Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Saga 18, originally released January 29th, 2014.
Patrick: In the Season 2 episode of Community “Cooperative Calligraphy,” the group voluntarily sequesters itself in the study room until they can determine who stole Annie’s pen. Jeff eventually brings about peace by saying that he would rather believe the impossible — in this case, that a ghost stole it — than believe that one of his friends would subject the rest of them to this kind of psychological and emotional torture. It’s a play on the idea that we make ourselves believe all kinds of things that aren’t true in the name of love. We believe our friends and family to be capable of so much, exaggerating their talents or intelligence or compassion in our minds. Brian K Vaughan’s world has been punishing Marko and Alana for their love, but this issue tangibly rewards them for their blind faith in one another. It’s the metaphorical made real, and it’s absolutely beautiful.
As the situation on the floor has gone tits-up, Gwen chases Marko and Alana (with baby in-tow) to the top of the lighthouse. Marko’s relieved when it seems like all Gwen needs is advice, but the tension immediately re-ratchets when Marko’s advice isn’t going to work to save The Will’s life. Gwen whips out that damn extendo-lance and takes aim at mother and child, but Marko pushes them out of the way and off the lighthouse balcony. GASP! That’s when Alana does the impossible — she flies.
Those wings that she’s been claiming are vestigial? They’re real, and they’re powerful, and with them she has the power to protect her entire family. I am head over heels for this idea — Marko loves and trusts and believes in Alana so much that the wings work. It’s not entirely clear from Alana’s dialogue if she knew what was going to happen, but when she questions Marko, his response says it all: “[how did I know] that my wife could do anything? Isn’t it obvious?” It’s a victory for the relationship, for the family. It’s not like one of them rescues the other — they survive because of their bond, not in spite of it.
While all this is going on upstairs, Izabel is on the ground floor positively kicking ass in a way she never has before. Somehow she’s familiar with Lying Cats, and is even kind enough to clue us into another piece of L.C. mythology — they always play by the rules. Not only are they compulsively honest creatures, they can be forced to action or inaction by a technicality. I can’t wait to see how that’s exploited or subverted in the future. But we also get peek into what Izabel is capable of as she takes on the form of L.C.’s mother and threatens to haunt the former runt of the litter. Now, that’s a cute character detail for Lying Cat (look at how good Vaughan is — he even characterizes the pets in this stories), but it means Izabel has some kind of psychic ability to probe other creatures’ thoughts and memories. She does this in a much less literal way moments later, as she commands a rebooted Prince Robot to carry Klara out of the burning room. Maybe her power isn’t so magical, and she’s just learned to be highly intuitive from nannying Hazel. Ask anyone: you’ve gotta become the fucking Amazing Kreskin to determine what a baby needs in order to stop it from crying.
After every six issues, this series goes on a little hiatus (or, to borrow verbiage from Vaughan, a “vacationanza”) and while the previous breaks have been welcomed with cliffhangers (the arrival of Marko’s parents in issue six and the showdown between Heist and Prince Robot is issue 12), this issue lets the dust settle into a satisfying ending. After the various immediate dangers have passed, we skip around the universe checking in on everyone else — either those that weren’t present on Quietus or several months later. Fiona Staples masterfully depicts these causal slides though time and space by continually zooming out on whatever scene we’re watching unfold. My absolute favorite example of this comes after we see that The Will is in a semi-vegetative state: we zoom out from that tender moment between The Brand and The Will and see the scene from Gwen, Sophie and L.C.’s perspective. Vaughan lands a single insightful character beat and then we continue to zoom out.
The conclusion has such a strong sense of finality to it — it’s almost heartbreaking to know that our plucky young family still has so much more hell to endure. But on the flip side, that means more amazing story for me, so I won’t complain. Drew, how’d you feel about the wrap-ups? It seems like Vaughan is being characteristically cruel to The Will, but also holding his tongue about the fate of Prince Robot (who should have a child by the time we catch up with him in a few months). These first 18 issues are all about the specific horror of raising an infant — in fiction and in reality, that amounts to an awful lot of “don’t let it die.” If Hazel’s going to be a toddler next time we see her, do you think we have to say goodbye to all these themes of survival by the skin of our teeth? And finally — how long before Staples puts an eye-patch on Lying Cat?
