Dread, Anticipation, and Waiting in Saga 51

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

The current arc of Saga has, in many ways, been a slower one. That’s not a complaint — Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples know exactly how to make even simple moments of domestic bliss, strife, or harmony absolutely riveting — just an observation. With Ianthe plotting in the background, and with Saga‘s track record of major twists and deaths coming at a fairly regular pace, there are likely some readers waiting impatiently to get to the next “big” moment and see exactly where this is all leading. Saga 51 brings us one step closer to a major reckoning, but it also reminds readers why these quieter issues are so essential to the series as a whole.

Here Vaughan, via Hazel’s narration, argues that a series with nothing but “big” moments would be boring, and I agree. Quieter issues like the last few, and like most of Saga 51, make those big moments stand out all the more, hit even harder. It’s not just because they come less often, and therefore don’t lose their luster — it’s also because these quiet moments allow Vaughan and Staples to create stakes, to flesh out complicated characters readers can empathize with, making their victories sing all the more and their losses sting even harder. If Saga didn’t make us wait, it would lose so much of its soul.

Later in the issue, Hazel’s narration also speaks of dread and anticipation, and how they’re more similar than different. Both emotions fit in well with this theme, as they’re both just different versions of waiting, waiting for something to happen, be it good or bad. Much of the cast this month embody these two emotions, especially Prince Robot and Petrichor. Both are waiting for the same thing, their new identities via Upsher and Doff’s magic, but with very different perspectives. Robot is growing a bit manic stuck in his current predicament, actually lashing out and hurting his son at one point. He sees their new identities as an escape, as salvation. Petrichor, though, is more hesitant.

Upsher’s hit the nail right on the head. Petrichor seems to genuinely want to be with Robot and Squire, but is secretly dreading it. It’s easy to imagine why: giving up your body is a lot to ask, especially for someone like Petrichor who’s fought tooth and nail for the right to present her body in the way that she feels is proper.

Making Robot and Petrichor wait, building that anticipation, that dread, teases out more and more about their characters, allowing both to grow. It’s a powerful tool in Vaughan and Staples’ arsenal, one that makes Ianthe’s eventual, inevitable arrival feel that much more significant. We care about these characters, we know what their futures mean to them and we know how much they have to lose, and whatever happens next is only going to hit all the harder because of it.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

One comment on “Dread, Anticipation, and Waiting in Saga 51

  1. A coworker of mine is starting a new English class called Gods and Heroes. It’s going to teach… well, I don’t want to get into it because I won’t do it justice and I’m sure I’ll misrepresent it. Anyway, it’s going to involve gods and heroes throughout history from a variety of media including comics. We talk every now and then, and I asked Danny if he’d ever read Saga – he said no, I loaned him Volume 1 and the next day he immediately asked, “You got more?”

    So of course I’m rereading Saga too. And there’s one point in volume 4 or 5 where the Will is unconscious and it’s brought up there terrible horrors that he will bring about in the future. It’s when Sophie and the Brand are talking about how the Brand doesn’t feel the need to do all the killing all the time where as the Will is a bit more direct about it. Anyway, I read that and I read this issue where he escapes and I put two and two together and I just really am glad I’m reading this comic because damn it’s really good.

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