Although the adventurous taste of righteous purpose was intoxicating last issue, we were left with a feeling of restlessness. What are the odds that Alana and Marko’s plan to rescue Hazel could interfere with Noreen’s, and vice versa? Since this story runs on the inexhaustible fires of Murphy’s Law, the worst-case scenario is always highly likely. This may well apply to both Hazel and Squire Robot’s respective situations. We’ll be taking each dire case one step at a time—not that it will do much to quell the unbearable tension. Each variable in a given plan constitutes a chance for it all to crumble.
True to the plan, Marko easily finds his way into the kiddies’ classroom, but a tad too late. Instead of his daughter, he encounters Petrichor, who quickly picks up on her new ability to understand and speak Language (a likely denomination for the common tongue in the galaxy). That, as we know, is the magic of Marko’s translator rings. Furthermore, she’s also swift to notice Marko’s smell, or rather it’s similarity to Hazel’s. That’s how she makes the connection that this fella is her dad. Quite a way to highlight Petrichor’s intensely efficient situational awareness. One thing still escapes her, though: How does Marko figure in Noreen’s plan? His confusion itself is the answer to that question. He doesn’t.
Things are starting to go wrong rather soon, eh?
Speaking of Noreen, she’s in the middle of executing her plan, with only one hurdle to jump. All she has to do is smuggle Hazel out into the parking lot. However, in spite of her reliance on the customary presence of her favorite private at the door, things take a wrong turn. A coup broke out in Phang (Lil’ Sophie’s homeworld), which led the Warden to bump up security. Thus, a search of that Solid Snake box is inevitable. Noreen tries to make a save by ‘remembering she left her phone in the classroom’, but to no avail. Since it’s still daytime, Izabel can’t come out to help. Noreen is left with a gun aimed at her and the prospect of ultimate failure looming dangerously. Just like that, because of a tiny shift in circumstance, everything falls apart.
Meanwhile, things aren’t looking much brighter in the Serpentine Belt. In spite of Ghüs’ bold resistance, Sweet Boy manages to unhorse (un-walrus?) him with his sweet sleepy time nose darts. As usual, ‘The Stalk’ insists on killing them, but The Will has no quarrel with them, and insists no harm is necessary. Ghüs sees it quite differently, so he seizes the chance and slices The Will’s fingers off, much to the shock of the Freelancer (and his hallucination). Now The Will probably does have a quarrel with Ghüs. In the meantime, Doff struggles to free himself. Again, playing to the contrast between Upsher and he, the former sees no reason to bother. This does nothing to dampen Doff’s efforts, though.
Back in Landfall’s prison, Klara and Lexis stage a fight to distract the guard. Noreen takes this chance to shove the private’s head into a wall, knocking them unconscious. Judging by her reaction and concern, she’s not accustomed to violence, yet she couldn’t have had her first taste at a better time. The tension begins to ease some, and the plans to get Hazel out of Landfall merge as Petrichor leads Marko into the scene. In a moment both endearing and amusing, the first thing Marko notices is his mum’s new tattoos. And Klara’s expression has a joy we haven’t seen in her for a long while, perhaps since her time with D. Oswald Heist.
Cue Hazel popping out of the box. What follows is a reminder that these aren’t characters who exclusively develop and execute their roles in an environment of strife. They’re also characters capable of experiencing happiness, even if temporarily.
At this point, we must keep in mind it has been years since Hazel last saw her parents. There’s even a chance she doesn’t remember them. Thus, sad but understandable, that Marko is careful in choosing his approach. It even looks like he’s prepared to be deemed a stranger by his own daughter. So he comes forward with Hazel’s doll, Ponk Ponk, in hand. This doll is more than a memento from an easier time. It is possibly now the only link he shares with Hazel. Carefully, Marko introduces himself as her father. In the end, however, there’s no need to be so delicately careful. Hazel certainly remembers him. And, well… I’ll let the splash page say the rest.
Mad props to Brian’s writing during Hazel’s narration. I dare say it’s where his talent shines brightest, and this reunion is no exception.
The mood whiplashes as we return to the Serpentine Belt. Ghüs lies unconscious with a nasty gash on his head from The Will’s fist. Squire Robot pleads to keep Ghüs from further harm. The Freelancer returns to his original intent by looking frighteningly willing to make good on a promise he made to PRIV—before offing him, he would kill everybody the Prince ever loved. This most definitely would include his son, innocent of his father’s crimes. Suddenly, the phantasm of The Stalk, which works as an enabler for all his violent impulses, transforms into another deceased figure from The Will’s past: his sister, big Sophie, The Brand. As a manifestation of his own conscience, she gives him a stern talking-to.
Acknowledging how much the loss of his sister, of his lover, and probably being stranded from his friends has affected him, he experiences an epiphany via his channeling of The Brand. Vengeance will accomplish nothing. Isolation has only prevented his pain from healing. He must return to those who care for him. So with Sweet Boy at his side, he returns to the ship causing no further harm. The scene is observed by Upsher and Doff, who have successfully escaped, the former’s attitude notwithstanding. Aware of the massive, unforgiving bullet they have dodged they share a tender kiss, their impromptu celebration for coming out of this alive.
Back in Landfall, it’s time for the getaway and a quick farewell between Hazel and her dear teacher. With his blade, Marko slashes a portal for Hazel to return to her mother; he and Grandma will be right behind. This is a sweet lie, unfortunately, as the helm can only carry one more person through the portal. This is a spot reserved for his mother, Klara. But in spite of his vow to do everything in his power to also get Lexis out, Klara refuses. Marko’s mum has now achieved a sense of community in this place. Her reassuring words are followed by love and pride, which brings tears to Marko’s eyes. Before anyone can stop her, Petrichor takes the last remaining spot.
On the other side, Hazel arrives in the family’s rocketship in the midst of an argument between her mum Alana and Sir Robot. Before we get a chance for another heartwarming embrace, Petrichor attacks Alana. She’s probably still under the impression that Hazel’s conception was a consequence of interspecies rape, rather than the product of love-making between two members of mutually antagonizing sides. Sir Robot’s presence probably doesn’t do much to discourage Petrichor’s assumption. After the necessary explanations, Petrichor declares that she wouldn’t have killed Alana anyway, since taking out a pregnant woman is a kind of low she’d never stoop down to.
The contrast between Marko and Alana’s faces in reaction to this news sets us on a course towards new experiences, worlds, wackiness, and tragedy. Stay tuned.
Saga Issue #36 Credits
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Images Courtesy of Image Comics