Sunday, May 26, 2024

Saga Proves that Baddies are People too

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Last issue we learned of the ‘unexpected virtue of depravity’. A baddie can be so entrenched in the foulness of his deeds that it becomes a code of sorts. The Will may stand on the more savage side of pragmatism. He may be a pervert and a killer, but he will not have the abuse of a child. Innocence is something he will not fuck with, or allow anyone to. He knows where to draw the line since he had walked along its boundary for so long. But, what about the other pursuer? What about the unstable, the ruthless Prince Robot IV?

Issue #5
“What would I do without you?”

Have you ever thought about somebody, only to immediately picture them sitting at the toilet? No? Never? I’m no expert, but that’s most likely a good thing. Nonetheless, that’s where we first meet Prince Robot IV on this issue. While he does his business, he occupies himself reading Alana’s favourite novel, which he seems rather fascinated with. He receives an incoming transmission from the Robot Kingdom; it’s the Princess. Some small talk ensues about current affairs, though soon she drops the bombshell: She’s pregnant. It’s quite a thing to hear while you’re in the shitter. It’s also a beautiful way to bring the figure of the Prince down to earth a bit.

A Landfallian soldier walks in on him to inform him of the latest news. It’s perfectly acceptable to catch a monarch in a compromising situation, so long as you have important information. They’ve found the fugitives and their kid. Therefore, we return to the events at the end of last issue. A platoon of Landfallian soldiers is ready to engage Alana and Marko. A brief spell of miscommunication ensues as Marko believes he can talk these fellows down. Alana knows better; they are aiming to kill. As the soldiers open fire, Marko manages to deflect a few shots with his sword. However, Alana is hit, prompting him to get a little upset.

Beloved readers, you unmistakably know an understatement when you read one. Marko goes Leeloo-Dallas-Multipassing-to-Diva-Plavalaguna-singing, with his sword, on the platoon. This festival of death goes on for a few pages, highlighting the brutality this ‘Wreathman’ is truly capable of. As he approaches one of the Landfallian soldiers who hasn’t been diced yet, he utters something peculiar. In his bloodlust, a fundamental loathing for the Landfall species rears its ugly head. This is most likely a bit of the war discourse engrained in military action. But that’s just the thing. His stance leans often to pacifism, possibly as a conscious effort to neutralise the soldier he used to be. The union of two opposed races implies an undoing of their roles as soldiers. Alana is quite aware of this, so she shoots him to get him to calm the fuck down. He is thankful for it.

Meanwhile, The Will and the little girl she rescued must get out of Sextillion. As they hastily make for the parking lot, she asks him if he’s her new master now. He denies this. The Will learns that this girl was born in a comet called Phang. She was sold by her uncle to pay for her brother’s bail after he’d been imprisoned. Nobody seemed to think working the sex trade would be part of the conditions, though.  (I guess Sextillion wasn’t enough of a hint, but what do I know). Before they can reach the ship, they are stopped by Mama Sun, the girl’s owner. Her presence is pretty imposing, and pretty fitting to the overall ambience of the planet. She has Lying Cat on a leash. The golden, scantily clad, purple woman is not happy about the freelancer killing her “groomer”.

She is willing to let The Will go, as courtesy to the Freelancers’ union. However, she will not allow him to take her ‘property’. As a guarantee for The Will’s cooperation, she points a gun against Lying Cat’s head. The Freelancer credibly threatens Mama Sun not to pull the trigger. It’s most dangerous to incur the anger of a Freelancer in this universe. Still, she has a card up her sleeve, figuratively speaking. Every ‘employee’ has poison injected in their arteries, which will harden should they leave before their term’s completion. She assures The Will this is a most painful and slow death. Even Lying Cat seems reluctant to acknowledge this as a truth.

Despairing, The Will has nowhere to turn. Mama Sun has the authorities in her purse, figuratively speaking. (Seriously, I don’t see any of the idioms’ physical counterparts on her) The only feasible option seems to buy the girl off Mama Sun. Naturally, the mistress places the girl at a huge expense The Will cannot hope to pay. Mama Sun takes the girl and lets Lying Cat go. Distraught, the Freelancer thinks of a way to save the girl from a fate that some would say is as desirable as death, if not slightly less.

Back to our nuclear fugitive family, they have taken the Landfallians’ ship. Being a former soldier herself, she has the mind to make the ship untraceable. Nonetheless, she admits to not having much experience flying this machine, as you do. We learn that Marko didn’t actually kill the platoon, though he was dangerously close to. He even left a spell to keep them alive until they received medical attention. Alana stepped in before he indeed managed to kill one of them. In a way, she was preserving the innocence he had found. In spite of it, Marko feels like he’d gotten them cursed. His concern is not out of a personal code, but a practical one. Violence begets violence. He fears consequences will befall them for his actions that day. Alana is pretty chill about it, content that they’d lived to fight again.

Before they can argue about the war-roles they were flirting with that day, Hazel starts giggling. Alana turns, astonished. Hazel hadn’t made a sound all day, but she seems to agree with her mummy. They live still, as a family. Personally, I can think of no better way to prevent dwelling on darkness than by witnessing a child’s joy. However, not all things are quite as well. Back at the site of the battle, The Stalk runs into the platoon, bound by Marko’s spell. It appears that she had traced her targets to this area. She receives a call from The Will, who is now rather interested in partnership. Such is his desperation to save this child from the life that awaits her.

Yet, as an inverse reprisal of their previous conversation back on Issue #3, The Stalk is not overly interested in his proposal. The call is cut short by the arrival of Prince Robot IV at the scene. The monarch questions the arachnid Freelancer on the events that transpired. She says she had nothing to do with it. The Freelancer reaches down her skirt for, possibly, for some manner of identification. But the Prince’s companion fears she may be reaching for a weapon. This trope never gets old, and always carries some degree of humour. The Prince freaks out, with a pacifier showing up on his screen. It may be that his wife’s news struck a nerve.

Regardless, he ends up blasting a hole in The Stalk’s chest, killing her, mid-call. Such times of quick heartbeats and confusion never end well. The Will has lost an asset in his mission to rescue the girl at Sextillion. Alana, Marko and Hazel have lost a perilous set of crosshairs on their back. Prince Robot IV has lost his shit, or will soon.

Putting this and the previous issues together, we get a couple of very discernible motifs. The first is the humbling of characters. The Will and Prince Robot IV are the adverse parties against Hazel, Alana and Marko. Yet, circumstances have made them pathetic (in the most classical sense of the word). They become sympathetic on one hand, and laughable on the other. Such problematic characters are interesting by themselves, since nuance is the natural enemy of flatness. Furthemore, they also represent the effects of the world they inhabit. They are wounds in the surface that heal each in different ways.

Innocence is the second, and certainly the most evident one. And we even get it through three different instances, three stages of a lifetime. Hazel is the innocence that must be preserved before the wartime context spoils it. The kid from Phang is the innocence that is in peril, but can still be retrieved. Marko is the innocence that stems from repetance over a life of violence. What else can one hope for to mentally survive in a galaxy marred by bloodshed?

Saga Issue # 5 Credits

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Fiona Staples

All images courtesy of Image Comics

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