By: Brian K. Vaughan (story), Fiona Staples (art)
The Story: According to Marko and Prince Robot IV, fatherhood actually increases testosterone.
The Review: Characters in the sci-fi genre sure talk and act differently from us, don’t they? I can’t quite put my finger on it, but they seem somewhat more formal and calculated in their general manner than us modern folks have gotten used to. Using Star Wars as an example, you either go from the stately extreme of Obi-wan Kenobi to the total incoherence of Jar Jar Binks, with maybe some measured relaxation from Han Solo.
But then Star Wars is a product of its time, and media manners of that time were somewhat stricter. People on TV and in the movies certainly didn’t talk like people who actually lived during that period did. We live now in a decade where the differences between fictional language and real-life language are negligible, give or take an F-bomb here and there. It’s hard to deny that we—and by that I mean Americans in general—have become a pretty crude society, even on a purely linguistic level.
Still, the fading boundaries of language between reality and fiction can only help a story become that much more accessible, relatable, immersive. Even when Vaughan throws in a “foreign” term once in a while, the rhythm and tune of the characters’ dialogue is so familiar that we have no problems getting into the swing of it: “Sarge, the mom looks like one of ours.” “Probably just a moony wearing falsies. For all we know, her ‘kid’ is a suicide bomb. Whatever, orders are to pacify.” Even before Alana says it aloud, we already know what “pacify” really means.
Vaughan takes this familiarity beyond mere talk, though, incorporating the most human sentiments where no humans exist. Take Prince Robot IV’s joy and excitement of discovering his impending fatherhood. Now, we already knew robots in the world of Saga are plenty capable of post-traumatic stress (and, evidently, sexual arousal), but gladness this pure and genuine (“This…this is the happiest I’ve ever been. In a bloody latrine on bloody Cleave.”) takes their humanity to a whole new level.
Speaking of PTS, Marko has at least that in common with his monitor-headed pursuer. I believe it was #2 which told us of his past as one of baddest of asses his army ever had, prior to love, family, and pacifism, of course. Now we get to see that person he left behind surface again, and he lives up to the legend. His uncontrollable rage, once triggered, will be something to keep an eye out for; he won’t always have someone to shoot him out of it. But this time around, his anger comes from a loving place, sort of—it’s not just violence for violence’s sake.
While Vaughan’s witty sense of storytelling drives much of this series, you can’t overlook Staples’ ability to flesh out the unwritten with her graceful artwork. The specific style of finery worn by Prince Robot IV and his princess lover says volumes about these characters’ backgrounds, even before the Britishisms come out (“Quite. Mum says the tests are foolproof these days.”). And then you have the expression on Alana’s face after Marko’s “freakout”; the unsurprised sorrow in her eyes immediately tells you this isn’t the first time she’s seen it; this is something she’s committed to; and this may destroy them in the end.
Conclusion: It feels good to add another item to the list of monthly must-read titles, and this one certainly deserves the honor.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: - I love the Stalk’s line, “Huh. That’s new,” when she sees the tied up Landfallian company. Must be the first time anyone was ever left alive after a fight.
– If Mama Sun’s words are any indication, unions here are just as powerful and intimidating as they are in our world.