At this point, there is little I can say to sell anyone on why Saga is a worthwhile read, let alone what makes it deserving of an Eisner Award. Short answer is: it’s a new take on an old formula. Slightly longer answer is: it seeks to convey its simplicity with a lot of efficiency and uniqueness. There is more to it, of course, but I like to leave the nuances for individual discovery or ensuing analysis. This comic sometimes likes to do neat things with its narrative, mostly subverting the linear telling of events. However, in those temporal ‘fractures’, some events function as a respite of sorts. Occasionally this means time to treat some wounds.
“In the end, nobody really escapes this thing.”
We’ve met plenty of people around Marko. We’ve met his lovely wife, his daughter, his parents, and even his spiteful ex. However, we can’t quite say the same about Alana, other than for a former co-worker who wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about her favourite novel. From the very first page, we break the pattern with a visit from the sassy amphibian tabloid journalists we first glimpsed in last issue. These two introduce themselves as Upsher and Doff from the Hebdomadal (All associations implied with the name of his publication may be incidental… perhaps). They’ve come to gather information about Alana, though her family was warned to stay discreet on the matter of her ‘abduction’. Although the journos from Jetsam intended to have a word with her dad, they have to settle with Even, Alana’s stepmother.
I’m going to be a bit spoiler-ish here by saying Even bears only less-than-passing significance (as far as I’ve read). However, she actually appears to be unwittingly responsible for the whole of the events in Saga. Even got together with Rustik, Alana’s father, long after legally separating from Alana’s biological mother. Accepting someone else into that role can’t possibly be easy, especially if that person is your age. A look at the wedding picture implies that nobody but (possibly clueless) Even herself was happy about this new union. Alana joined the army only months after Even moved in, thus sparking the narrative we know thus far. In spite of all, Alana’s stepmum doesn’t seem malicious, dismissing the possibility that she’d willingly defect to Wreath. It’s pretty obvious that the eloping and Hazel’s birth have been kept under wraps.
Far away from this mundanely pleasant scenery, we travel to Quietus while Hazel foreshadows a few events to come. Being self-aware, she shuts up in order to keep the story going. D. Oswald Heist has just rescued our heroes and is suitably annoyed about the presence of Wreathborns in a Landfallian colony planet. However, he is shaken off his surly mood when they tell him that Alana is a proper Landfallian, and their kid is legit half-breed. Dropping his bottle as an alky does only in the presence of utter wonder, he confirms what’s been hinted throughout the comic. A Nighttime Smoke IS a literary work advocating peace between the two races. Some beautiful geeking out ensues, as well as a touching moment of a writer knowing his work was worth it. I long to feel that someday.
In the end, we get Hazel’s baptism-by-alcoholic-vomit, as you do. And this is how the fugitives, the ghostie girl and the mum-in-law came to stay at Heist’s lighthouse. C’est la vie.
Meanwhile, on some other verdant planet where sharks with colourful spots soar about the air, some bonding is taking place. The Will is teaching Gwendolyn to use his spear, and she proves naturally adept at it to catch dinner. Things are looking swell between them, but Sophie struggles to separate herself from habits of servitude she developed as a slave. This concerns the Freelancer the most, and appears to be a factor towards a decision he has recently made. He’s retiring, which baffles Gwendolyn. Yet his decision brought upon by last issue’s epiphany is final, apparently. The fact that he still sees and hears The Stalk may have something to do with it as well.
The phantasm of his lost lover talks him into kissing Gwendolyn, and he ends up giving in. This kiss is everything you’d expect from the heat of the moment, and it has a nice bloody punch at the end for his cheekiness. Nonetheless, the sexual tension remains. and I don’t think (or want) that the Stalk would go away anytime soon.
Back on Quietus, our heroes start settling at their host’s abode. Alana experiences a bookgasm at seeing her favourite author’s workplace. Marko and Izabel are likewise looking around. In the meantime, Heist means to treat Klara’s ear wound, but the mention of Cartwright prompts a painful follow-up. The expressions on Alana and Marko settle further sorrow on this place we, as readers, don’t actually know about. By the sound of it, we’ve come upon the Saga equivalent of the Somme. The writer explains that his first wife was killed during the events at Cartwright by Wreath forces. Naturally, this introduces a dark tint in the mood, especially considering he’s granting asylum to two people from Wreath. His wife, Missy, was not a soldier, but a street musician. Klara asks her son and daughter-in-law to leave the room for a moment. It’s time for the grownups to have a chat.
For the first time since we’ve known her, Klara looks to be other than pissed, stressed, and untrusting. Heist and she bond over their losses from the war, some of which – as we’ve learned back on Issue #12 – occurred after the dust had settled and the guns stopped firing. The writer quickly figures out that she’d lost her husband recently and offers his frank sympathies. Finally, same as with Klara’s ear, the heartaches must heal. The hatred and the zeal of war are buried thusly, or rather, drowned with a drink. Truly, a glass of whiskey (or a suitable equivalent– in moderation) can bridge chasms born from violence. I’m not advocating any consumption, but it has worked for me in the past. Hazel’s narration hints that something might spark between these two.
Back on the lush, green planet where our favourite pursuers do roost, Sophie kicks back with Lying Cat on the grass after dinner. In a manner of mental exercise, she repeats to herself her name, her age and her dreams and aspirations. When she says she’s dirty within because of her life as a slave girl, Lying Cat does her thing, denying she’s anything other than pure. She’s smiling, and quite frankly, it’s a very sweet image (Fiona Staples, I love the way you do expressions). Meanwhile, back on the ship, Gwendolyn keeps on chewing The Will out on his decision to retire. The argument doesn’t go for long, though, as they receive a call from Bel Hundo, one of the Freelancer’s informants. This weasely fella relays some info of utter importance. He spotted a ship, but it’s not quite the one Will and Gwendolyn are looking for.
It’s not a tree ship, but one made out of a dragon’s skull. It’s The Stalk’s ride. And we know what that means. Prince Robot IV is hot on the chase, and bound for Quietus, where we know he’ll hold Mr. Heist at gunpoint. And so, the events between Issue #11 and 12 are clear.The only way from here is forward. However, there is a new development quite a distance away from the nucleus of conflict at Quietus. This sassy duo of practitioners of the dubious art of tabloid writing are approaching the truth concerning Alana and Marko. Unstable as he may be, PRIV follows the trail for the sake of his family. Even The Will presents a lessened menace through his decision of retiring. On the other hand, a journalist is always a potential wild card. Always.
Saga Issue #14 Credits
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples