Friday, May 24, 2024

Saga Takes a Detour for the Woods

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After the previous issue, one surely would love to see what horrible exploits new baddie Ianthe has in store. A lawfully-untouchable villain with a harmful agenda, hell bent on death and harm. What’s not to like about that? Well, we shall know in some future issue, as this one is no followup to her foul scheme’s foundations. Instead, we return to Quietus to have a look at a few characters in need of a good fleshing out, or at least a quick refresh for sake of their relevance. Although, we should know already. Nothing in Saga is really lacking in relevance, is it?

Without getting ahead of myself in such great detail yet, I have to say this is one of the more feel-good issues so far.

“Did you see that? A shooting star!”

It’s been a rather long while since we’ve last seen anything of Upsher and Doff. Though by the look of Upsher’s disheveled appearance (a sharp contrast to his usual dapper amphibian self), life haven’t been that kind to him or Doff. Walrus-shepherd Ghüs and Squire Robot share the burden of hunger, but the former openly opposes the idea of killing Friendo for sustenance. Through a little exposition, harmless in modest doses, we learn The Will landed the journos in Quietus while he departed to make things right with Gwendolyn. This works to the Hebdomadal pair’s interest as the planet provides a more solid link to the scoop they’ve been after.

However, the prospect of interviewing Alana and Marko seems not as appealing when you’re starving. Thus, in desperate times, you may as well go hunt out in the woods. Quietus’ fauna provides one such opportunity via a local beast called a Dread Naught. There’s a catch, though—they are dangerous, and invisible, because of course they would be. However, Squire’s robot anatomy allows him to see the beast’s innards. All pertinent things said, Ghüs reluctantly allows Squire to come along to the Barrens. And should they fail, he will kill Friendo himself for their consumption. No better way to encourage success, eh?

Ghüs and Squire arrive at the woods at nightfall. And here is where the fleshy part of the narrative begins. It’s been a while since I last addressed it, but Hazel’s narration is of particular importance across this episode. While she usually muses on the bittersweet wisdom she has learned from her own life, this time she focuses on Squire. More accurately, on Squire as a boy partaking in that timeless child-on-an-adventure narrative. These traditionally involve three fundamental ingredients: curiosity, some rebelliousness, and a facing of their own inexperience against the world. This issue features all three, mostly through what Squire says and does in the forest.

Being the son of a former Prince in the pugnacious Robot Kingdom, Squire will obviously have some questions regarding his father and his past deeds. The line of dialogue is built around the subject of killing, of which Sir Robot has done A LOT, to his son’s unease. Therefore, Squire questions the validity and necessity of killing. Ghüs proposes a fairly succinct answer by addressing the war’s effect on people. Their current situation nuances the topic a little more by the awareness of self-preservation. As a quick interlude in their conversation, Squire believes he saw something like a shooting star above.

The next item on discussion is companionship, both romantic and platonic. Mostly romantic, though. We all have encounters with our parents’ teachings and values. We question them and then we judge if we can live by them ourselves. And this is something Squire is doing regarding the narrative taught by his father concerning marriage. Sir Robot is well aware of the details pertaining to marriage in royalty. But his new worldview, brought upon by disenfranchisement from the monarchy he used to be a part of, puts a little Arthurian (or maybe Cervantes-ish) twist in the narrative.

Squire is to become a Knight, little doubt on that. But according to the teachings of his father, courtly love is essential to reach that goal. And admittedly, it’s a more alluring facet to this fabled knighthood than all the killing. But his current situation—living in Quietus one day at a time—strands him far from achieving that. As means of consolation, Ghüs assures him marriage to a fair maiden is not necessarily a guaranteed road to happiness. The topic starts to shift to the platonic side of things as Ghüs speaks about Friendo, who used to belong to his late sister.

The sight of the Dread Naught, or its innards more like, puts a halt to the dialogue. Remarkable detail on the beast’s inner workings, there. The fearsome prey becomes predator as it quickly and effortlessly disarms Ghüs, leaving Squire as the only capable party. Squire draws his bow and aims swift and true, all he has to do is to release the string. (Please pardon my rough approximation of archery lingo.) But Squire hesitates, and is ultimately unwilling to kill the beast. The hunt has failed. On the way back home, they are sadly faced with Friendo’s imminent fate. Though disheartened, Ghüs doesn’t blame the boy.

But before we can dwell much longer on the gloom, the sight of smoke snatches our attention. It was no shooting star that Squire believed he saw across the sky, but a Living Rocketship entering the atmosphere. Our heroes are back in Quietus, with Petrichor, and of course, Squire’s dad. And food, which is also important. Brian and Fiona are pretty generous here, as they let us readers have our lovely fill of the feel-good. Hugs of re-encounter, appetites quenched, fireworks in Squire’s headscreen. Sir Robot is a bit aloof, but he’s visibly happy to see his son.

But of course, we leave the best for last—that’s how I roll, anyway. Hazel meets Squire. It’s not that different from her interactions with her friend Kurti, and (the brother who never was) Kurti. But the whole of the scenery imbues this first-time-meet with optimism. Long time Saga readers will know that means vulnerability, ripe for a villain’s strike (and we happen to have a new one at that). But that consideration becomes instantly dwarfed by Hazel’s narration, speaking of this happy occasion as the moment she met her brother.

Just think back on the state of affairs between Alana and Marko, and then Prince Robot IV in the first issues. The comparison between then and now is a true shocker. Seeing Sir Robot’s gesture at seeing Hazel and Squire getting on is a shocker in itself, but the contrast is still astonishing. Like I said, nothing in Saga can truly be deemed irrelevant. The mooks and the nobodies in yesterday’s path to a righteous deed can become today’s nightmares. And yesterday’s adversaries can become today’s family. Something to consider beyond the pages, eh?

Saga Issue #48 Credits

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Fiona Staples

Images Courtesy of Image Comics

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