Sunday, June 23, 2024

Saga Brings out the Roots Beneath the Bloody Soil

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Family is important. It’s the first approach we have towards most important things in life; the way we relate to others, our values and pizza topping preferences. But like all foundational units in society, it’s composed of individuals. Forgoing this fact nulls their necessity and relevance. As each a person, we are the product of our context and our upbringing, and the wild shit that may come up. Last week, we peeked into Marko’s past; it’s only natural that this time we start off by looking at Alana’s.

Issue #8 “This is the best book I’ve ever read.”

We’ve known about Alana’s fascination with a certain kind of novels from a not-too-interested former co-worker. Prince Robot IV has certainly taken notice of it. As a consequence, he’s been quite dedicated in using Alana’s favourite novel to predict the fugitives’ moves. His peculiar and unstable screen psyche may even get some enjoyment from it. But not one of those opinions matters next to Alana’s expression as she deems A Night Time Smoke the best book she’d ever read. We’ve all had that same face at some point of our lives, when our lives become instantly enhanced by the work of an author. At that precise moment when our breath escapes us, we feel nobody will ever appreciate our favourite book as we do.

In Alana’s case, it may be quite true. It appears to be lunchtime at prison when Alana tries to get McHenry to read the book so they can talk about it. It’s actually rather adorable to see the enthusiasm in her face, even as she grabs a weapon to calm down a prisoner, who’s making a fuss yet again. Prisoner #9763572 seems to have a bit of a loud reputation, as does Alana about her book. However, as their eyes meet, this proves to be the most superficial affinity they’ll share. Of course, this troublesome inmate turns out to be Marko. Hazel begins her narration on this chapter by saying this is how her parents met. It’s as cliché a moment as you’d expect, but that doesn’t make it any less lovely.

Normally, you’d never expect a Landfallian warden bothering to even hear a Wreathborn prisoner’s words. Their species are separated by ongoing war and even a language barrier. However, let’s consider Alana’s favourite book. It’s a love story between two people of different species and social status. The relation between these intradiegetic characters is almost predatory. One is a rock monster, and the other is the daughter of a quarry owner; the rest tells by itself. It might just be this novel what opened her horizons, or at least made her willing to bridge some polar opposites. Still, let’s us not forget this is an Image comic. Vaughan and Staples may let us toy with the cliché for a bit, even revel in its sweetness. But rather than give us the easy rom-com path, they’ll give us Alana knocking Marko in the jaw with the back of her rifle. Good going.

Back to the present day, we see Hazel gently put on her nest-like cradle by her grandfather. He did the same for Alana while the sleepytime spell lasted. Subverting last issue’s ending, it seems that his intentions were far humbler and purer than the nefarious foreshadowing. Barr, as he now introduces himself to his daughter-in-law, is really just a man with much to do in what little time he has. Alana, however, does not seem to trust him so readily, as she climbs out of bed to get to her daughter. She calls for the ship to help her, but Barr says that it has already agreed to assist him with his “project”. He’s looking to finish it, whatever it is, before his wife and son return.

Speaking of, let’s look at Marko and his mum’s predicament. Well, there’s that thing again, angry, and nude, and nude, and very, very, angry. While his mum is quite ready to kill it, Marko would rather just cast a binding spell on it. They are, after all, trespassing on him, which rather sounds as compromising as walking in on somebody while doing whatever. Regardless, his mum accepts to help him cast that spell. Marko then aims to communicate with the giant while he’s bound and harmless to know Izabel’s location. At the first mention of Gwendolyn’s translation rings, his mother takes the conversation back to her son’s wife. He lets her know, in no uncertain terms, that he won’t tolerate foul words about his wife.

Meanwhile, back the ship, Alana wakes up with her baby on her chest. At the edge of the bed, she finds a strange package wrapped in leaves. The young mother is quick to find Marko’s dad, who is busy working on the ship’s spinning wheel. Barr has bridged the gap between species by offering a gift to Alana. He made new clothes for her with the flowers supplied to him by the ship. Barr is an armourer, so the clothes he crafted are also ray-proof and gunpowder-resistant, though ineffective against stabbings. He advises her to watch out for that. But before he can continue making more protective garments for everyone, he suffers a sharp pain on his chest. The disease is claiming him.

Alana is not having any of that; she is determined to keep him alive. But much to her sorrow, there is no cure to his illness. He won’t tell his son or his wife, for he doesn’t want to live his final days in sorrow. Barr, the armourer, would much rather make the best of what time he has left, all for the people he cares for. He’s heard Alana talking in her sleep, and it became clear to him that she indeed loves his son. With some shame in her expression, she admits that it hadn’t always been the case. She acknowledges his faults, but also his graces. Truly, what better thing to say to your in-law? She emphasises that she finds his son to be beautiful, and she doesn’t necessarily mean only his looks.

Back on the desolate planet of the grand-sacked giant, Marko is trying to establish some communication. Fard, the giant, is certainly not pleased, and threatens the Wreathborn mum and son with “eating their souls and pissing them out his anus”; charming. Of course, such graphic threats mean little in the condition he’s in. Marko lays down the terms succinctly: he’ll let Fard go if Fard tells him whereabouts of the ghostly half a teenage girl. The creature tells him he saw the little phantom wandering Shadow City, but that they’ll never reach her before something he calls “the birth”. It turns out this is not a planet, but an egg about to hatch.

Meanwhile, on some beachy planet, a seahorse-like creature from Brio Talent Agency takes a call from an unsatisfied client: Wreath High Command. The call centre executive acknowledges that BTA has had problems with the “twisted couple with the baby” gig. The Stalk is dead, and The Will is going through personal issues, he says. The client cares little about these two Freelancers’ replacement. Instead, they’ve chosen to speak face to face. Enter Gwendolyn. She looks unsatisfied, alright. Here’s hoping nothing happens to the seahorse guy. God knows call centre people already have it tough.

So ends this issue. One could wonder why is it we didn’t see kiddie Alana as we did kiddie Marko last issue. I must confess I feel rather bummed about that myself. This said, the omission sows the thought that kids in Landfall learn about the realities of war with a more systematic method, as opposed to the “lessons” from Marko’s parents. Maybe we’re not looking at the past for the mere sake of it, but the past in relation to their current roles as two polarities functioning as one unit.

Alana’s favourite book has proven to be more than a humourous jab at mediocre literature and its consumership. It has given us a neat little motif of “life imitating fiction” within the story, and a piece of advice. Names are not dropped in this comic just to give an illusion of depth. Everything is potentially relevant.

The little things that we have read and will read may come up. We don’t know how many, but for now, we know Marko’s ex will be crossing our heroes’ at some point. We know Hazel will be loved by her grandpa… for as long as he’s around.

Saga Issue #8 Credits

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Fiona Staples

All images are courtesy of Image Comics

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