Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Saga 9, originally released January 16th, 2013.
Drew: My trumpet teacher used to talk about the “Ascending Spiral Groove Thang,” the notion that you can gain a lot from an idea by returning to it after you have different experiences to relate it to. He was using it as a (valid) justification for retreading the same lessons for his advanced players that he gave to his beginners, but I often think about it in terms of appreciating narratives. Many stories that I enjoyed well enough as a kid became significantly more meaningful once I had my own experiences with loss, heartbreak, or leaving home. Of course, I’m a far cry from having seen it all, and nothing reminds me of that more than parenting stories. Whether they feature uptight professionals (or lazy slobs) whose lives are turned upside down by an adorable street urchin, or a good old-fashioned “we’re having a baby!” story, the moral is always the same: having a kid changes everything. I suspect these stories keep being told because artists keep experiencing it — a kind of “no, seriously: HAVING A KID CHANGES EVERYTHING” — and because the stories themselves can never really do the experience justice, all of which leaves me feeling like I’m probably missing something all parents just get. Fortunately, that ignorance doesn’t prevent me from enjoying said narratives, as Saga 9 so ably demonstrates.
This issue exclusively follows the Will, whose motivations are pulling him in a number of directions at once. This is demonstrated no more clearly than in the opening dream sequence, where he imagines The Stalk is alive and well, and helping him rescue the Slave Girl from Sextillion. He’s rudely awoken by Lying Cat, to warn him that Gwendolyn is approaching. Gwen has come to put The Will back on Marko and Alana’s trail by letting him know that Prince Robot IV is also tracking down our newlyweds, and that the best way to find him might just be to find them. The Will agrees to cooperate on the condition of Slave Girl’s freedom, which Gwendolyn arranges under false pretenses. Of course, Mama Sun suspects as much, but doesn’t deploy nearly enough men at the exchange to stop The Will, who escapes unscathed with the girl in tow. As The Will and Gwendolyn decide what to do with Slave Girl, she reveals that she can “hear” Gwendolyn’s pendant, and that its ring companions (that is, Marko and Alana’s wedding bands) are nearby.
Normally, the use of a dream sequence as a window into a character’s innermost thoughts might strike me as overly convenient, but since no new motivations are revealed here, that skepticism doesn’t apply. In fact, the scene rather effectively reminds us that The Will wants to save Slave Girl and was in love with The Stalk, while also confirming that his mind is a pretty violent place. Given that this is essentially his greatest fantasy, I don’t really know what to make of him trying to shield Slave Girl’s eyes from its violence.
He could just as easily have imagined a scene that wasn’t violent, especially if keeping said violence from Slave Girl were important. Instead, violence plays a rather important role in this fantasy, and The Will seems to like it this way (notice that he’s looking directly at the severed head, even as he’s preoccupied with covering Slave Girl’s eyes).
This familiarity with violence is borne out in the confrontation with Mama Sun’s Mole-Men, which is really the first time we’ve seen him in action since he blew up that monster in the first issue. He handles the Mole-Men quite impressively until one of them has him by the throat, at which point Gwendolyn comes in pretty handy. Oddly, the girl who managed to avoid service in the army seems to take particular glee in killing men in cold blood.
That common ground of violence helps unite these characters in our mind, which makes the prospect of something developing between them a pretty clear possibility. I wouldn’t normally start ‘shipping right out of the gate like this, but the final scene is downright domestic.
Fiona Staples cleverly crams in some homey trappings around the cabin (note the stacks of dishes off to the right) but gives it a distinctly bachelor-y vibe (note the bottles off to the right), which I imagine will change a bit now that there’s a six-year-old running around. Again, I wouldn’t normally assume every two characters we see would become a couple, but, you know, having a kid changes everything.
What do you think, Shelby? These two are definitely both on the rebound — will they end up together (even if only temporarily)? What about all this kid stuff — do you think we’re missing a lot of the unspoken emotions here? Does that matter?
Shelby: I most definitely did not get a will they/won’t they (they will) sort of vibe from these two. I might eat my words later, but I didn’t think this issue was about Slave Girl, or the potential couple-ness of Gwen and The Will. I don’t know if I’m prepared to see this issue as a “kids change everything” set up, because we already have that in Alana and Marko. Maybe there will be other issues down the road where these two crazy kids finally get together, but I think this issue is about humanizing The Will.
Let’s start with that dream, and The Will’s love for The Stalk. I thought the whole scene was heartbreaking, because it’s so believable. Vaughn is doing what he does best; the setting and situation is so foreign, and yet the characters are sympathetic, relate-able. Let’s face it, there is nothing, with the exception of the Testiclops, that is more horrifying in this story than The Stalk. But her reaction to kissing The Will?
She doesn’t like his stubble. Now, while I don’t mind my guys a little scruffy around the edges, this is the most mundane, regular interaction we could see between two people in a relationship. This, the armless spider woman who just killed three people to rescue a 7-year-old sex slave from Porno Planet, is participating in a mundane situation. That’s the beauty of what Vaughn and Staples are doing, they’re crafting these normal characters who have normal reactions to normal situations, and are putting them in this epic science fiction universe. I think that’s why I’m not ready to see anything that may or may not exist between The Will and Gwen; I feel sorry for The Will for what he’s lost. At the end of the day, he’s just a man in grief. He may have a weird way of showing it (wasn’t he watching old sex tapes an issue or so back?), but he’s dealing with the loss of a loved one as best he can.
Drew, you commented on the violence in The Will’s fantasy, stating he could have just imagined a less violent scene, a situation where he wouldn’t have had to shield Slave Girl. I don’t think he could have; he’s a professional assassin. My 9-to-5 is finding defects in computer software, his is killing people in cold blood; his life is steeped in violence, violence is business and business is good. There is an important distinction to be made, however; The Will is a murderer, but he’s not a monster. Just because headless corpses are his day in, day out, doesn’t mean he thinks it’s appropriate for a child to see. Even The Stalk, who is obviously a monster, is not a monster; if The Will’s fantasy is to be believed, she was just like Slave Girl once, and she shows compassion towards her. That raises the question: who are the monsters in this story? Is it Prince Robot? Between his baby on the way and his severe PTSD, he’s far too sympathetic. Marko’s mom? She may be a tyrannical mother-in-law, but I don’t think she’s a monster. I don’t think we’ve met the monsters yet, and that is an exciting prospect. It’s even more exciting than being able to seriously ask the question “Is Prince Robot a monster, or is it the half spider-woman?” Man, do I love this book.
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 Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?