One could say that nearly all long-term narratives are apportioned across sagas. In the world of superhero comics and animated stories, these sagas are commonly named “arcs”. More often than not, each arc defines itself through a set of rules; a distinct conflict, a state about the characters, and of course, a rogues’ gallery in particular. Because it would otherwise be considered poor and/or dull form, even times of peace require adversity. In Saga‘s previous issue, we achieved this peace, at a great cost. All baddies have halted their pursuit, for one reason or another, and the galaxy is ripe for Hazel to take her first steps. Her mum, her dad, her grandma, her ghost babysitter, and she can live the ordinary life of a family.
But a menace is bound to rear its hideous little head at some point. No matter how well you hide, when a paradigm of violent polarity seeks you, all planets and stars are each an eye. The galaxy does not forget.
It’s most appropriate that we begin this new arc in much the same manner as we did the first: with the birth of a baby. However, the birth of Princess Robot’s son is also very much different. It’s a birth with no taboo whatsoever, taking place in the comfort of a royal bosom, and lacking the hasty improvised manner in which Hazel was born. But then again, make no mistake, the Princess is as foul mouthed as the everybody else, given the right circumstances. Although everybody surrounding her has implicitly accepted that Prince Robot IV is dead, she doesn’t give up hope that easily. She knows he must still be alive, somewhere in the galaxy. And so, through Hazel’s narration, which is thankfully only moderately expositioning at the most, we begin to learn about the Robot Kingdom.
The Kingdom prospered well through picking Landfall’s side in the war, as it’s featured some of the most lavishly luxurious aesthetics so far. However, it’s almost too easy to focus on the goodies while completely forgoing the other side of things. Landfall didn’t let us get away with it, so why would the Robot Kingdom? Thus, it’s time to meet our first new character: Dengo, the Janitor. Naturally, he doesn’t feature the fancy-ass screen of the nobility, but one belonging to an old model with knobs. His appearance marks him instantly as a commoner, judging by how even the Robot newborn featured a pretty fancy screen-head. As we could expect, everybody else takes his role for granted, namely to clean after the baby’s birth.
But speaking of babies, let’s go visit Hazel. She appears to have a lovely day in the planet Gardenia, where her parents chose to go into hiding. Lovely weather aside, the planet’s current neutral stance in the war quickly made it an attractive option to settle during Hazel’s toddling years. Marko has chose to bandage his face as the guise of a war veteran as he waits on his daughter. She is at the bouncy castle, so you know he’ll be there for a while. In the mean time, he meets one of the locals, a woman who runs a dance studio for kids. Small talk ensues as she gives him a business card; you know, customary.
As they look at the kids, they reflect on the generational difference between their kids and them. They’re not feeling the menace of war nearly as much as they did at their age. Perhaps, the prospect of minors experiencing the war (as Marko did) has decreased. Another possible reason to this is how the war has come to spread thin across the galaxy. As the war continues, it becomes less localised. Thus, more territories have the liberty to take no sides, such as Gardenia. However, this hasn’t stopped the average citizen from harbouring political sentiment or sympathies. This blue lady, for example, strongly sympathises with the Wreath cause . This is all conjecture, of course. Saga does that to me. Enough about politics, let’s go look at the reason behind this issue’s cover.
It turns out that another reason to settle in Gardenia were the chances for Alana to pursue her dream. She has become a performer in the Open Circuit, portraying Zipless, a superhero-type in a soap opera-like gig. Much like the late D. Oswald Heist’s novels, these programmes are pretty rubbish, in a charming way. Hazel reveals that she’s watched a few episodes, and appears to feel suitably uncomfortable about it. The presence of a heckler enhances the shift in tone from Marko’s scene as Alana sasses the audience, as you do. However, this comes to a brief halt as the showrunner is not happy with this. She fires Alana, but somebody backstage has her back.
Meet Yuma. She is Heist’s first wife, the woman who inspired his fear of artists. One thing is to hear about somebody, and another is to meet them. It turns out that she’s very supporting, as she tries talking with the showrunner, even putting her job on the line. In the end, Alan’s employment lives to ham another day. Not only is she pursuing a dream, she does need this job. And in Gardenia, unemployment is a real issue. Way to make me lose my grin, Saga, making me think of real-life stuff. On the bright side, Alana and her family don’t pay rent, as they live in their rocketship.
However, in spite of these advantages and their new pet, a huge walrus named Friendo, difficulties still abound. Problems about money, and keeping a low profile, are putting some strain on the family nucleus. Saga keeps getting painfully real, ladies, gentlemen, and otherwise. The tension brew to the point of argument, but Hazel walking in on her parents defuses the situation real quickly. She narrates, as the three embrace in one of the purest joys a child can and should have, that this marked the beginning of the end. Her parents will eventually split up.
It matters not whether such familial dynamics occur on dull planet Earth, under the sea, or somewhere faraway in the galaxy. Life as a parent, trying to make ends meet, is an ordeal and there’s no time to be bored, only to endure and do your best for the sake of those you love. In hindsight, the parallel with the little baby robot’s birth is all the more scathing since the royal family won’t face the pressure that endangers our heroes. And even then, there’s still a big chance that the boy will grow without a father. For all variables, there is a potential struggle. The world of adults trying to survive in society is a thick miasma, yet our children are that candle that must never go out. And if it does, everything is darkness.
Kids are always the ones who pay the price.
Saga Issue #19 Credits
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
All images are courtesy of Image Comics