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The Saga-scious duo shines bright in Saga



Oh yes, that’s a pun alright. Fear not, it’s not even the best I can do (best meaning worse, of course). However, I can think of no better title to describe the events on this week’s issue. The narrative in Saga is usually distributed neatly amongst several characters in different settings and conflicts. That’s not the case this time. In a similar way as previous issue, the story is more focused on one place, one set of characters and one tone. While we had a thought-provoking journey of self-discovery and self-assertion through Hazel last time, this issue takes a different approach. It’s all action, from beginning to end, with a distinct and succinct blockbuster-ish flavour.

It’s a most fitting choice, considering the Alana and Marko’s agon: rescuing their daughter. Every action to this end must have had plenty of thought and planning beforehand. Thus, the time has come to simply act decisively. The mechanic is considerably simple for Saga, but not any less engaging for it.

Issue #31
“No, they’re fetishistic narcissists.”

Let’s start with a question. Has Saga ever let us down when it comes to opening splash pages to leave a lasting impression? This is rhetorical; the answer is no, it never has and it probably never will. This issue is no exception as Alana and Marko staging a robbery contains the proper amount of obscene language and the proper amount of bonkers teamwork. This roguish, guileful measure has one purpose: getting their ride back from the spaceship impound, which is probably every bit as annoying as it is in some funny little rock called Earth. And same as how it would fail on Earth, their little scheme fails to convince the guard by the fact accountants, like Alana pretends to be, never work late. The Devil’s in the details, isn’t it?

Nonetheless, Marko opts to knock the guard out with the last of his dad’s sleeping powder stuff. This is virtually a confirmation that he’s back on his usual pacifist approach. This may be for the best, seeing as how Alana and Marko are more effective and stable when working together. Hazel’s nigh-omniscient confirms the extent of their mutual purpose as she acknowledges that her parents had nothing in mind but retrieving their daughter since their reunion. Although they’re back together, they won’t indulge in anything until they had Hazel back. So now, more than ever, Alana and Marko are a force to be reckoned with. And it’s just as well, as they’re infiltrating Variegate—the financial hub to the Coalition’s prison system.

The most effective way to unearth a couple of names (Hazel and Klara) from the system is really just getting your hands dirty and take them yourself. This probably also applies in real life, but I’ll keep my furious views on bureaucracy to myself.

Things go amazingly until they come upon the second obstacle on their path, an unbreachable door. This halt in tempo yields some room for a little talk between the two of them. It’s apparent that Marko’s renewed approach derives from guilt at his role in their schism several issues ago. Of course, throwing a bag of groceries at your spouse in an outburst isn’t that great an offence. Though Alana sees this as what it was, Marko will go to every measure to ensure nothing of the sort happens again. While commendable, we’ll have to hope this won’t be hindering, or annoying. Marko turns his wife’s gun into a skeleton key and now they’re free to continue their talk on Hazel’s education while searching. That’s practical thinking right there.

Soon enough, Alana finds the desired information. Hazel, Klara and a third female (Lexis) were taken to a detainment centre… on Landfall. On its own, this spells trouble for Hazel’s parents, but they have a more immediate concern as their infiltration comes to a third obstacle. Flamingthrower constables—quite a neat design from Fiona Staples, as usual. An arrest for breaking and entering, and destruction of property (the constables’ doing) sounds like a long term hurdle, but Alana has a treacherous card up her sleeve. With her acting skills, their rocketship’s approach, and the constables’ dipshittery, she successfully manages to masquerade as a suicide bomber. So, away the three flaming stooges go.

However, she wasn’t lying when selling their rocketship as an inbound missile. Thus, their getaway is also something of an obstacle in itself. Risky move; they’ll have to actually intercept the vehicle as it passes the building. We’ve seen this countless times in blockbusters and there’s a reason it gets a rise out of the audience every time. It just doesn’t look possible. However, Alana’s look at her husband dispels all doubts on the matter. And here is yet again another reason why Fiona Staples is Fiona Staples. She absolutely nails expressions. She can do things with a dozen lines, Rob Liefeld cannot hope to do with a hundred. Alana’s face looks daring, loving, inviting and confident all at once. It’s the face you want to see when about to do the riskiest thing ever.

So, they made it. They’re safe and on their way to retrieve Hazel, Klara and Izabel. From the heat of the moment, they break their unspoken vow of no-intimacy as they kiss for the first time since reuniting. It’s cliché as hell, but it works.

