Sunday, April 21, 2024

An Unlikely Hero Rises in Saga

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It’s safe to say at this point that the notion of protagonism is as displaced in Saga as that of villainy. The forced separation of Hazel’s parents obviously has engaged the reader into two different character dynamics, but ‘Team Gwen’ has also given us a new pack to root for in their search for spicy ingredients to save The Will’s life. On the other hand, the baddies have changed quite a bit and are no longer acting in the same roles as they did in the beginning. However, these antagonists were still more of an extension of the abstract idea that it’s a war paradigm that wants you dead. Not entirely so this time. Threefold the heroes implies threefold adversity, whether by sheer menace of nature, outside interference, or the business end of an adversary’s gun.

Issue #28
“Prepare to be boarded, your highness”

It’s sleepy time in Demimonde after a long day of negotiating with dragons for vital information for our heroes on the Gwendolyn-led side of things. As my poetry teacher at Uni once told me, deep in his cups, it’s always sensible for two people to stand watch while the rest sleep. So tonight, the Sophies roast marshmallows over the fire while having a chat. At the little one’s behest, The Brand explains the nuances of abortion and her own job as a Freelancer. Up until this point, lil’ Sophie believed that a Freelancer was really a glorified contract killer – judging by The Will. However, The Brand explains that she doesn’t really kill that much. Freelancers in this universe mostly handle negotiation and intimidation, with killing as a last resort. This leads to a very important question Big Sophie has for the young woman.

The Will kills in cold blood, for that’s his way, but not necessarily his profession’s. Would Sophie be alright with healing The Will, knowing he may well return to that life? Sophie would; as far as she knows, his latest job was eliminating two parents, one of which has ‘hurt Gwendolyn’. Of course, this implies Gwen never went much into actual detail of how Marko wronged her. Nonetheless, for Sophie, it all boils down to caring for those you hold dear, albeit in a somewhat simplistic view. Yet there will be little time for them to discuss further, as a spiderfolk intrudes, with a gun virtually in each hand. Meet Halvor, the one who had been observing them from afar.

Now we return to the snowy planet where the Last Revolution has taken Alana and her family as captives. Two of the ‘freedom fighters’, Lexis and Sirge, talk about stuff like a season finale in the Circuit and the fact that there are children involved in this latest gig. Early on, we spot a few differences of opinion within this subversive group, concerning the children, but none so great as the doubt in Dengo himself. Even Alana can see it. The Last Revolution’s history of brutality absolutely does not guarantee their safety. Alana tries convincing Dengo to aid them in escaping the Last Revolution’s craft. But before we can see any sign of success, one of the captors, Zizz, walks in to tell Dengo that their leader Quain wants a word.

While grandma Klara is unconscious on the floor and the family’s pet Friendo has been taken away, Alana has to lie to little Hazel, reassuring her that everything’s okay. During this sequence, Hazel’s retrospective narration highlights the load of grief the sexes (traditionally) suffer through wartime. But the first casualty is always the truth. This may not only apply to the necessity of reassurance, but also the discourse to justify the bloodshed on either side.

Meanwhile, we’re back aboard (now) PRIV’s ship. Ghüs brings good news; they’ve reached the system where he’d felt Friendo. It’s only a matter of time til they close in Marko’s and PRIV’s (remaining) family. However, Yuma is currently undergoing a tearful bout of depression. This is due to her guilt at her past actions in betraying Alana and her family. However, Ghüs tries to reassure her by sharing something Mr. Heist had told him. An individual is not the sum of their mistakes. Her efforts to undo that error are what counts. However, she still feels that after the Fadeaway trip from last issue, Marko is more unstable than before. But as we all know, timing dictates priority in the world of narrative. She doesn’t get to elaborate on what she means, as there’s a more pressing concern at the moment.

