by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
In this game, Fischer (playing Black) demonstrates noteworthy innovation and improvisation. Byrne (playing White), after a standard opening, makes a seemingly minor mistake on move 11, losing tempo by moving the same piece twice. Fischer pounces, with brilliant sacrificial play, culminating in an incredible queen sacrifice on move 17. Byrne captures the queen, but Fischer gets far too much material for it – a rook, two bishops, and a pawn. At the end, Fischer’s pieces coordinate to force checkmate, while Byrne’s queen sits, helpless, at the other end of the board.
Bobby Fischer’s Breakthrough: The Game of the Century
When someone says a chapter of a story is “putting the pieces in place,” it’s usually meant to point out some emotional shortcoming. Putting the pieces in place is seen as perfunctory, a perhaps necessary prelude to the actual drama to come, lacking in any real emotional investment (and maybe even drawing our attention to the invisible hand guiding circumstances into position). But I think that attitude is entirely shortsighted, privileging the fallout of events more than the setup, and ignoring that the “pieces” and “places” are the raw materials for drama, so how and why they’re there are essential story elements. It’s the kind of attitude that would make Bobby Fischer’s famous “Game of the Century” is only thrilling in its final moments, as he finally forced Byrne’s king into checkmate, but any chess fan can tell you that the ending was set up 21 moves earlier, which in turn may have been set up six moves earlier still, reminding us that the simple act of moving pieces on the board is what drives the drama in a game of chess. Obviously, Saga isn’t a game, and the characters aren’t chess pieces (royalty notwithstanding), but it’s just a thrilling to watch them scoot into attack position — even when we can’t see the attack coming.
Or maybe I just like watching Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples work as much as I might watching Bobby Fischer play. These are masters of their craft, and their absolutely is pleasure in simply watching them go. In this case, we’re drafting off of some of the drama of the previous issue, where Ianthe and The Will caught up with the rest of the cast on Jetsam, and
Squire Princeling ran away. While folks are reacting to the news of the latter, the full implications of the former haven’t quite made themselves known. Which may be why this issue doesn’t feel so much like putting the pieces in place as it is revealing the positions of pieces to each other.
For me, though, the excitement lies in reminding us just how multifaceted these characters can be. First up is Ianthe — who we may have been thinking of as little more than a revenge monster at this point — who rescues Princeling from a pastoral Sarlacc.
That ambiguous “So fucking lucky” at the end of their scene makes it possible she’s still more interested in leverage than actually helping this kid, but her concern for his wellbeing scans to me as at least somewhat genuine. She may be blinded by vengeance (and greed), but she’s not going to let a kid come to harm (I think).
The other surprise character moments come in fast succession, as The Will confronts Prince Robot IV. The Will’s own neutering at the hands of Ianthe may have made us forget his own revenge- and greed-fueled missions, but he gets right back to them as soon as he’s escaped. It’s a level of assertiveness we haven’t seen in this character for quite a while, though it’s also hard to imagine him allowing a child to come to harm.
Prince Robot, on the other hand…I’m not so sure. Recent issues could make me believe he had given up his immoral worldview, and that he actually valued Marko, Alana, and Hazel as friends, but his offering up Hazel as collateral calls all of that into question. That’s certainly something the old Prince Robot would do, so the question is whether he’s back to his old ways, or if he’s just bluffing. It really could go either way. We’ve seen this character do this kind of thing before, but it’s also possible that behavior is in his past. It’s a hell of a cliffhanger, couching our uncertainty in the very soul of one of its most reformed characters. Is Prince Robot a good guy now, or just a guy desperate to survive who has been permitted to be good for the past few issues? I have no idea.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?