Title: Saga Volume 5
Publisher/Year: Image, 2015
Artist: Fiona Staples
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Collects: Saga #25-30
There is so much to say about Saga. It’s a series that transcends multiple genres at once while exemplifying the best of those genres. It’s written in a no-nonsense, funny and modern style that is easy to get in to. There’s no pretension; Saga knows exactly what it is and doesn’t give a fuck. It is also beautifully drawn by Fiona Staples. I’ve never known an artist able to capture even the slightest human expressions so perfectly, never mind the countless anthropomorphic animals she brings vividly to life.
For those not familiar with the series (and there’s really no good reason not to be if you’re a fantasy and/or Sci-Fi fan. You don’t even need to be in to comics), Saga follows the fugitives Marko and Alana, forbidden lovers from opposite sides of a galactic war, and their new-born baby Hazel – who narrates the series – as they run from never ending violence. The leaders of both sides have condemned Marko and Alana’s relationship, and their mixed-race child. The magical, horned humanoids of the moon Wreath, Marko’s home world, have sent assassins to kill off the parents and snatch the baby, while the militarized winged people of Alana’s planet Landfall have teamed up with the monitor-headed robot royalty to search for and destroy the little family.
Sounds complicated, eh? You have no idea. If you’ve not read it, close this review, go and buy the entire series, and then come back. I expect you’ll be a better person once you do.
Now that you’ve turned your life around, we can talk about Volume 5 in this series. Volume 5 collects issues 25 to 30. The opening to this particular arc shows us a brief history of the war, showcasing the way it has moved so far away from the planet and moon it started on that the inhabitants aren’t really aware of it anymore. It’s very nicely done and gives us a rare glimpse of the general population of Landfall, going about their lives. It felt like a clever analogue to the wars of recent years that both the UK and US have been a part of, yet most of the populations of those countries would only be aware of it as something in the news.
Stuck right in the middle and now the focus of both sides at this point, are our protagonists. Having been split up, Marko forms an uneasy alliance with Prince Robot IV (with the aid of druggie Yuma and cute-as-ever Ghüs), while Alana tries to protect Hazel from the Rebellion, a group of violent outlaws who have just turned up on her doorstep. Meanwhile, Sophie, Lying Cat, Gwendolyn and The Brand go in search of…well, dragon jizz…in order to heal The Will.
This arc moves a bit slower than previous volumes. Rather than trying to keep ahead of everyone, Marko and Alana are simply trying to find one another. Everyone is mostly stuck in one place; Alana with the Rebellion, Marko with the Prince, and Sophie et al on Demimonde as they search for a male dragon. This gives Vaughan a chance to work on his characters. There’s quite a bit of development for Marko. We get an insight to just why he’s so desperate to swear off violence yet finding it pretty damn difficult to do. There’s also a fair bit of sacrifice and risk-taking from characters we wouldn’t have expected it from so far.
A great aspect of this arc has been that a lot of the characters are out of their comfort zones. Marko and Alana don’t have one another to rely on; Robot IV is partnered up with the enemy; Sophie and Gwendolyn don’t have The Will. What’s interesting is how they react to these situations. Marko is sort of pathetic without Alana. He’s still badass, but he mopes like a teenager at some points. Robot IV acts as pompously as you would expect him to, but little flashes of decency do shine through, once he gets to know the little group he’s stuck with. It also introduces us to the Rebellion, who seem to be something of a common enemy between Landfall and Wreath; brutal terrorists with little regard for the well-being of either side. They act under the pretense of wanting to end the war once and for all, but their actions and attitude tell an entirely different story. They form a pivotal moment at the end of this arc, and it will interesting to see how both sides react to it.
As you would expect from Saga, the artwork is beautiful throughout, with plenty of disgusting moments as well. There’s one image that takes up double-page splash that is one of the grimmest things I’ve seen so far in a comic that has happily shown us inter-species orgies, placenta covered babies and a gigantic naked cyclops with a wart-covered nutsack the size of a car.
As well as this, there are plenty of cute moments. Not only do we get Hazel as a fun-loving toddler who seems blissfully ignorant of the horrible things going on around her, but we get plenty of adorable and hilarious Ghüs moments too. Ghüs is such an easy character to love, and Vaughan and Staples seems to love giving us more reasons to do so.
Vaughan’s humor is ever present. His dialogue is some of the best in any medium; I think he’s up there with the likes of Abercrombie and Rothfuss for wit and realism. The characters all feel distinct from one another, as opposed to some other recent comics I’ve read that contain quite wooden and flat characters.
So while it’s not as fast-paced as the volumes before, volume 5 is a great arc, and sets up what is sure to be the most exciting part of this story yet. Saga has already cemented itself as one of the best titles around at the minute, and with years of stories yet to come, it feels like it’s only going to get better.