Much like childbirth and British Pro Wrestling, a cliffhanger is one of the finest, most beautiful things in life. Choosing a particular spot to suspend the narrative in order to generate suspense is a direct communication between author(s) and the recipient. The reader travels across the events of the story, and as a response, the writer sets a scenario wherein the reader’s mind suggests a variety of possibilities to follow. And that is where the charm is in peril of falling apart. Unless planned prior or properly executed, the actual followup can seem a feeble attempt at meeting the reader’s expectations. The communication thus breaks apart, and the recipient closes the book and goes out to chase squirrels in the garden. Rodents may carry diseases, but few so awful as disappointment.
So, this begs the question. How well does Saga pick up after last issue’s cliffhanger? You got a family divided, a gun to one of the heroes’ face, and a revolution of commoners in the works. Wherever you turn, it all looks grim. How do you set foot back on such hostile grounds…?
Why, with an adorable character, of-fucking-course! Other than the late D. Oswald Heist, we didn’t get to meet many people in misty Quietus. So, it’s time to right that wrong by means of walrus farmer Ghüs, wee seal-guy with an ax taller than he. At the moment, he’s being questioned by a familiar face, The Brand, with her animal partner, Sweet Boy. We have seen the Freelancer play both the pragmatic and often ruthless role of her profession, as well as that of loving sister. In fact, it’s the latter purpose that leads her to this place, as she’s looking for whoever was responsible for her brother’s injuries. He knows nothing on those events. However, he revealed he’d sold Friendo to Alana, Marko and company, so The Brand knows they had something to do.
Furthermore, now she also knows The Will was in the company of a woman with horns and a little girl.
Speaking of Gwendolyn and Sophie, it’s been a long time since we’ve heard of them. This would be their first appearance since Issue #18. And they’re staying busy alright, breaking and entering into an archive in Patent Planet. It looks like they’ve taken on quite an important task, one that necessitates smarts and slashing through ugly, rape-y guards. And it’s just as well, as Gwendolyn has become more proficient in combat, and Sophie’s been hitting the books. And wherever their skills may be lacking, fan favourite of the ages, Lying (Honest) Cat will be there to do do some lashing and biting. The efficiency of teamwork must never be underestimated. In fact, they may need to synergise as best they can, for The Brand wasted no time. She’s right outside, having easily tracked her brother’s ship.
Seeing Gwendolyn wearing The Will’s cape was enough for The Brand to indicate that she was responsible for her brother’s current state. Lying Cat is the first to sense danger, so she quickly enters battle mode. But before she pounces, starting the duel between cat and dog, Sweet Boy sneezes sweet sleepy darts. Thus, Gwendolyn and Sophie’s animal protector is down and napping now. This leaves Gwen to resist against the Freelancer; but for all her practice with The Will’s spear, she has nothing on The Brand’s switchblade. Sophie speaks out before blood is shed, saying that she was the one who stabbed The Will. This is true, under the effect of hallucinogenic food back in Issue #15.
In fact, that incident is the very reason Gwen, Soph and Cat came to this planet. They know, as big Soph does, that The Will’s condition has been deemed beyond fixing by the doctors. (Stop me if you’ve heard that one before.) So, to bring him back to health, the trio’s gone to great lengths to acquire a formula for an elixir to heal those wounds. The motive of atoning for this incident is evident, however the Freelancer asks if Gwen harbours feelings for her brother. Gwen, being Gwen, denies this. Regardless, big Sophie offers to aid them, under the condition that little Sophie doesn’t become involved. Lil’ Soph and Gwen protest, only accepting The Brand’s help if under their conditions: all together, or not at all. It’s possible that the Freelancer’s concerns prove valid across the search of the elixir’s ingredients.
Actually, the first ingredient to get already sounds like a questionable one with an equally questionable method of acquisition. Dragon semen, which they’ll find in Demimonde, a planet which happens to be The Stalk’s homeworld. Sophie doesn’t know who this ‘Stalk’ is, but we remember The Will’s former lover. Cue a considerably explicit scene of a man literally fucking a half-woman, half-spider. Time after time, Saga has proved to be unorthodox and surreal in aesthetics, but this might have set the bar a new high or low, depending on how you see it. But I digress. This flashback on The Will and The Stalk’s life reveals that parenthood was always something of a troublesome topic between the two. One that possibly came up relatively often during their intimacy.
Mayhaps the notion of being more than the job description visited his thoughts every now and then. We could even call it a desire to be a simple family man. If such is the case, then it makes perfect sense that The Will’s hallucination to get together with Gwen after adopting Sophie had taken on the form of The Stalk. The form it took for Sophie was her mother. who ‘talked’ the child into stabbing the Will. But as we could see in the last page of Issue #15, this ‘murderous counselor’ took on the form of The Stalk from his perspective, maybe as a punishment for failing to abide by this intent. It’s all conjecture, of course. All that we know for certain is that The Will is unconscious and bound to his hospital bed, where the nurses are free to nick him while saving him, the assholes.
Meanwhile, back in Quietus, Ghüs receives a visit from Yuma. She has come bearing grave news about Friendo, who was the best walrus in his herd. Although the family he sold her to has taken fine care of her, she’s in trouble. Yuma asks him if his tribe’s link to their animals can allow him to track the walrus. Ghüs looks unsure, but he confirms there’s a possibility. And that’s just swell, as an unlikely pair could use some help from that trait. Marko and Prince Robot IV have teamed up, united by fatherhood. Bush lady, and seal guy thus join the party. And judging by Marko and PRIV’s changed looks, they’re willing to kill to get their families back. The galaxy will surely reciprocate.
Rather than pick back up exactly where we left (for the most part), we took back on the narrative from a different place. This allowed us to revisit old characters and to show that this story doesn’t leave anyone behind. Although this does beg the question; how long has it been since the events of last issue? That’s food for thought, alright. Did this turn of events succeed to follow up that cliffhanger? You be the judge.
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
All images are courtesy of Image Comics