Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Saga: Close encounters and re-encounters of the sour kind

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We can’t always afford to treat ages-old adages as truth. Sometimes life has a way of taking tradition and shattering its seasoned validity with a vengeance. Thus, to assume distance always makes the heart grow fonder is to set us up for heartache. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. I’d rather let older Hazel do the better part of the subverting around here. As I’ve said previously, this arc is the bleakest so far. This issue is actually somewhat mild on that, with the exception of one moment. The misery and peril fest continues.

Issue #41
“Safe travels then.”

The contrast between different worldviews often shines the brightest when facing adversity. This principle applies to many instances such as political debates, speculation on unknown phenomena, and the danger posed by a giant dead baby about to enter the world’s orbit. Although Petrichor could well consider the Izabel retrieval mission a failure, priorities have changed. Having learned an inconvenient truth from a giant piece of talking fungi (by far not the strangest sentence I can associate with Saga), Petrichor has chosen to return with Marko, Alana and company to warn them of the impending collision. However, Jebarah’s overly pious conviction has her debate Petrichor’s intent to get them all off Phang.

Religion and belief are not binary concepts. There are multiple shades of influence for the things we, as humans, attribute to faith. However, Jebarah’s views are potentially endangering them all by allowing belief to translate into passivity, thus making her something of an equivalent to the cumbersome anti-vaxxers we know so well. Regardless, if the situation wasn’t dire enough, the subtle scent of expensive body-wash gets Petrichor even more on edge. I’d say Petrichor could do with some R&R if her instincts weren’t always so unflinchingly accurate.

Meanwhile, we join Alana and Sir Robot on the scene of a passional suicide about to take place. Alana tries talking the drugged-up former prince out of pulling the trigger on himself. Fortunately, the shame and embarrassment of unwillingly ‘expressing’ his desire for Alana on his head-screen makes for an effective distraction so that Marko can enter and try to defuse the situation. Unfortunately, Marko’s pacifist approach turns out to be quite useless (what a surprise!). Urged on by instinct rather than actual meditated intent, Sir Robot blasts against Marko, who barely manages to resist the blast with his shield. Marko suffers some damage, however. His wife tends to him after knocking Sir Robot out.

As usual, it seems the crew can only defuse the drama via impromptu acts of violence. Such is life.

Elsewhere, Hazel and Kurty play hide-and-seek while the world hangs on the verge of destruction. The situation by itself begs a rude awakening of sorts. But it’s not the news catastrophe incoming what brings their playtime to a halt. It’s The March, who make justice to their reputation by calling out for his target, Marko, with Kurti’s life as the bargaining chip. Thusly, timing proves quite inconvenient since Marko is still knocked out from Sir Robot’s fadeaway episode. The Freelancer speak their terms for all to hear, including an anguished Hazel. She has lost her friend and babysitter. Now she is also about to lose the only friend her age she has. Trauma conga line, much?

As something of a respite to the tension going on in Phang, we join Gwendolyn and Sophie as they talk about their mission. For the good of Wreath, they will be collaborating with Landfall forces on a few fringe tasks. That sounds shady as hell, and Sophie is quick to pick up on that. But enough talk about politics and underhanded tactics. It’s time to pay heed to Lying Cat’s purry meow, which foreshadows the return of a familiar face. Billy (formerly The Will before being fired last issue) has arrived to rebuild the bridge he tried to burn from the despair of losing his sister. Don’t expect warm, fuzzy feelings here, though. Both Billy’s physical change and the silence between them has taken the warmth off affairs.

The former freelancer’s intention is to reunite with his former partner, Lying Cat. And to take Sophie under his wing so she’d become a Freelancer herself. Gwen angrily protests to this, advocating for Sophie’s safety. The latter speaks from her place of agency, having grown up since the last time Billy saw her. She chooses to stay with Gwen on Wreath, doing her part to help their side. But she allows Lying Cat to accompany The Will if she chooses to. This leaves the cat in a notoriously difficult situation. In the end, however, she chooses to remain with Sophie and Gwen. Crestfallen, Billy accepts and says his farewells, walking into the horizon with Sweet Boy at his side.

A sad moment indeed – from Billy’s acceptance to the undebatable realisation that estrangement has made too wide a rift to be undone between former partners and friends. This marks the first in a chain of harrowing events in Billy’s path henceforth.

Now we return to the main conflict on doomed Phang. Jebarah and Petrichor go into sneaky mode to get Hazel while Alana comes out to confront The March, rifle in hand. Upon learning the nuances of his mission, Alana feeds him some bullshit. She claims that Marko took off with Hazel weeks ago and that she’d let the Freelancer have her new baby in exchange for their safety. The March seems to actually consider this before making a swerve, disarming Alana. In the face of peril, Hazel comes out from her hideout, using a spell to trigger fireworks around The March. A fancy distraction indeed. But the real magic is the remaining dot on The March’s male head.

A flurry of gun blasts follows, puncturing The March all over, and eliminating that particular threat. Marko has woken up just in time to make the save – something he’s been doing a bit too often, to be frank. At the time of re-reading this issue, I do feel Alana doesn’t get nearly as much opportunity to shine. The retaking of the violence mantle is also nothing new. But judging by Hazel’s retrospective narration, this time it may be permanent. In spite of the predictable turn of events, I do have to applaud the writing on this development. Violence certainly does act like some kind of venereal disease, which subverts D.Oswald’s notion that the opposite of war is fucking.

Going off this antithesis of an analogy, the disease is showing some really nasty effects. But we haven’t reached the really hairy stages yet. Little messed up Phang still remains space baby-bound. Catastrophe awaits, and then some. Stay tuned, lovelies. And while we’re on the subject, safe sex is happy sex.

Saga Issue #41 Credits

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Fiona Staples

All images are courtesy of Image Comics


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