Sunday, April 21, 2024

An Arc Comes to a Close in Saga

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Is prejudice a thing humans inflict on one another only? The answer is most definitely no. In fact, humans may act with prejudice towards all kinds of things, be it modes of discourse, politics, religion, food, and even animals. I will save myself the nuances about the prejudice towards cats, since I already explored that last week. Instead, I’ll speak briefly on a few qualities of cats, which is fitting since this issue’s cover features Honest Cat. All cat people know this. To have a cat is to have a little fluff of chaos on your lap. Yet, for all the fur and dead mice they may leave on your face, there is a major adherence to order. A cat is an animal that gauges people and situations. A properly cared-for cat will never be cold, but cautious. It’s almost as if they had a code.

And that’s the gimmick for this issue: a code of behaviour. If we’re so inclined, we may even call it honour or discipline. Last issue, we left in bloody chaos, with Gwendolyn’s swift entrance and D. Oswald Heist’s unfortunate demise. Only a firm handle on the situation can prevent the scene from spiraling further down. Don’t let my affection for cats look like a bias, this is a rather good issue.

Issue #18
“This is a Lying Cat, and Lying Cats always play by the rules”

Let’s not forget what is at stake here for both sides. On one hand, Alana and Marko need to protect their daughter and themselves from a galaxy that wants them dead. On the other, Gwendolyn and Honest Cat are racing against time to save The Will’s life; although Gwen may still have a agenda of her own. Regardless, she tasks the cat with guarding her former mum-in-law while she looks for Marko upstairs. At this point, Klara has lost two men she’s held dear; she may even appear to seek death via cat-maul. However, Izabel shows up to prevent her from doing any damage. Early on, our ghostie babysitter proved to be knowledgeable on many things about this universe. And now, she reveals a tasty bit.

Killing your host at their house is every bit as damnable in this universe as in texts and stories of old. The foundational values remain strong even in alien planets. This causes great shame in Honest Cat, as Izabel remarks that Lying Cats, as a species, adhere to these rules. Also, the profession of Freelancers appears to be very strict about rules and boundaries, as we’ve seen in issues past. As a reinforcement to the scolding, Izabel uses her powers to project an image that hits Honest Cat hard. We learn that she bears the stigma of being the runt of the litter. In ‘cat culture (or nature, whatever)’, the mother tends to shun the runt and deny their feeding. Natural selection can be nasty sometimes. All of this proves too much for Honest Cat, thus she leaves as Prince Robot IV gets back up.

Gwendolyn doesn’t look to be a runt, but she certainly violated the same rules. Her only redemption in this instance will depend on whether or not she means to get Marko’s aid to save The Will’s life. If she seeks only to punish Marko, now that he’s cornered, at the very least, she will have lied to Honest Cat. Lying to a cat is a dick thing to do – never do that. Her intention appears somewhat ambiguous as she closes in on Marko, Alana and Hazel high up the lighthouse, with nowhere to escape to. She reveals her intent as seeking knowledge on how to heal The Will, the man she loves. This may fall differently on various readers, as the bond had little time to develop. We only really had a few moments of thick sexual tension, but for the sake of pacing, we’ll go with it.

What follows is a somewhat amusing clash between tone and discourse. Amidst the fire and blood that tragically crowned the invasion on the late writer’s house, Marko tells Gwendolyn the information he requires in a very matter-of-factly manner. However, this is only under the assumption that the man she loves is from Wreath, like them. When Marko says that the healing method only works on their species, Gwendolyn starts getting aggravated. When Alana interjects with the intention to help, prejudice rears its hideous head. As a consequence, a furious Gwen points the lance at them. That escalated quickly, and it’s not the only way this can take an ugly turn. Prince Robot IV is still alive downstairs.

Turns out, the Prince’s reboot left him pretty woozy, and very non-dangerous for the situation at hand. In fact, he appears to have temporarily regressed to his role as a Coalition soldier. The best way to describe it is how you behave in your sleep when your job stresses you to the point of screaming into a paper bag in the workplace where nobody can hear you, like a cupboard, or the restrooms… but I digress. Izabel manages to fool him into thinking Klara a wounded fellow soldier. He carries her out of the burning lighthouse. Before ghost girl manages to fool him into rescuing Alana, Marko and Hazel, he makes for his ship. In this peculiar state, PRIV seems to follow an instinctive drive that calls him elsewhere, perhaps to his wife and unborn child.

Speaking of families, Marko’s is in trouble. Gwendolyn accuses Alana of being a homewrecker, yet Marko and the former never had a home. As she calls out Gwen about being obsessed and refusing to move on, she puts herself in deathly danger. Before Marko’s ex can skewer Alana and Hazel with her spear, he pushes them off the lighthouse. In the shock of the moment, he tries to talk some tranquility into Gwendolyn. In response, she tearfully says that the wound he left on her heart was too much. Before she can tax any retribution, Alana flies up for the first time with wings she had called vestigial, and a gun. This shift in advantage saves the day for Alana, Hazel and Marko, who knew those wings were anything but vestigial. Once again, they managed to dodge a frightful end, but their time on Quietus is now over.

Meanwhile, at the Hebdomadal, Upsher meditates on how to escape the effects of The Brand’s poison. Their boss offers them a chance to cover Prince Robot IV’s currently unknown whereabouts, but Doff refuses. His significant other and colleague argues that this could allow them a way to continue their work on the fugitives, to no avail. Speaking of the reason to their grief, The Brand is now at a hospital in Landfall for a visit. More specifically, she has come to visit The Will, her brother. She is visibly concerned, as all the comatose Freelancer can utter is Sophie, which turns out to also be his sister’s birth name. From the distance, Gwendolyn, Sophie and Honest Cat look into the room as The Brand holds her brother. Things are looking grim for the Freelancer that has earned our affection. Hope dies hard, though.

This will be the last time we’ll hear about the original pursuers for a while, as Hazel narrates. We have come thus to the end of the unofficial first arc. So far, it’s been quite the journey, and well deserving of praise. As a callback to the theme of codes and rules, we can think of literary tropes and conventions as rules after a fashion. After all, they set the defining shape for countless stories within the frame of resistance against adversity, and the notion that love conquers all. And, if anything, I would say that is the main theme of this comic: love, in many different kinds and expressions. The adherence to a foundational code, to a promise, to family, may all be conjugations of one or other kind of love. Without rules, without love, we have no firm ground to set our feet.

We certainly need sturdy footing, as we close the issue with Hazel’s first steps. What will await us as this comic series continues, as its characters mature? Stay tuned, friends. Rub a cat’s belly in the mean time. If you play by the rules, it will be a precious joy, I promise.


Saga Issue #18 Credits

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Fiona Staples

All images are courtesy of Image Comics

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