Drew: Silly Patrick, you can’t put an eye patch on a cat — that would look ridiculous. But seriously: I don’t think toddlerhood means Marko and Allana are out of the woods in terms of needing to worry about Hazel’s survival. Indeed, while a baby is basically helpless, at least it’s stationary. A toddler, on the other hand, can disappear on you, but still has a shitty sense of balance and a shittier sense of danger. I could go on about how much toddlers suck (babies cry when they need something, toddlers cry when they want something), but that’s hardly the point of the issue. I should admit to being excited at the prospect of Hazel becoming more of a character — that immobility I praised earlier has a tendency to turn baby Hazel into a prop — but again, this is more of a tease than anything.
And there’s so much meat here to talk about! Patrick did a great job of covering the action on Quietus, so I’ll turn my attention towards some of this issue’s juicy reveals. My favorite has to be Gwendolyn’s admission that she has feelings for The Will, after all.
I’ve been pulling for this relationship for quite a while now (though, check those comments: so have a lot of readers), but I absolutely love that Gwendolyn first admits her feelings in a moment of weakness, and to someone other than The Will. It’s a stroke of genius on Vaughan’s part: knowing Gwendolyn, it will be long time before she tells him (look how she can’t even be in his recovery room), but now we know, and can wait with bated breath for their eventual union (or, knowing Vaughan, have our hearts ripped out when one of them inevitably bites it).
Hey, speaking of The Will, this issue’s other big reveal is that he has a sister: The Brand (the self-same freelancer who threatened Upsher and Doff last month). That’s an awesome twist — one which promises to bring Upsher and Doff further into the fold, as they can apparently only break the spell by hanging her to death — but I’m most excited for the peek into The Will’s family life. I never expected our rugged bounty hunter to have a big sister who looks out for him, or for him to actually be named “Billy” (turns out, “The Will” isn’t so much a title as it is just putting “the” in front of a perfectly viable nickname). That’s some unexpected humanization of our Han Solo-type (who I’m only just now realizing had a childhood that I happily know nothing about), but it works to make us even more concerned for his recovery. He doesn’t just have one badass woman looking out for him anymore.
In light of all of these reveals, it feels like Vaughan is steering us away from the focus on parenting for a while, which I’m totally okay with. Marko is motivated by his desire to protect Allana, Gwendolyn by her desire to save The Will, even Klara is motivated by wanting to avenge heist. Everyone, from Prince Robot IV to Upsher and Doff, is entangled in some kind of romantic relationship. I suppose that excludes the kids, animals, and ghosts, but this issue is full enough of action for me to not miss Sophie (too much). That does leave Isobel in kind of a weird place, but as Patrick mentioned, we don’t really know what her deal is.
As for what happens next, I’m absolutely thrilled to find out (though waiting until May is going to be hard). Hazel’s voiceover suggests that it will be a long time before they see their “original pursuers” again. She then backpedals a bit, suggesting that we might not need to wait so long (which also could be mitigated by the time jump), but the piece of that line I’m really interested in is the notion of “original” pursuers. It sounds like there are adventures to be had in the absence of The Will and Prince Robot IV, and I’m totally game for some strange — especially after this tightly plotted arc.
One of my favorite parts of this issue, though, is that basically everyone gets to be some kind of hero. Prince Robot rescues Klara, Mako rescues Allana (who in turn rescues Marko), even Gwendolyn gets to rescue The Will. This issue brought these characters into direct conflict for the first time in quite a while — I was honesty conflicted when Klara gouges Lying Cat’s eye — but it also finds time to remind us of their basic decency. Even Prince Robot just wants to assist our unit or division. I’m going to miss this title over the next few months, but this was a great note to leave on.
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?