by Ryan Mogge
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
When you are a kid, your family creates your idea of normal. It’s only when you go to a friend’s house and things are done just a little differently, that you can really define what makes your family unique. In Saga 44, Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan reinforce what we know about Marko, Alana, and Hazel by giving us a fun-house mirror version of their family.
Maw, Paw, and Kidd have several surface similarities with Saga’s first family. The family is made up of three people. Like Marko and Alana, Maw and Paw are different species and have a child who has a mixture of their parent’s physiology. Each threesome functions as a unit, working together to protect one another. It may be distasteful to watch Maw gun down a pregnant woman, but she is protecting her son who has a gun pointed at him.
Vaughan challenges the reader to find this crew empathetic. When Kidd kills Randy, the violence feels sudden and unjustified. We first see Kidd in a heroic splash page. It’s tempting to see him as a charming rogue, but Vaughan doesn’t give us the chance to dwell too long in that idea before things escalate to murder.
Staples puts Randy’s exploding head right there in the foreground so you can’t miss the viscera. Next, we have a woman murdered and Maw gives a sideways justification that the murder of a pregnant woman is mitigated by her intention to get an abortion. It happens quickly, giving us the feeling that they’ve been through this set of events several times before.
Vaughan sets this family in stark contrast to Marko, Alana, and Hazel. Whereas Paw tell Kidd, “Don’t question, son” Hazel is comfortable asking anything that pops into her head. Maw and Paw have raised their son to kill any stranger who poses a possible threat. Marko tries to instill a pure pacifism into his daughter. Neither of these philosophies are perfect but these ideas are what can hold a family together. Well, that and magic spells.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?
What about that last page?!
Oh yeah, what do we make of that? My initial reaction is that it has to still be a dream — Hazel is narrating this story, after all — but it could definitely be way more complicated than that.
thanks to Comixology I accidentally opened this issue directly to that cliffhanger, so my mind immediately went racing. Based off of Hazel’s conversation with Petrichor last month, I thought that perhaps Hazel was experimenting with different genders or something along that line.
After having actually read the issue, I don’t think this is the case at all. It’s either still part of her dream, or something brought to life by the magic within her. Thought: we’re all immediately assuming that this is somehow related to Hazel, but the more I think about it, the more I’m thinking it has to do with the fetus Alana lost. It was supposed to be a boy, right? Is she merely hallucinating it, or is the magic infecting her playing tricks on her?
That’s the worst! I’ve taken to covering the screen and immediately clicking “Browse Pages” every time I open comixology to avoid this exact issue.
Anyway: yeah, I think there’s some kind of hallucinatory weirdness going on, such that this kid is somehow both Hazel and their stillborn son. Like, he’s Hazel’s age, and apparently doesn’t recognize the name Hazel, suggesting that he was born instead of her, but, you know, he’s a boy. We definitely don’t know enough about what’s going on, but you’re right that it could be anything, really.
Hey, how about Hazel’s awesome backless shirt? Or Alana’s wings emerging from underneath the flaps of her duster? Coming up with costumes to accommodate the alien anatomy of these characters must be challenging, but Staples always manages to absolutely nail it. I don’t think I’ve been paying close enough attention to this stuff to always catch it, but anytime I notice it, it’s always because of how great it looks.
Just when I thought the Stalk was the most terrifying character design, Staples gives us the empty horse skull of Kidd’s birth defected centaur anatomy. I’m shook.