After the logical followup to that kiss, Hazel narrates that her parents were secretly convinced their daughter was dead until they found the scroll saying otherwise. This, in turn, imbues their lovemaking with a tint of despair. This action-packed operation was actually their last resort to prove their fear false. Now, after their long due frothy reunion, it’s time to face another inconvenient truth. They won’t be able to successfully undertake this mission without help from a third party. Someone they’re reluctant to work with.

Prince Robot IV. Well, he doesn’t consider himself Prince anything more, rather something of a Knight Errant. Ghüs brings him the news of their approach. And he couldn’t have less enthusiasm about the fact. However, before he and his Squire son can put some distance between a second reluctant alliance and then, his son catches sight of a “shooting star” while hunting geese, as you do. It seems fate has caught up with the Knight Errant and his Squire lad before they could even try to run away. Just like a frisky cat biting his puss sibling’s nape (Pardon the vulgar analogy, but at the time of writing, my cats are being assholes to each other). However, among other things, Saga has taught us to be on our toes, constantly.

There is always the chance that a visitor may not be who we expect.

Saga Issue #31 Credits

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Fiona Staples

All images are courtesy of Image Comics

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Saga: True Colours




It’s a fine line that which divides nature and a zone of comfort; so fine it’s sometimes too easy to confuse one with the other, or think them to be interchangeable terms. But the differences are there, however subtle. For one, a zone of comfort is often a treacherous foe against personal growth. It may even render you numb before coming adversities and leave you unprepared to resist them. Am I being obnoxiously specific yet? Well I can take it up a notch. A zone of comfort can also blind you, delude you into mistaking someone’s nature. Make you see a foe as a friend when the tide is calm.

But when the tide grows restless, leaving that zone of comfort is quite the rude awakening. Hope you like those, lovelies.

Issue #52
“Not when we were so close…”

The “Jetsam Holiday” arc has been a lovely time so far, comparatively speaking. For every dark development unfolding within or without Hazel’s immediate (and extended) family, there has been lots of sunshine and fucking. And of course, there has been plenty of wholesome entertainment for the whole family to enjoy also. If the image of Hazel waging sea war against Petrichor and Ghüs while atop Sir Robot’s shoulders isn’t heartwarming, her wishing Sir Robot didn’t have to leave absolutely is. And furthermore, Sir Robot even reciprocates it.

Old foes may turn dear friends in time – just like my dad used to say… not really, but let’s pretend he did.

In the meantime, Marko and Upsher have a thoughtful conversation while frying fishies. Beyond the perennial dynamic of the journey, one of Saga‘s thematic signatures is the encounter between worldviews. Sometimes this occurs through future Hazel’s introspection, and sometimes through calm moments like this. By learning of how Upsher and Doff learned about the fugitives and their daughter, Marko finally realises something we’d long known by now. There is no action that goes without consequence in this galaxy. Whether it’s some nameless mook who becomes a villain’s motive for revenge, or a grunt left behind who’s see too much.

Their conversation migrates then to the topic of accountability when it comes to one of the most traditional roles in war: killing. Having been a soldier, Marko has obviously taken on a very active role. But Upsher isn’t entirely clean either, despite never taking a life himself. Being a journalist, his business is all about information, but its reception always risks a response, which sometimes involves violence. This is, Marko argues, the reason he will be sticking to writing fiction. Nevertheless, Upsher’s response is a banquet for thought, and I’ll quote:

“Putting new ideas into another person’s head is an agggressive act, and aggressive acts have consequences. Face it, you can be a writer or a pacifist, but you can’t be both.” The written word, to communicate or to inspire, is necessarily a political act. We’ll take this morsel with us home to mull it over, as something else comes up, demanding all heads and hands. Alana enters the scene with the news: Squire is missing. The young Robot has followed through with his plan to leave.

Cut to Ianthe, wandering the wilderness of Jetsam, and adding a touch of danger to Squire’s stunt. Her concern over The Will, now free, angry and deadly, reaches a high point upon seeing a note pinned against a tree with a knife. Menacing even when written in cursive. The note proper says they’re even; him having killed her fiancé, and she having skinned his dog. I’d hardly call it even myself – Ianthe is still in debt, but I digress. We’d be delusional to think this warning would dissuade Ianthe – too proud a villain to heed common sense.

Meanwhile, the grownups at the beach camp find Squire’s farewell note, charmingly written in crayon. His message and how he addresses himself as Princeling make his intentions clear. Sir Robot’s son intends to return to the Robot Kingdom; maybe his ways of chivalry had an unexpected, unintended side effect on the kid. Overtaken by shame, Sir Robot insists on handling this himself, then declaring this to be his fault. He then reveals the ugly incident of hurting Squire last issue, earning Alana’s anger and Hazel’s disbelief. Before Alana can unleash a (well-deserved) fist upon Sir Robot’s face, Marko walks in full-clad in armour, bearing… mushrooms.

