Ryan: You may be inclined to a small moment of panic when you begin reading Saga 24. I, personally, thought that I had skipped an issue somewhere. Last issue focused on the teased but unrealized extramarital affair between Marko and that hussy, Ginny, the fallouts of Alana’s fight with Marko, and Dengo using Yuma to abduct most of our protagonists in one fell swoop. This issue’s beautiful cover and opening scene reintroduce The Will’s sister, The Brand, toting a crash helm and her sidekick Sweet Boy on her search for her brother.
Her polite interrogation of the adorable walrus herder, Ghüs, reminds the audience of author Brian K. Vaughn’s mastery of characterization. Ghüs could very easily be a throw-away character, but is instead imbued by Fiona Staples and Vaughn’s dialogue with compelling amounts of personality which, in turn, flesh out further the zany universe of Saga.
Brian K. Vaughn deftly maneuvers splitting the plot among three or four different threads in a way that many science fiction authors struggle — see Star Wars: Episode I, for example. But here, we seamlessly transition to Gwendolyn and Slave Girl Sophie in the midst of a daring raid on the Patent Planet, hunting for an elixir to mend The (comatose) Will. This scene provides the action of the issue, where we see a tremendous, violent scrap between Gwen and the horrible-looking pig-troll Patrollers and featuring some of Wreath’s spectacular combat magic.
When The Brand + Sweet Boy make their appearance to Sophie and Gwen, we end up with collusion between the two groups under a common goal. It is as if Vaughn crafts a wonderful character, then anticipates which interactions the audience is begging for, and then delivers it with aplomb.
Popular dramas seem to be getting much more comfortable with not showing you developments occurring between installments. I love this brazen move of letting the audience connect the dots themselves as the creators show aftermaths, and the payoff for this can be immensely satisfying, as seen in the last page:
Last we saw, Prince Robot IV — who may be the most captivating character in the series — leveled his blaster-hand at Marko, blaming the horned one with abetting in the kidnapping of the Prince’s Robot heir. Now, the reader is treated to the main antagonist and one of the primary protagonists standing in a united front in the quest for their families.
What the heck happened between the pages that allowed these nemeses to stop, collaborate, and listen? We can only imagine, and it should set up for an intriguing dynamic in the installations to follow.
I am quick to tell the non-initiated that Saga is currently the best story being told across any popular medium. Saga 24 keeps the plot bursting along with spectacular characterization, universe development, and dialogue. Spencer! Are you as excited as I am about Ghüs joining the quest as a recurring character? What did you think about the incredible inter-species sex between The Will and The Stalk? Or would you rather respond on Vaughn’s dig at pharmaceutical companies? So much to talk about!
Spencer: You know, Ryan, on my first read through, I kinda glazed over that scene with The Will and The Stalk — perhaps to better preserve my sanity until I could grab some Raid — but I think it actually says a lot about The Will. I mean, most obviously of all it shows that his mind is still active even in the his coma, but there’s also quite a bit of significance to be found in their talk of children as well.
I take this as a sign that The Will is conflicted about his role caring for Sophie; he’s scared that, because of his job, she won’t be safe with him, a fear that his sister The Brand echoes when Gwen insists on taking Sophie along with them on their “quest” to cure The Will.
In fact, while I don’t know if I can draw any deeper meaning from it just yet, this seems to be helping to reemphasize the role of children in this narrative. Each of Saga’s main three groups has a child in tow — Hazel with Marko and Alana, Sophie with Gwen and The Will, and now Prince Robot’s son, even if those groups are all scrambled-up right now — and I imagine we may be seeing some contrasting views on a child’s place in this conflict, or perhaps on the different ways they affect the adults who care for them, in the near future.
As for Ghüs, you know I’m excited to see that adorable lil’ otter-dude sticking around for the foreseeable future. I have to wonder if his expanded role has always been in the works, or if it’s simply a response to the character’s immediate popularity; either way, Vaughan and Staples have turned him into a rich character with almost frightening speed and skill. Despite being a brand new recurring character Vaughan still gives him an unique voice, a strong emotional core, and even throws in some amusingly meta touches just for kicks:
That said, it’s Staples’ art that made us fall in love with this guy, and in that respect she’s just as on-point as ever, even when it comes to new creations such as the Bear Nurse. One of my favorite parts of Saga is the sheer strange sense of wonder Staples’ designs create; there’s a lot to be said for the way Staples’ whimsical style contrasts against the harsh world of Saga and all the sex and violence and cursing Vaughan fills it with.
This isn’t a thought that’s specific to this issue in particular, but this contrast really is an excellent way to bring to life some of the central ideas of Saga — and, I suppose, life in general. The world of Saga, much like our own, can be beautiful, awe-inspiring, and capable of providing the greatest treasures imaginable, but it has just as much capacity, if not more, for hatred, ugliness and tragedy. Vaughan and Staples know just how to balance those two extremes. Take the scene where the Trolls threaten to rape Gwen and Sophie, for example. It’s absolutely repugnant, as threats of that nature should be, but our horror can be tempered a little by the fact that Gwen immediately gets to beat the living snot out of those goons.
And just look at Lying Cat’s face! It’s hard to stay too worked up when these three seem so nonplussed; that’s not to say that Staples can’t create scenes full of horror or unease, because she absolutely can, but more to emphasize how her style helps to make the bleakness of this world a little easier to swallow.
Also, let’s talk about Sophie for a second. While it’s hard to beat that first reveal of Hazel as a toddler, I actually think that Sophie’s transformation during the time-skip may be my favorite. She seems so much more mature and at ease with herself — it’s obvious she still feels guilty about what she did to The Will, but the quest for a cure has helped take her mind off it, and in general she just seems to have regained much of her humor that she (understandably) lost after her horrific ordeal. It’s a subtle enough shift — she’s still obviously Sophie — but regardless, it’s absolutely heartwarming to see how much Sophie has grown.
You know, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about how this issue relates to Saga as a whole, and in some ways that feels like it’s Vaughan’s intention, at least when it comes to the storyline this issue is closing out. The past five issues have been slower and more focused than Saga typically is. Some of our commentors have called it boring, and while I don’t fully agree, I still think that “boring” may have been the point. Alana and Marko’s life wasn’t as exciting as it used to be; they were trapped in a rut and unable to express it, and the book followed suit, making us feel the sense of monotony and claustrophobia just as strongly as Alana and Marko.
Now, though, that’s all over. This issue could have very well been the first issue of the next arc, but instead Vaughan uses it as an ending, a way to return Saga to it’s normal pace before taking a hiatus. This could be read as an apology from Vaughan just as easily as it could work as a taunt, a cry of “I told you I still got it!”, but either way it makes for an exhilarating cliffhanger. Alana and Marko’s separation would have been a gut-wrenching way to end an arc, but that compounded with the return of Gwen and Sophie and the team-up of Marko and Prince Robot?! That’s multiple cliffhangers of top-notch quality! After months of bleak and oppressive issues leading to certain tragedy, Vaughan and Staples leave us with excitement and, dare I say, even a sense of hope? Can Marko and Prince Robot’s alliance last, perhaps even blossom into friendship? Will they ever be reunited with their families? Can Ghüs get any cuter? Only time can tell. This is gonna be a rough hiatus.
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?