By: Brian K. Vaughan (story), Fiona Staples (art)

The Story: It’s a bad sign when your husband hasn’t told your in-laws about you.  Or your baby.

The Review: You can always tell the ripening of a plot when the various threads begin to weave together.  In fact, you can say that’s really the moment a story begins.  Until then, you only have a handful of ideas, some more likely to succeed than others.  Once they intersect, they cease being individual parts you can judge separately; they must rise or fall together.  A strong plotline can prop up some weak ones, yet conversely, the weak can drag down the strong.

Vaughan is already ahead of the game here since every part of his story works just fine—more than fine—on its own.  While the fate of Alana, Marko, and Hazel is clearly the focus of this series, and you care about their happiness and downright survival several degrees more than you do with other characters, you also get heavily invested in the course of Prince Robot and the Will’s lives.

But that kind of universal affection works like a double-edged sword—in a good way, if you can imagine that.  Because you like all these people, you want to root for their respective goals.  So what happens when each of their goals requires the deaths of the others?  Makes you feel a bit at a loss, doesn’t it?  Of course, there’s always the possibility that by some fortuitous string of circumstances, all the misunderstandings will clear up and they all wind up on the same side, but does Vaughan seem like the type of writer who’s interested in that wishy-washy kind of twist?

Whether the end results in grateful smiles or lots of bloodshed, expect a lot of fireworks when the three parties inevitably meet up, though they may not pop where you initially suspect.  Both Prince Robot and the Will have contracts out on Saga’s little family, but you know there’s nothing personal there.  In a funny turn of events, the real beef comes between the two mercenaries, which is just a brilliant development, a great way to connect the supporting players.

Aside from all the entertainment from the characters themselves, you can have a ball just lying back and enjoying the kooky concepts Vaughan brings to the table.  The Rocketship Forest, unbelievably enough, turns out not to be a figurative designation, and provides some of the warmest, most pleasurable scenes of the issue.  That’s the appeal of Saga, I’d say: that it can be this graphic and violent and complicated, yet also produce a childlike sense of wonder and hope, not only from the graphic, violent, complicated characters, but from you, too.

I suppose that tells you everything about why Staples makes such a perfect fit for this title.  Much of what she draws is unflinchingly correct to life, or as correct as it can be when imagining humanoids with wings, horns, or computer screens for heads.  We’ve seen some pretty gut-wrenching imagery on this series, not least of which Izabel and her drooping intestines (though, darkly enough, you get used to that too, after a while).  Then Staples draws Marko and Alana stepping into the foyer of their Rocketship Tree, astonished and delighted that it even has a foyer, and the awe and wonder in their faces comes across with such purity that you forget they’re hardened soldiers—until they have to fight for their lives several pages later.

Conclusion: Quite deserving of nearly all the hype, this is absolutely one of the titles you should be reading if you consider any kind of serious comic book fan.  Otherwise, feel free to collect all the variant covers to Avengers vs. X-Men.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Good Lord, can Izabel catch a break?  It’s not enough she get grossly decapitated in life, she has to deal with senseless violence in death too?

– Yet through it all, Hazel remains chillingly unphased.

– Marko’s native tongue seems like a Romantic variant, leaning on Spanish, no?