Ah, but these mushrooms are special mushrooms. They don’t grace soups with supreme delight or allow you to summon Frank Zappa in Bloodborne (which I’ve been playing a lot of lately). These mushrooms function as flares bright enough to see in daylight or when penetrating deep in the forest. Hazel demands to come with, but her mum won’t allow it for good reason. Upsher offers to stay with Hazel, as he’s also confident his partner Doff has already found Squire.

If only he knew…

The pinky oath between Alana and Hazel marks the beginning of the search.

The scene then changes to Squire/Princeling’s point of view. He has definitely taken a shine to Hazel’s Ponk Konk, who now accompanies him as a friend to “talk with”. And it’s just as well: Squire is terrified. He roams what appears to be an abandoned amusement park, which is a creepy setting in any galaxy. According to a conversation he overheard between the grownups, the magical ingredients for the “body swap” are transported through pipes that run through these unsettling parts. Therefore, his course to take appears obvious, quite unlike the strange creatures following his movements, concealed in the overgrowth.

The worm-like creatures lunge forward, ensnaring Squire to be devoured by a nightmarish mouth spreading wide across the grass. Amidst the horror of the moment, he drops Ponk Konk, possibly into the maws of this hideous creature. Someone makes the save in the nick of time with a few well-aimed shots, however. Thankful, Squire hugs his unlikely saviour: Ianthe. Could it be he has managed to survive one beast only to end up in the maws of another?

Elsewhere, Sir Robot spots a strange jellyfish-like ship while searching for his son. The Will gets the drop on the former Prince, skewering his arm-cannon with his spear. Sir Robot doesn’t quite recognise his attacker, but The Will him well enough; not as the disgraced noble, but as the killer of his former love, Spider woman extraordinaire, The Stalk. A vengeful intent is clearly approaching. And though Sir Robot frets over being interrupted from his search and disarmed, he keeps his cool to talk with the reinstated Freelancer.

The Will is back on the job to catch the fugitives, but not before killing Sir Robot. Knowing that an ordinary, desperate plea won’t do the job, Sir Robot presents another possibility as a bargaining chip to secure his and his son’s safety: to surrender Hazel to The Will.

Seems old foes turn into friends dear when the tide is calm… otherwise, they’re only placated foes, only for so long. Treacherous asshole.


Saga Issue #52 Credits

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Fiona Staples

All images are courtesy of Image Comics

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Batgirl is Getting a New Direction And a New Look




Can I say that I, for one, am glad that we’re finally getting a new author for Batgirl? Because I am. Now this is no disrespect to Hope Larson; she is a competent writer who has told some really good stories over the last two years, but for me she just wasn’t a good fit for one of my favorite DC superheroes. Now I’ll probably get backlash from the community of fans who like to criticize the whole DC darkness thing for this but you know what? Yes, it should be dark and gritty, that’s always been associated with the “bat” name. Should it try to be a little more light hearted? Sure, but it’s a balance. My issue with Hope Larson’s run was that it was way too “tweeny” considering the kind of comics we’ve seen in the past with Barbara, Cass, and Stephanie.

Now, I also get that heroes need to evolve in order to meet their targeted audience. Hope Larson in retrospect did something that I very much like. Like the political nature of Green Arrow, Hope managed to construct her stories centered around the criticisms of overuse of technology, freedom of the internet, and the use of personal data. These are topics that remains very relevant this year and will be for some time to come. The fact that she was able to use this to tell stories that no matter what I say, were still entertaining, is a testament to the fact that she was a very good writer.

However, it is still time for a change. Despite the great motivations behind her stories, they were still cringe-y sometimes. Seeing Barbara juggle her nightlife with her student life is a common theme among younger heroes, and her friends in the LGBTQ community offered real understanding for audiences, but it still felt like a teen drama.

Don’t get me wrong though, I love her supporting cast, especially Alyssa who was created by Gail Simone in her well loved Batgirl New 52 run. The author was very outspoken for gender identity and the over sexualization of females in comic books. To see Hope Larson treat characters created by Simone with love and care was really something. By now I probably sound like I loved Hope’s run on Batgirl. As I said before, it wasn’t a bad run and I enjoyed reading it for the most part but I need something a bit more than that.