Sound the alarms, everyone. They’ve run into a massive ship from the Robot Kingdom. By order of PRIV’s dad, the Royal Guard is demanding an immediate surrender. Thus it appears that the good doctor violated the bond of confidentiality between patient and doctor, and sang like a bird. At first, PRIV stands at disbelief that his father would allow his own son to undergo the ‘surrender or else’ dynamic. But an apparent warning attack from the Royal Guard spins a nasty scratch on that naïveté. Kings in fiction are often dicks. On the other hand, Royal Guards have an entire dickheaddery league of their own. So, the only thing Marko and PRIV can actually do is prepare to fight.

Back in Demimonde, Halvor holds the Sophies at guns-point, demanding to know the reason of their presence in the planet. The Brand plays the transparency card, telling him they’ve come to get that Dragon spunk to cure The Will. This turns out not such a great idea. Halvor has a grudge against The Freelancer. This is quite understandable, considering The Will’s relationship with his younger sister Enriette, the one we know as The Stalk. It’s an unexpected boon that Halvor already knows his sister is dead, which means that things can’t really get that worse. I’d insert a smiley face here to accentuate the unlikely benefit, but that’s considered poor form. Anyway, after Gwen wakes up to make the safe, his approach becomes succinct. So, Halvor has a little something for them – not a shriveled dragon testicle, but a dragon eardrum.

Halvor thought they intended to track Prince Robot IV, the Stalk’s killer. This I find to be something of a flawed, hasty assumption as The Brand is the only one acquainted with The Stalk in this bunch. Still, Little Sophie’s presence in Gwen’s party further led to this assessment, as people from Pheng can ‘listen’ to objects. This is essentially how she helped Gwen track Marko to Quietus several issues ago. Therefore, she could use her talents to ‘listen’ to the eardrum, which belonged to dragon skull Enrietta would eventually use as a ship. Unfortunately, Sophie’s ‘hearing’ is a bit rusty. Plus that’s not even their mission here. After speaking of the ridiculously low odds of success, as you do, Halvor suggests looking for a male dragon on the south side of the mountain, through the Smiling Cave.

Before he leaves, Gwendolyn asks him why didn’t he seek vengeance to his sister’s death himself. His answer: he simply can’t afford it. And that’s how you deflate a once-menacing character. I’ll insert a groan here.

We return to the Last Revolution’s ship. Quain pays Alana, Hazel and Klara a visit and acts behaves quite politely. This is a falsely amiable preface to his actual intentions. Having had a talk with Landfall and Wreath’s respective governments, he has come to something of an arrangement. He will use little Hazel as a bargaining chip in order to see to the release of one thousand of the Last Revolution’s imprisoned members. This instantly triggers Alana’s rage, who proceeds to brutally pin down Julep. But before she make a killing blow, Quain uses his evil mind magic to restrict her movements. He then has Julep and Dengo escort Hazel and Klara away. Whomever is making the deal with Quain has requested to speak with Alana, personally.

Meanwhile, PRIV’s stolen ship is engaged in battle with the Royal Guard’s ship. They’re not doing great against the Robots who damaged the ship’s engine room. Ghüs and Yuma are tasked with making repairs, which is drastically easier said than done. The engine has a leak, which needs be patched lest the ship blow into pieces. Alas, doing this repair is virtually suicide. Ghüs, being a good little fellow, volunteers to take care of this. But Yuma has a thing to say, and by ‘say’, I mean really knocking him out with a fire extinguisher. With one final Fadeaway tab before going in, she proceeds to patch the engine with her painting brush. At the end, she begins to burn within the engine. Yuma, in her ultimate atonement, dies in the blissful trip of Fadeaway.

Hazel’s narration reveals that losing someone she loved because of the war was the reason behind her life’s ethos. Living by hedonism and helping others pursue the same way was really her own way of trying to escape war and all it entailed. Her ironic swan song is a bittersweet reminder of the incapability of the war’s reach through one way or another in this universe. It is also a comparable irony that a group founded on good intentions would resort to inflicting destruction and pain with only the conviction of doing the right thing in the long run. Alas, this sentiment is a fragile thing next to sacrifice for sake of redemption, and walking through fire for sake of love.


Saga Issue #28 Credits

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Fiona Staples

All images are courtesy of Image Comics


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