Sunday, June 4, 2023

The Number 50 Marks a New Journey in Saga

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In my experience as a comic book reader, I’ve known plenty of titles that keep a particular tally on longevity. For widely-known, well established names, this is often a matter of tradition. But for newer titles, this may be a seal of pride in attaining and maintaining a readership of their own. It’s surely a process involving countless obstacles, the likes of which I can only dare a vaguely informed guess. But I digress. Issue number one is an accomplishment, issue number ten is a challenge overcome, and so forth. However, issue number fifty represents the possibility of reaching issue one hundred — that is, of course, if the story can still glide smooth on its own.

Since we’re talking about an Image title, it may be noteworthy to consider Spawn as an example, having featured a twofold-sized issue to celebrate its budding tenure. At the time, we could think this a fitting means of celebration, since Spawn wasn’t yet Todd McFarlane’s convoluted blob of vanity. Eisner-winning Saga is certainly deserving of going a little overboard for the big fifty. Alas, there is only but a slight tone of home-warmth as allusion to longevity. Beyond that, this is actually a very sober issue. It maintains most of its focus on carrying on with the story, rather than celebrating its history.

Issue #50
“We’re going to do what the grownups do when they get into trouble.”

The events here are basically an extension of last issue’s mood. Alana and Marko have finally reached a point where they can look brightly to the future. Though aware of their perennial state as fugitives, they’re not on the run from any evident peril. Furthermore, this tone extends even to the former enemy Sir Robot, providing our heroes with some unlikely extended family. Thus, it’s no wonder this issue would start with some carefree, watery love-making between Alana and Marko. As chance would have it, this is basically them leisurely celebrating their anniversary in Jetsam. Of course, given their current location, they discuss their decision to decline Upsher and Doff’s offer.

One thing is fore sure, they don’t regret their decision. However, we can’t speak as surely about Sir Robot, who did take them up on their deal. His reluctance about his son, Petrichor, and himself being turned into amphibians in return for the dirty he has on Phang’s destruction has manifested into almost palpable anxiety. Then again, it may be his usual belligerent behaviour at play. And even then again, the picture on his head-screen is not an encouraging one. As a counterpoint to the tension weaved in this part of the narrative, the collective Robot-Upsher-Doff snark is as effective as one would expect. We always do need a few sour chuckles, don’t we?

However, whereas the grownups are looking at respective futures to embark on, the children in this story only have the present. And it’s one in risk of slipping away. We walk in on a bittersweet moment between Hazel and Petri. This is the last time the latter will train the child on the art of fighting. The reveal of her agreeing to be transformed into an amphibian to safely be with Sir Robot certainly spells an imminent farewell. While I really would have liked to see more moments between Hazel and Petrichor, the pain of parting doesn’t come out of the left field. On the sweeter side of things, Petrichor is visibly proud of Hazel’s progress. Baby’s come a long way, for sure.

Elsewhere we get another farewell, this time between Squire and Ghüs. Ever the (sadly) dutiful son, Squire has voiced no complaints about his father’s decision. The boy is civil and polite as always, but we can definitely detect the sadness in his words. Little do most know, however, the farewell about to occur is not the one everybody expects. In the solitude of his room, Squire confides in Hazel’s beloved doll Ponk Konk, who’s apparently sort of a conscience to the boy. Squire is ashamed about lying to Ghüs, but he needed to keep his true intentions hidden. Interestingly, his phrasing when talking to Ponk Konk is pretty ambiguous. We don’t know if by ‘we’, he means boy and doll, or boy and girl.

All we know is that he plans to run away, possibly with Hazel. Methinks we got there a major conflict to unfold for upcoming issues, nonetheless. And judging by the way future Hazel spoke about Squire in her narration, she will probably have a role to play. It may be now time for a little critical distance. Desintegration in the family, and the rightful reuniting are two parts of a pretty engaging dynamic in the comic. It has introduced a sense of urgency and a major reason to root for the heroes.

However, one can reasonably feel concern that such process may become a bit of a cliché in Saga. Time will tell if this dynamic shall remain fresh with this new configuration. If so, it will probably still be cool to see the grownups team-up with a shared goal of getting their kids back.

Of course, this is not the only danger approaching. Ianthe has finally again made an appearance, this time in Jetsam as well. That sounds bad, and it gets worse, as she proves deadly competent in following the tracks of our heroes. Her despicable quest has led her to the dwelling of one Zlote, former associate to Upsher and Doff. He’d already made an appearance before, highlighted by ownership of a cool Lying Cat, the very same cat Ianthe just had killed as encouragement to get his cooperation. She didn’t get her hands dirty, though. Rather, she had a minion of her own to do the nasty for her. All with the single press of a button. As sinister as it gets.

Meet The Help, formerly known as The Will. His body seems to have been worked back to shape. But just look into his eyes, and you’ll see how the abuse has broken him inside. One can imagine what terrible devices and means Ianthe has used to mold Will into her personal (unwilling) killer. The outlook seems even darker for whatever she’ll be willing to do to get her hands on Hazel. How this piece will fit with Squire (and possibly Hazel’s) plan is still a mystery, one I personally await with bated breath.

Saga Issue #50 Credits
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Images are courtesy of Image Comics


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