Starting with issue 24, we’ll be getting a plethora of new authors for the next few issues. Like with Green Arrow, finding a new permanent author takes time but with the Benson sisters spearheading that comic, Mairghread Scott will be taking over exclusively come August and issue 26. Now, I haven’t read anything by her save the most recent Green Arrow title, which I liked hell of a lot more than the previous two. So, I’ll be seeing her writing without bias and without former convictions. I’m really excited to see where she leads Barbara in her new adventures, but hopefully she focuses more on Batgirl and Barbara rather than love interests and overly cringe worthy situations. I get Barbara is awkward but that was just painful.

According to previews, we will see the return of Barbara to Gotham and of another character, or rather villain, created by Gail Simone called Grotesque. In this version, he plays a murderous art thief who moves to create his own vile art gallery with the pieces of his victims. He ends up getting the jump on Babs and setting the device in her spine off, effectively taking away her ability to walk again.

It looks like we’re going to be seeing a lot more continuity from the Gail Simone days and either the nostalgia will hit long time fans or Scott will be taking us in a whole new direction. So many questions, the main one being: could this be the end for Barbara as Batgirl? As much as I love Babs, I am part of the group who feels she needs to pass on the cowl to someone new. But that’s a topic for another day.

Speaking of getting a new author, we also have a revamp of Batgirl’s look, which is also a huge plus for me. If you’ve read Batman: White Knight you’ll no doubt recognize this costume from it. Sean Murphy, the genius behind that story, must have allowed the costume to be used as main canon. I’m happy for this because I really, really like the new look. I was never a huge fan of the purple zip up jacket-like outfit she was sporting in “Burnside,” but that just comes down to aesthetics.

The new look is sleek and more “batty” adding more to her own persona. Batgirl and Nightwing were among the first to leave Bruce behind and create their own identity and damn if this is not screaming that she’s the best “bat” out there.

All Images Courtesy of DC Comics

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DC Is Relaunching Vertigo, Doubling Down On Millennials





It’s been 25 years since DC Comics launched perhaps the most successful imprint in comics history: Vertigo. Since its foundation in 1993, some of the biggest graphic novels ever have come out under the Big V. Its initial run of titles made a splash on the shelves of comic stores and would cement their authors as comics royalty: Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Brian K. Vaughn, Brian Azzarello. Old properties (The Sandman) and old legends (Alan Moore) found new life at Vertigo. These new comics were no longer the whiff! bam! pow! of the past, but they also largely avoided the hyper-violence and darkness of the 90s. They handled adult themes like alienation, religion, feminism, and, yes, violence. But they handled these themes with more nuance and variety than ever before.  For the first time in the medium’s history, comics were becoming literature.

But all of the original titles have ended, with Hellblazer being the last of the old guard, closing in 2013. After a few years on the down low, DC is planning a massive relaunch of the classic brand for a new generation.  With it comes a clear emphasis on the political power of comics. They aim not for the Gen-Xers who made Preacher, iZombie, and Fables bestsellers, but for millennials. Titles will deal with the topics its readers care about: immigration, white supremacy, sex work.

Just like in 1993, the creators taking part in the relaunch are a vibrant mix of rising stars and new faces in the comics world. Eric M. Esquivel (Roberto Roberto) will bring us a tale of demons run amok in a border town while Ben Blacker (The Thrilling Adventure Hour) will spin a tale of brainwashed witches reclaiming their power. Bryan Hill (Postal, Batman) will put a biracial cop in harm’s way as he investigates a white supremacist group. Frequent Nine Inch Nails collaborator, Rob Sheridan, is sending a smuggler on an impossible quest, and Mark Russel (God Is Disappointed In You) pits Jesus against “Superman”.

The group of writers and artists are a nice mix of diverse voices, with two women serving as writers their own titles, both of which will no doubt invite controversy. The first, Goddess Mode, takes place in a cyberpunk VR hellscape where tech support involves a huge neon sword. Its author will be video game developer Zoe Quinn, perhaps most famous for being the internet’s biggest scapegoat and the original source of the “Gamergate” controversy. The second comic, Safe Sex, will be a dystopian book focusing on sex workers who dare to love in a world where all sex is under government control. Its author is sex-work advocate and LGBTQ+ journalist Tina Horn, who will no doubt bring an expert opinion to a topic that comics really, REALLY has never handled very well.

The new books start in September of this year, with Border Town,  and the rest will follow month by month right through into the new year. They will join the pre-existing raft of Vertigo titles, as well as Neil Gaiman’s brand new Sandman Universe line.

Image courtesy of DC Comics and Vertigo

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