-eyed giant threatening to piss our heroes’ souls out his anus (ewww).
Fiona Staples’ art continues to blow me away. She grants an impressionistic beauty to the painterly backgrounds that gives the scenes aboard the ship the serenity the meeting between Barr and Alana requires. The relationship turns on this page from one of distrust to mutual respect and love. You don’t need to read a word to get that.
Heavens, here I’ve been gabbing on about meta-content that might not even be there and I haven’t even mentioned the appearance of Marko’s ex OR the planet-sized egg that’s minutes away from birthing a… something… Drew, I’m gonna leave that to you. Also, if you can make sense of my observations, feel free to do that as well. Also, I left some dishes in the sink if you wanna wash those for me too.
Drew: As well-crafted as this series is, I’ve found it incredibly frustrating to ever have anything intelligent to say about it. There are a few things that might account for this (including being mesmerized by Staples’ art), but I think the primary reason is the reality of Vaughan’s writing. Sure, he has fantastical elements like magic and nutsack giants, but he somehow manages to infuse the situations with a sense of real-life randomness that can make it difficult to pinpoint themes in the moment. I’m sure we’ll be able to look back at this issue and fully understand the importance of these moments, but in the meantime, everything feels so naturally character-driven, it’s hard to imagine what it might mean.
Take the interactions between Barr and Alana and Klara and Marko. Barr is essentially over the whole “my daughter-in-law is my sworn enemy” thing, and settles in for some hardcore domesticity. Alana is able to warm to him pretty quickly because he reminds her of Marko. Klara, on the other hand, is tough, combative, and more than a little sassy. I don’t mean to get all oedipal here, but I can’t help but think Alana might remind Marko of his mother. It’s hard for me to think of “boy becomes his father, seeks a wife like his mother” as particularly thematic, but it certainly feels real.
Then again, there is an awful lot about love going on in this issue, isn’t there? After eight issues, we don’t really question Marko and Alana’s love, but it’s interesting to see that it wasn’t love at first sight. Marko was just another prisoner, and Alana was just another guard. Whatever love story they have took some time to develop. Contrast that with the way Barr is able to instantly love his granddaughter, and even bond with a total stranger over the love for his son.
But I’m not sure “love” is really much of a theme. Sure, it’s motivating everyone’s actions in this title, but that seems pretty typical of narratives — and life in general. We don’t really know what it’s saying about love yet, so we’re really just along for the ride.
Ever since I discovered that the Wreath language is Esperanto, I’ve made a point of translating every line. We don’t get much in this issue, essentially just when Marko is begging for help in prison.
“Please! Please give me back my ring! I need to talk to you! I …” We don’t really know what it was that Marko needed to speak with anyone about, but we know he needs his ring to do it — his fumbling attempts at English don’t really convey much (though it may actually be one of the clumsiest pick-up lines ever recorded).
Turns out, those translator rings are damn handy. I’m not convinced that their capacity to facilitate understanding is representative of actual wedding rings (or the bond that they represent), but it’s a neat runner. Plus, they’re Gwendolyn’s rings, so she’s bound to be pissed when she finds out they’ve been given to some other woman (and a Lanfallian, at that). She’s a lady who clearly means business (though that may be all attitude — didn’t Marko suggest that she had never been to war?)
Anyway, I don’t really know what to make of the impending MASSIVE FUCKING hatchling. What could possibly be large enough to lay a planet-sized egg that isn’t known to every sentient being in the galaxy (if for no other reasons than the potential for “that’s no moon…” jokes). I had devised a life-cycle where Fard was the father of the egg, and his job was to protect it until it hatched, but that doesn’t really explain the ancient ruins that litter the surface of the egg. So, I guess I need more info here, too.
It’s tough to convey my excitement for this title when I have so little to say about it, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that I’m damn excited about just about everything going on here. We focused pretty tightly on our central family this month, but it looks like we might zip over to get a little more of The Will’s story next time. Vaughan is keeping a lot of plates spinning here, but I’m interested in all of them, so I can’t wait. This series is just so damn good.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?