Saga, as a whole, is about a journey. The mechanics of which shift between ‘away from’ and ‘on the pursuit of’, dictating the way in which we root for Alana, Marko, Hazel, and their extended family. But though they’re at the centre of this narrative, the agony of other characters still snatches our attention as they join the drama.
On this occasion, a character’s death has allowed for the return of two characters from the first arc. However, Upsher and Doff have missed aplenty since. If they’re to join the ride anew, they’re in for some catching up, which will prove no dull matter. This issue, we join the dynamic Hebdomadal duo on a journey of their own.
“It’s our job to go through the dirty sheets.”
What better way to reintroudce this pair into the narrative than by some great news? Well, the term ‘great’ is relative here. Upsher brings his partner the news of The Brand’s death by the latest headline on a newspaper called The Suns (which happens to be printed in Hebrew). Much like her brother, The Will, The Brand became a rather likable character once you got past the whole Freelancer gig.
But the loss that some would mourn, others will celebrate. That’s the wonderful realm of pragmatism and conflicts of interests for you. In this case, older Sophie’s death means the poison she used on the journos is no longer operating. This means they’re free to hop back on that scoop on Alana and Marko; well, Upsher seems to think so at least.
On the other hand, his partner Doff let go of the scoop long ago. He also doubts Upsher’s claim that the substance wore off with the Freelancer’s death. However, Upsher’s obsession with revealing the truth of what may not still be ‘the story of the millennium’ dies hard.
The only actual hurdle ahead is their editor, but he greenlights their investigation project, hinting there’s still some interest on the matter. Little do they know, things have changed significantly since the last time their trail was warm. Upsher’s starting lead is that one time when Zipless quoted a line from D. Oswald Heist’s novel in the Open Circuit. Not entirely solid, but as we know, he got it right—that was Alana. He then produces a picture of Ginny, as well as a classified ad directed to a warrior from Wreath—that’s Marko. By now, the links have become something of a chain. The most plausible destination to pick up the trail is a place called The Uncanny Valley, the place where the Open Circuit has been broadcasting.
At this point, Doff offers a counterpoint to his partner’s zeal via the first sensible question anyone has asked in this comic. Why not leave them alone? Indeed, why not? Well, the answer is obvious: we wouldn’t have a story to read; this logic is reprised in-universe by the craft of the journalist. And here we have a special contrast between Upsher and Doff. The latter would show some decency and even empathy, living in a planet full of prejudice. On the other hand, Upsher is quick to dismiss this. He is perfectly okay with potentially ruining Alana and Marko’s lives if it means reinvigorating his career. Thus, the duo begin their trek, unaware of the storm they’re sailing into.
First stop is Gardenia, the last place Alana, Marko, and Hazel lived as a nuclear family. Ginny is eager to ‘mistake’ the journos as handymen in order to keep the interview a secret to her husband. It’s kind of easy to misconstrue Marko and Ginny’s proximity as something other than friendship, after all.
Early on, she reveals several bits of information. One, the Wreath half of the scoop’s name is Marko. Two, the elopees’ daughter was kidnapped by the Robot Kingdom. Or so she believes, anyway. Although we know the responsible party was actually Dengo, they still get their next lead. A faraway planet called Outcome, the last stop before the Solar Graveyard. Sounds like a grim place for Marko’s last call over a year ago.
This destination proves something a problem, as they discuss later on that night, while making love at a motel. Talk about consummate professionals. The place is not ideal for a swift search, being a wasteland of stars and all. And their budgetary limitations don’t spell an easy task ahead. A relatable problem, that one.
Here’s when Doff raises the stakes by suggesting they tell their editor at the Hebdomadal the truth. The possible involvement of the Robot Kingdom looks too enticing to pass on. Upsher initially believes Doff has become enthusiastic about the story. That’s not quite the case, though. Doff is following his moral compass here: a child’s life is in danger. Although Upsher and Doff are the ultimate representation of that Paula Abdul song, their differences don’t make the slightest dent on their love.
This new and strong morale will definitely set their efforts on the right track. Little do they know, an unknown party appears to observe their progress unfold.
Later on, their diligence in Outcome strikes gold. They follow the signal on Doff’s way-cool-camera-thingie to a snowy planet, where they find the wreckage of a Dragon Skull. It’s PRIV’s ship, which previously belonged to The Stalk. This would seem a dead end, given the inhospitable surroundings. But Doff’s knowledge of botany yields a new clue. These flowers, called Violents, appear to grow in the trail of bloodshed, and they lead towards several sets of footprints. Doff is busy enough examining these traces, but Upsher becomes alarmed at an unwelcome presence. A considerably overweight The Will appears, with his deceased sister’s Sweet Boy at his side. As we know, life hasn’t been kind on him since last we saw him, so his intentions as of right now are uncertain.
His attack on the journos via spear and Sweet Boy immediately dispel all illusion of a peaceful encounter. He has come to this planet, tracking The Stalk’s ship using the dragon’s eardrum. The ultimate intention is finding Prince Robot IV, which suggests a quest for vengeance. However, an addled state of mind by apparently hearing voices adds a disturbing dimension to his task. He figuratively twists the knife in the wound by doing just that, except with his spear skewering Doff. This doesn’t kill the photographer, but does ensure their full cooperation for whatever he’s planning. And it probably won’t be pretty. Seeing him like this makes me wonder what happened to Gwen, Sophie, and Lying Cat.
Uncertainty at seeing a dreadful present can be a killer.
Saga Issue #33 Credits
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples