Thursday, June 20, 2024

Fanatism and Hubris Come at a Price in Saga

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There is this quote, which I’m sure you’ve heard. “One single death is a tragedy, one million deaths is a statistic.” There is some debate on the origin of the quote; whereas some claim Joseph Stalin, others claim German journalist Kurt Tucholsky said it first, and yet others call it a variation of Beilby Porteus’ “Death: A Poetical Essay”. It doesn’t really matter who said it first, because the spirit shines well enough on its own. War and tyranny have a way of striping individuality from the people. And this proved equally true in Saga. Alana and Marko’s eloping was a big transgression on its own, but Hazel’s birth was the ultimate deconstruction of the war paradigm.

Alas, even this child eventually becomes a mere asset for the cause of another. Regardless of any validity behind the Last Revolution’s efforts, they too have stripped the individuality off of somebody. To play a subversive role in this stage play of bloodshed and hatred, the rogue group essentially reduces a child’s individuality to a ransoming token. One way or another, war can make ciphers of us all.

Issue #29
“I’m sorry.”

Last issue, we knew Quain had extended the message towards both Landfall and Wreath. The half blood child in return for one hundred of the Last Revolution’s operatives. Although it would virtually make no difference who accepted the offer, we find that it was the lesser evil who is willing to take it. Wreath certainly invested forces in taking out Alana and Marko, but at least they wanted Hazel alive. Of course, that could still mean later over sooner in terms of a terrible doom for the child. Nonetheless, Secretary General Vez sets the terms: deliver kid to Wreath first, we free your people second. As for their captive, Alana, High Command demands her execution, much to her mother-in-law Klara’s rage. Quain apologises for their captive’s outburst, but it’s actually something else Vez takes offence to.

Dengo’s presence. It matters little to the Secretary General that the Princess’ killer is fighting against the Robot Kingdom. She would gladly turn the whole exchange down for the sake of racism (speciesism? make and model?). So now that the negotiating field has shifted, Quain thinks nothing of having Julep kill their newest ally. This open willingness to betraying their ‘comrade’ should come as no surprise considering what they’ve done so far. As you’d expect, Dengo is pretty surprised about this turn of events.

Meanwhile in Demimonde, Team Gwen is on the trek to Smiling Cave in search for Dragon spunk. That alone should sour the mood for all, but lil’ Sophie’s continuous “Are we there yet?” doesn’t help any. The Brand serves as guide, having visited the planet when she was a child. She also gives some insight on her family, also painting her brother under a more humane light. This mood-easing moment is the preceding amusement to one of those breathtaking moments (In true Saga splash page fashion, if you know what I mean). The grown-ups’ expressions and Gwen’s covering Sophie’s eyes serve as something of a visual cue for the reader: brace yourself. The good news is they do find a male dragon. Bad news is they walked in on him fellating himself.

No, I’m not going to put the image here. But I will say he looks mighty pleased.

In a turn that’s both amusing and disturbing, lil’ Sophie takes the view nonchalantly. Perhaps she’s more mature than the Gwen and The Brand give her credit for, or her former life in Sextillion dulled her to these impressions. Both are plausible. Regardless, the task appears far easier than at we first thought. They won’t need nearly as much courage as patience for him to finish and then pick up the ‘produce’. Both Sophies are quite up to the task. Young Sophie feels the most responsible for The Will’s current state and she’s lithe on her feet. Grown-up Sophie, on the other hand, feels it’s her duty since The Will’s her brother. So the latter will do it, much to the former’s annoyance. Mini-Sophie’s expression seals the deal for this brief comic relief.

Now we return to tension aboard the Dragon Skull, as Marko and PRIV are opposing resistance to the Robot Kingdom’s Royal Guard. In spite of Yuma’s sacrifice to repair the engines, this is most definitely a losing battle. The options are irremediably reduced to one or the other: fight or flight. In a peculiar turn of events, it’s actually Marko who proposes fighting. The new pugnaciousness may be a product of his epiphany a few issues ago. Although this represents a new resolve, it’s also a reckless approach in comparison to Prince Robot IV, who won’t fight his own people and acknowledges they’re heavily outgunned. So flight it is, or rather teleport away – which is perilous considering the ship’s current state.

Still, they managed to escape into safety, arriving at an icy asteroid field. Live to fight another day indeed, but Marko doesn’t see it this way. Instead he sees it as a precious loss of progress in approaching the planet where his family is being held. His frustration, though understandable, is not different to PRIV, who shares the stakes. Marko then takes to blaming Ghüs, which is quite uncalled for. Alas, speak of the cute devil, and he makes an appearance, this time with news of Yuma’s sacrifice. Sadness over this death cools the tension; even PRIV acknowledges the loss. But although temperance reigns, they are left distracted and open for collision with a big chunk of ice. So now, a Dragon Skull-shaped comet heads to a foreign planet.

Though alive, it’s basically back to square one for Marko and Prince Robot IV.

The bitter flavour prevails as we return to Alana, who desperately tries to reason with her family’s captors. But she is not and has never been a shrinking violet. There is purpose behind her plead to at least get to say goodbye to her daughter. Righteous, murderous purpose. Her pleading falls on deaf, uncaring ears, however. On the other side of the door, they hear Julep’s charging up, which spells Dengo’s execution. Unfortunately for blue amphibious lady, Klara has something to say on the matter. She tackles Dengo out of the way, intercepting Julep’s attack. The wound is grave, but not fatal. This is an open chance for Dengo to do the right thing, and kill these assholes. Quain, with Hazel in arms, resorts to bargaining – the Princeling’s safety as token this time.

Dengo’s not having any of that bullshit anymore. His atonement for trusting the wrong people comes with a bullet, directly aimed to Quain’s head. Brains all over the place, he holds Julep at gun point, releasing Hazel to go back to her mummy. Crisis averted.

We join Team Gwen at Demimonde. The Dragon has finished and sleeps easy, so it’s time to pick up the seed before it dries. However, while The Brand rolls up her sleeves, Gwen and her discover that Sophie is nowhere to be seen. That’s because the young one is already well on her way to collect the spunk. She successfully retrieves it, but not before the Dragon stirs from his post-release nap. Gwen, The Brand, Cat and Dog rush to get Sophie the fuck out of there. But the rescue takes a rueful turn as the Dragon chomps The Brand’s upper half, killing her. Gwen attacks with magic, but the lightning spell scares the Dragon away at a terrible expense to herself.

Gwendolyn lies wounded and unconscious. Sweet Boy griefs for his master’s gruesome death. Sophie stands with no physical harm on her. But her desire to atone for The Will’s current state has come at a terrible price. Oh Sophie, what have you done? The answer to that question is horribly clear on its own. She acted on good instincts, but not with the best judgement. The differences between Sophie and the now fragmented Last Revolution are monumental, but they do share one thing in common. A distortion between intent and means, albeit through different ways. Never before has the adage proven true in this comic: The road to hell is paved on good intentions.


Saga Issue #29 Credits

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Fiona Staples

All images are courtesy of Image Comics



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