Monday, July 22, 2024

Saga: The Unexpected Virtue of Depravity

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Last week, we got a pretty subversion of the ghostly children trope so beloved by all narratives featuring forests. It was just as well to have an amicable ghost kid on board since a robot prick appears quite intent on catching our heroes. Let’s not forget about the devious freelancer and his kitty partner, and he’s not even the greater threat. Marko’s deathly wounded and might not make it, but that’s the only thing he knows right now. In his delusional agony state, he utters another woman’s name, which is not the best thing to do when you’re recently wed. Actually, it’s never the best thing, period.

Moving on…

Issue #4
“Then close your eyes”

If the cover wasn’t enough indication, we start off this issue with our lovely devious duo. It’s refreshing to concentrate on secondary characters whose relevance is by no means lesser for them not being the main protagonists. This kind of focus may, however, result in slight deviations from the accustomed style and motifs. Whatever could that mean in a universe populated by mystical ghosties, winged and horned people, and robots? Of course, talking heads… with legs… welcoming us to Sextillion, a place whose nature would be redundant if I needed to describe it. The Will is about to get knee-deep in his element.

Not that I would know about it, but a place of this sort requires strict rules to function indefinitely. No animals and no guns, as you do. All manner of professionalism is out the window as soon as The Will complies, much to Lying Cat’s displeasure. This, however, should not be a surprise to the reader, given The Will’s alluded to history and uber pragmatic ways. It might be just my head talking, but rogue characters will never go out of style. In this instance, The Will might just be a mixed expy of Firefly’s Malcolm Reynolds and Archer’s Archer, with a hint of Krieger, cause you’ve gotta have that. On their own, each of  these characters’ capabilities and traits tend to exceed their vices, so we’ll have to see in what fashion The Will is more than his lust for super space sex.

In the meantime, there are important matters going on elsewhere. Marko is still on the brink of death. Izabel is working her snow magic, fairly confident he’ll pull through. Alana is pretty angry about his compromising death woes from last issue. The ghost-girl with the hanging guts tries to talk some calm into Alana, whose trust towards Marko might have been damaged. When Marko wakes up, Izabel spooks him. Alana greets his survival with a tender kiss, signaling a more sober mood. While bleeding out, Marko missed plenty of the recent events, so some catching up is in order. But first, Alana asks him to explain who Gwendolyn is, to which he replies “Ah, fuck.” Ah, fuck indeed, dude.

Back to The Will in Sextillion. He descends a golden stairwell swirling about a lovefest of valkyrie-fashioned Landfallians. Judging by his expression, he doesn’t seem to be overly interested in such mundane pleasures. Even a dinosaur mascot suit with a dick fails to snatch his interest. He passes kinky store front after kinky store front, pursuing something to accelerate his heartbeat. We’ve all been there. Likewise, we’ve all been approached by a creature whose face reminds us of John Travolta and who is capable of reading the melancholy in our faces. Apparently, all The Will needs is a Slave Girl.

Meanwhile, let’s wash off the sleaze. Izabel’s being the babysitter to outbabysit them all while Alana brings Marko up to date. They discuss some of the terms and conditions to the contract she made with Izabel, which is wise. Izabel will only be around on the night shifts, disappearing every sunrise, which is customary. Since the night is young, there’s plenty of time to discuss technicalities, including the Gwendolyn situation. Turns out, Marko was engaged to this Gwendolyn, set to marry her after coming back from the war. The long distance interaction through letters led to them drifting apart. While he changed day by day, she seemed to always remain the same person.

He tried to tell Alana about it, but he misinterpreted her request to “keep the past in the past.” While she referred to past hook-ups, he thought it meant past relationships. (Miscommunication is the number one killer of relationships, mark this on my grave.) Marko assures her that her name on his tongue was no more than a delusion. Alana is the only woman he ever wants to be with. Things seem to be on the mend as he says there is no unfinished business on his end about her. Then he fucks it back up after mentioning he gave Gwendolyn’s ring to Alana (yikes). It’s not all bad, though. The rings are enchanted with a translator spell, which may prove a lovely Chekhov’s Gun later on. Alana and Marko seem cool now.

Speaking of cool, The Will certainly has a cool face as the ‘Volta leads him to ‘The Inner Core”. Here is where he keeps most of his valuable employees. He reveals that he gets them off refugee camps, which is pretty loathsome. The pimp from Hell knocks on the slave girl’s door, which opens to reveal a prepubescent girl. A shadow settles over The Will’s face. He asks her about her age, to which she responds six years old. The girl delivers a gut-wrenching line, telling him she’ll do anything he wants. He tells her to close her eyes. The rest is natural consequences. Mortal Kombat 2’s incarnation of Jax would be proud.

Hazel’s narration tells us that The Will she’d eventually meet was a monster, and there’s little reason to doubt that claim after seeing the freelancers thus far. Nonetheless, there’s a difference between cold and ruthless pragmatism and sheer evil. There is certainly more to The Will than was first apparent. There are few character-defining moments as poignant as how one behave about a vulnerable child. Is it trite and formulaic for the basis of a character? Maybe, but not ineffective in this case. One might expect some Luc Besson’s Leon motto in there: No women, no kids. But that just isn’t the case with The Will. He doesn’t deny the liberties he takes in the pursuit of his missions, but there’s unexpected gravitas in his silence this time.

Once back to our heroes, the tempo accelerates. There’s no time to adequately change diapers or wait for Hazel to appear at nightfall. Alana urges Marko to escape somewhere else. Marko doesn’t seem alarmed at all; as a matter of fact, he doesn’t hear anything. And that’s just it. Alana identifies the silence as noise-masking: stealth technology from her side. A large Landfallian war vehicle appears above them, looming forebodingly. Marko concludes they cannot talk their way out of this. Given their patchy record on deftness, one is inclined to agree. The only remaining option is to stand and fight.

So ends the fourth issue of this lovely series. Are Hazel, Alana and Marko in peril from a new threat? How many more hostile parties will join the pursuit? Will they find friendly faces amidst a galaxy that wants them dead by sole principle? We’ll see.

Saga Issue 4 Credits

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Fiona Staples

All Images Courtesy of Image Comics

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