Saga 41

saga-41

Today, Ryan D. and Spencer are discussing Saga 41, originally released January 4th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

And I love Dr. King but violence might be necessary

-Killer Mike, Run the Jewels

Ryan D: With all of the racially charged protests in the US from last year, Martin Luther King’s tenants of nonviolence became a talking point, used to chastise on countless 24/7 news networks and talk radio shows. The tricky thing about the six tenants of Kingian nonviolence is that they call for the understanding that “the Universe is on the side of the just”- a choice which seems to be a bit harder for those less inclined to believe in such a broad, philosophical stance, alongside a very Biblical adherence to turning the other cheek. The philosophy of the universe of Saga, on the other hand, seems more in line with the words of Killer Mike mentioned above, which goes on to say, in an ode to Malcolm X: “Cause when you live on MLK and it gets very scary/ You might have to pull your AK, send one to the cemetery.”  This is exactly the position we see Marko in by the end of Saga 41 in an issue revolving around violence, and it is always fascinating to see a pacifist’s descent. Continue reading

Saga 40

Today, Ryan and Patrick are discussing Saga 40, originally released November 30th, 2016.

Ryan: When I was a child, my least favorite sentence was “Life’s not fair.” As a hyper-verbal kid who was encouraged to talk out her frustrations, things boiled down to those three words far too often. It got to a point where my mother would only have to intake her breath to start to say it and I would finish the sentence, feeling a sense of injustice that the world cannot be bent to fit the ideals of fairness of my ten-year-old mind. It felt glib then, but I understand a bit more now. Fairness is an ideal and is easy to enforce in a tennis match or on tax forms, but when the stakes become more personal, there is no way to find a quantifiable balance. Saga 40 is made up of scenes of characters behaving unfairly to one another and Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples use thematic elements to hold together an otherwise scattered issue.

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Saga 39

Alternating Currents: Saga 39, Drew and Ryan

Today, Drew and Ryan M. are discussing Saga 39, originally released October 26th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

The best-laid plans of mice and men
Often go awry

Robert Burns, To A Mouse

Drew: If I had to pick an epigraph for our discussions of Saga, this most well-known line from Robert Burns’ most well-known poem would be it (indeed, I also used it to kick off our discussion of issue 16). It’s a sentiment that comes up often enough to have entered the lexicon as a common expression, and could reasonably describe most narratives where the protagonist(s) could be said to have a “plan,” but I’d argue that it is woven into the very fabric of Saga. Nobody, from the highest princes of the robot kingdom to the lowliest mouse medic ever has their plans work out perfectly, leaving them in a constant state of flux. That leaves them all like the mouse Burns’ poem was written for — the one whose home he destroyed while plowing a field. Issue 39 makes that parallel even more explicit, as the home of our leads is threatened by a force apparently unaware of their presence. Continue reading

Saga 35

saga 35

Today, Shelby and Spencer are discussing Saga 35, originally released March 30th, 2016.

Shelby: One of the changes I’ve been trying to make for myself these last few years is in improving my communication. So many problems in both the real world and in fiction can be solved with just some simple communication. Every time two big-name superheroes meet for the first time, there’s always an issue devoted to them punching each other; if they just took two seconds to communicate a bit first, we’d be spared those boringly inevitable stories. The real problem, though, comes in when characters cannot communicate and have to act anyway. Characters who choose to act first, I got no sympathy for; it’s the ones that couldn’t even if they wanted to that I find the most intriguing and the most sympathetic. If you’re at all familiar with Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, you’ll understand this sentiment completely. Continue reading

Saga 34

saga 34

Today, Spencer and Ryan M. Patrick are discussing Saga 34, originally released February 24th, 2016.

Spencer: Every once in a while, a long running series will introduce a new concept and try to say, “hey, this has been important all along!” This can be frustrating when it isn’t true (see: all the various retcons in Star Wars) or when the concept changes the entire dynamic of the series. Yet, when a new idea seamlessly integrates itself into the structure of the story, helping to express and define concepts that have been there all along, it can be absolutely enlightening. That’s what happens in Saga 34, where Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan use the idea of “diversity” to dig into both the causes and the solutions to all the problems plaguing the world of Saga. Continue reading

Saga 33

Alternating Currents: Saga 33, Drew and Ryan

Today, Drew and Ryan M. are discussing Saga 33, originally released January 27th, 2016.

