Thursday, June 20, 2024

Betrayal and Redemption in Saga

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Friendship is magic, I’m sure I’ve heard that somewhere. We could say the same about kinship, trust and oath, which are sacred as foundational bonds that must never be broken. It’s no coincidence media portrays betrayal like a mark of shame that can never be cleansed. Some of the more prominent instances in contemporary media are Jamie Lannister as the Kingslayer, or the Red Wedding in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. But it’s even more telling that the final, deepest Circle of Hell is reserved for betrayers in the Divine Comedy. And you can’t get more foundational than that, as far as the arts go. Thus, we subject all betrayals to the same canon, and in this case, we have little else to say but “Et tu, Yuma”?

Issue #23
“Ponk Ponk”

We’re on the immediate aftermath of last issue’s biggest event: the rift between Alana and Marko. We know Alana’s been under the influence of Fadeaway to cope with her job in the presence of Hazel. And there’s a probability that Marko’s been unfaithful during his wife’s absence. The opening page to this issue is quite damning on Marko, all things considered. But although he’s come to Ginny’s house for moral support, he’s not actually seeking ‘physical comfort’. So, it seems there hasn’t actually been anything going on between the two, but it’s still pretty awful to express extramarital thoughts in your sleep. All in all, Marko just wants to patch things up with his wife. But Ginny urges him not to be out at this time of night. Some scary shit happens in the streets on the wee hours. Could she be aware of how right she is?

Somewhere else in Gardenia, Prince Robot IV comes upon the wreckage of a ship. In his search for Dengo, he finds lots of dead bodies, which is really grim when you’re looking for a kid. However, a recently soiled diaper is the irrefutable proof that his son is alive. Feces can be good news sometimes, go figure. But as far as the upstart’s actual location, only we readers know. And Yuma, since she has just witnessed him shoot her co-workers. Thus we’re at one of the most pathetic and shameful scenarios in fiction. That is, the combination of bargaining and betrayal for self-preservation. Therefore, Yuma attempts to reason with him that finding Hazel, product of a Landfall woman and a Wreath man, could aid his cause.

Now, Dengo doesn’t even buy that such a thing could ever happen, that a Wreathborn would ever willingly copulate with their oppressor. This could be an extension of his own discourse to a scenario beyond his very own, which is a skewed worldview, but I digress. Nonetheless, Yuma says exposing this child on a widespread medium could undermine Landfall’s credibility as ally of the Robot Kingdom. Thus, the Robot Kingdom would appear the victim in all of this. At first listen, this claim is pretty far from Dengo’s actual concern: the noxious inequality in the Kingdom. The idea also runs on a notion of cheap spectacle and falsehood. It’s not pretty, but Yuma is desperately bargaining for her life here. In the end, Dengo doesn’t buy, so he just shoots her. Still, the seed of thought is germinating, as he decides he may as well look for this child.

Back on the rocketship, Izabel approaches Alana to talk about what just happened. Alana quickly justifies kicking Marko out because of the domestic violence she witnessed as a child. Do keep in mind, he merely threw squishy groceries at her. Izabel then addresses Alana’s habit, which the latter claims to help her cope with PTSD. Here is when her line of discourse turns on its head, as Alana attempts to educate Izabel on the horrors of war… when Izabel is actually dead by actual war. And all to justify her usage of drugs. The ghosty babysitter tells her about a girlfriend she had back when she was alive, how she was all she could think of on the instant prior to her death. The moral is that tolerance is a rare find in a partner. It’s not wise to let go of a tolerant person once you find them.

As Izabel floats away, Alana pulls out a dose she had concealed in her gloves and ingests it. By the look of it all, she is effectively an addict now. And she needs help.

Meanwhile at Ginny’s, Marko took her up on the offer to wait the night out with a cup of tea. Idiomatic expressions can be a funny thing when involving hot beverages, as these almost always mean fucking. However, they’re literally just having a cup of tea, at first anyway. Eventually, in the midst of the silence, they lean in for a kiss. But before that happens, Marko spots Hazel’s sleepytime doll, Ponk Ponk. This prompts him to return home and to reveal to Ginny that he had been using his father’s name to conceal his true identity. The way he sees it, he was sullying Barr’s name with the way he’s been acting. Finally, he apologises and leaves. Although he had already committed the deed in thought and disposition, this farewell prevented him from committing it physically as well.

And indeed, Hazel can’t sleep without her Ponk Ponk. She’s been crying for an hour now and still no Ponk Ponk. Unfortunately, Alana doesn’t what Ponk Ponk is. But when Izabel tells her that Ponk Ponk is something she plays with dad, the floodgates break open. Tearfully, Alana declares that she hates her job, that she misses her family, her husband, and that she just wants everything to go back to the way it used to be. Most likely, this also means she hates her habit and wants no more of it either. Now, both parents have made a deliberate effort to bring their family back together, because that’s what matters most. Alas, it happened too late, as an intruder has broken into the ship. This is certainly no Ponk Ponk, but Dengo.

He shows no intention of harming any child, or most anyone, as he’s sympathetic to Wreath. However, he certainly means to take Hazel with him. And Alana will not allow it at any cost. So she takes desperate measures as commands the ship to blast off. In the middle of the ensuing confusion, Alana takes back Hazel while Klara wrestles Dengo to the ground and bites a finger off. Unfortunately, Dengo is still armed, and thus he turns the situation back in his favour. Gun in hand, he commands Alana to input coordinates of his choice, else he’ll kill Klara. And that is how Hazel’s parents split up. Initially through a heated argument, finally through someone else’s doing.

Marko arrives too late, seeing the rocketship, his home, take off without him. Little does he know, things are worse than he thinks. Yuma also arrives, bleeding heavily. She has come to try and make things right. And she damn better more than try, as she bears the most responsibility in all of this. But before the judging and the yelling, and possibly healing can begin, a third party arrives. Prince Robot IV. He looks all very ready to kill Marko, once and for all.


Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Fiona Staples

All images are courtesy of Image Comics

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