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 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

Saga 24

saga 24Today, Ryan and Spencer are discussing Saga 24, originally released October 29th, 2014.

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.

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Saga 23

Alternating Currents: Saga 23, Drew and PatrickToday, Drew and Patrick are discussing Saga 23, originally released September 24th, 2014.

Artists use lies to tell the truth. Yes, I created a lie. But because you believed it, you found something true about yourself.

-Alan Moore

Drew: In looking for an epigram for this piece, I sifted through about a dozen quotes that boil down to the same point: fiction is a lie that tells the truth. Ultimately, I chose Moore’s quote because it goes into a bit more detail (and because Alan Moore has a bit more cachet on a comics site than, say, Albert Camus), but I think its the pervasiveness of this notion that is truly remarkable. I understand the sentiment — fiction is by definition not true, but must be emotional honest in order to succeed — but I’m not sure I agree that fiction and lies exist on the same continuum. Lies exist to obscure the truth, either for the benefit of the liar or the person being lied to, while fiction simply seeks a novel way to approach the truth. There’s a difference between fiction and lies, a notion that Saga waded into in its fourth arc, and one that absolutely permeates issue 23. Continue reading

Saga 22

saga 22

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Saga 22, originally released August 27th, 2014.

Drew: The interpersonal relationships within families are insanely complex. They’re necessarily the longest relationships anyone has, meaning each one has years of subtle dynamics informing our behavior. Moreover, the stakes of any conflict within family are significantly higher — it’s one thing to be alienated by a friend, but quite another to be alienated by a parent. With all of these subtle dynamics and amplified emotions, it’s easy to understand why families are so often at the center of great dramas, from King Lear to Breaking Bad. As Saga’s fourth volume passes the halfway mark, it’s decidedly become a family drama (as opposed to the parenting focus of the first volumes), yet writer Brian K Vaughan finds tragedy not in the inflated stakes of family relationships, but in the all-too relatable act of taking family for granted. Continue reading

Saga 20

saga 20Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Saga 20, originally released June 25th, 2014.

Shelby: I have a friend who always flips to last page of a comic book first before he reads it. I know, I can hear your millions of voices crying out in terror at the thought, but he says knowing the ending means he looks forward to it while he’s reading. I’ll always give him shit for it, but in a way I can see where he’s coming from. There’s a certain appeal to the anticipation that comes from knowing where the story will end up. Brian K. Vaughan gave us that in last month’s issue of Saga, and now we’re stuck with this building anticipation for an ending we don’t actually want. In case you were hoping last month’s, “This is the story about how my parents split up,” was a mean trick on Vaughan’s part (Suzanne, I think you might have been hoping that), this issue will definitely crush that hope, and I mean that in the best way I possibly can.

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Saga 19

Alternating Currents: Saga 19, Drew and SuzanneToday, Drew and Suzanne are discussing Saga 19, originally released May 21st, 2014.

Drew: I’ve expressed this before, but I’m somewhat uncomfortable with parenting stories — not because there’s anything wrong with them, but because I’m necessarily lacking the parenting experience to be able to appreciate them fully. With each issue of Saga, Brian K. Vaughan has put those concerns out of my head — I’m not the last man alive, either, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying his Y: The Last Man — but with issue 19, he takes that relatability a step further. Indeed, he so intimately catalogues the reshuffling of priorities of early parenthood that — in at least some small way — I fell like I actually understand what it might mean to be a parent.

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Saga 18

saga 18

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Saga 18, originally released January 29th, 2014.

Patrick: In the Season 2 episode of Community Cooperative Calligraphy,” the group voluntarily sequesters itself in the study room until they can determine who stole Annie’s pen. Jeff eventually brings about peace by saying that he would rather believe the impossible — in this case, that a ghost stole it — than believe that one of his friends would subject the rest of them to this kind of psychological and emotional torture. It’s a play on the idea that we make ourselves believe all kinds of things that aren’t true in the name of love. We believe our friends and family to be capable of so much, exaggerating their talents or intelligence or compassion in our minds. Brian K Vaughan’s world has been punishing Marko and Alana for their love, but this issue tangibly rewards them for their blind faith in one another. It’s the metaphorical made real, and it’s absolutely beautiful. Continue reading

Saga 17

saga 17

Today, Shelby and Spencer are discussing Saga 17, originally released December 18th, 2013.

Shelby: There’s a little snippet of folk lore that always gets tossed around when things are looking grim: the darkest hour is just before dawn. Meteorologically, I can’t speak to the accuracy of that statement, but anecdotally it means that things always look their worst just before they begin to get better. It’s meant to inspire hope; life may be dark now, but it just means that soon the sun will come up and things will be better. In the penultimate chapter of Saga’s latest arc, I would say things are definitely at their darkest hour, but since we’re reading a Brian K. Vaughan story, the old saying should probably read, “the point at which everything goes to hell in a hand-basket just before the arc is resolved, but probably someone will die.”

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Saga 16

Alternating Currents: Saga 16, Drew and Shelby

Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Saga 16, originally released November 27th, 2013.

The best-laid plans of mice and men

Often go awry

Robert Burns, To A Mouse

Drew: I used to get so disappointed when the plans of a protagonist would change. It took me a long time to understand that those changes are the engine of drama, and even longer to appreciate that they reflect reality on a fundamental level. Our plans are always changing, sometimes due to external forces, and other times due to internal chances to our own priorities. Most narratives are loaded with the former type, but that latter type is rare. Rarer still are narratives where every character has their plans upended in both ways. Saga has long been one such rarity, and issue 16 reasserts the fragility of its characters’ plans. Continue reading