Drew: I’m currently taking a class on autobiographical comics, and the discussion thus far has centered around the question of subjectivity. Many of the memoirists we’ve examined thus far have favored the “truth” found in their subjective experience, as opposed to the “historical truth” of a more objective account, but I’ve always found the assumption that history is objective to be problematic. “History is written by the victors,” as the saying goes, revealing not only that history is necessarily biased, but also that history is more the story of wars than life. Indeed, even a historical account of a war has to consider who the story is really about: Generals? Individual soldiers? Civilians? Reporters? That last one may seem out of place, taking a narrow focus on people who neither represent the masses nor the machinations of war, but as the ones literally writing the histories as they happen, reporters are the only ones capable of giving an account that isn’t filtered through the subjective experience of someone else (as, say, a civilian’s story as told by a reporter would be). There are more layers of subjectivity to explore here, but the point is: reporters’ stories are just as important as those they cover, which makes Saga 33‘s turn to Upsher and Doff so welcome. Continue reading

Saga 29

Alternating Currents: Saga 29, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Saga 29, originally released June 10th, 2015.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming”

Drew: Written in the wake of the first World War, “The Second Coming” features some of the most vivid images in modernist poetry. The second stanza takes on a more biblical tone, name-dropping the titular second coming, but the first stanza, quoted above, features no hint of the divine — this is pure horror of war stuff. Of all the concepts Yeats evokes, the notion that “the best lack all conviction” might actually be the scariest to me. If war can change our values and convictions, what are we actually fighting for? Curiously, we talk about becoming a parent in similar ways: our values and priorities shift around when we have a child to care for. Saga has always existed at the weird intersection between war and parenthood, but issue 29 makes its exploration of the values we sacrifice in the name of either a bit more explicit. Continue reading

Saga 28

Alternating Currents: Saga 28, Drew and Patrick

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Saga 28, originally released May 13th, 2015.

Drew: There are few things more depressing than studying altruism at a biological level. In a world driven by survival, what could possibly compel an individual to risk life and limb (or, more modestly, share food and shelter) with another? For sexually mature individuals, the most obvious answer is reproduction — helping your mate or your offspring survive increases the chance of your genes, and thus, the behavior of protecting your mate and offspring, will be carried on to future generations. But what about other relationships? Well, in 1964, W.D. Hamilton proposed that we help others for basically the same reason we protect our offspring: because we share genes with them. Importantly, we only share genes with those that are actually related to us, and a key part of Hamilton’s formula was the “relatedness coefficient” — essentially, you’re more likely to help your sibling than your cousin because you’re more related to them, or, more precisely, because you’re more likely to share genes with them. Which is to say, we don’t help people at all, we help their genes, and only because their genes are our genes. From that perspective, “altruism” doesn’t exist at all — we’re all just working in service of totally self-interested genes.

Of course, we’re not entirely driven by our genes. If genes give us our hardware, culture gives us our software, allowing us to do all kinds of things our genes wouldn’t dream of, from taking vows of celibacy to covering a live grenade to protect our platoon. Those are some extreme examples, but I think they become more relatable when we think of those acts as protecting family. Sure, a religious congregation or military unit aren’t technically families, but they can act as families for those who need it. It’s exactly these types of makeshift families — and the sacrifices they elicit — that Saga 28 is all about. Continue reading

Saga 27

saga 27

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Saga 27, originally released April 8th, 2015.

Grace comes home drunk some times / and beats on the doorway to my guts. / I fumble with the locks / ’til the wound opens up. / She falls in, laughing: “Honey, I’m home.”

I wince as she stumbles up my spine / leaves a trail of bruises on my ribs. / I choke on her dancing on my tongue / she kicks out a tooth. / “Honey, I’m home.”

She lights a cigarette inside my head / blows all the smoke into my eyes / until she sees a tear. / Then she sighs: “just what I thought — another fragile Buddha”

Stuart Davis, “Grace”

Patrick: The language of love and the language of violence are uncomfortably similar. I’d also argue that they are two cultural constants we never really understand. The impulses to nurture and destroy are down deep in the human subconsciousness, ungoverned by rationality. Bryan K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples explore this through Marko’s bad fadeaway trip in Saga 27, suggesting that pacifism may mute more than Marko’s passion for violence, but all of his passions. He wakes up with a clarity, but is that a clarity to be celebrated or to be reviled? Continue reading

Saga 25

saga 25

Today, Ryan and Patrick are discussing Saga 25, originally released February 4th, 2015.

Ryan: Pop culture loves rebels. We hang posters of them in our dorm rooms, whether they have a cause or not. We wear red graphic t-shirts emblazoned with their likeness, not very concerned about some of the more morally ambiguous acts this person committed. Luke Skywalker played figurehead for the Rebel Alliance and may be the most popular and beloved rebel of all time, despite the fact that the blood of 322,951 Death Star personnel (not to mention the oil of 400 thousand plus droids) stains his non-synthetic hand. Saga 25 adds another variable into the mix with the introduction of a third side to the outstanding war between Landfall and Wreath, while also providing another complication to the Dengo child-heist. Continue reading