By: Brian K. Vaughan (story), Fiona Staples (art)
The Story: Marko and Alana get to perform in their very own Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
The Review: Anyone who’s reviewed or read this title knows that at its heart, Saga is really a story about a family and the struggle required to remain one. Sure, the struggle’s often made harder by the backdrop of intergalactic war they live in, but I’d say you’re just as invested—if not more so—in whether this diverse little group can keep themselves together long enough to survive the conflict.
The story has depicted Marko and Alana, horns and wings aside, as a pretty ordinary couple. They’ve made it pretty clear that they’d like nothing better than to live and be treated as such. Yet they seem to have no choice but to have a space opera thrust upon them. Consider Marko as a young lad, bathing in the downright halcyonic sunlight of Wreath, playing with his dog, Rumfer—and then his parents magically summoning up the images of a past massacre to teach him never to forget “those evil fucks with the wings” from Landfall.
Vaughan inserts this particular flashback to remind you how truly momentous it is that we can go from that horribly indoctrinated boy to the young man who happily introduces one of those “evil fucks” as his wife. It gets you curious as to how this evolution took place. Much as he loves Alana, it can’t be entirely due to her; in #4, he told her that he’d begun to change even when engaged to someone else, and later in this issue, his mother snaps at him for not having outgrown his youthful “rebelliousness.” Hopefully, Vaughan will let us into this part of Marko’s past soon.
Continuing the trend of portraying the family dynamic as accessibly as possible, Marko’s parents comfortably fall into your usual “in-law” archetypes. I don’t recall a single piece of fiction where both of the parents were lovely, life-affirming people. At least one always has to be the overbearing, disapproving jag, and it looks like Marko’s mom is nominated. It’s her blood that’s spilled to magic up images of the gory past for her toddling son, and it’s she who takes charge in a sudden turn of events. Hazel mentioned last issue her grandparents would come to live with them, and if so, it’s easy to foresee a lot of tension in the family to come.*
Much as I enjoy these proceedings, I am rather impatient for the space epic intrigue to get going, especially since we’ve had a three-month hiatus since the last issue of Saga. To your dismay, however, both the Will and Prince Robot get sidelined here, and we’re no closer to figuring out the nuts and bolts of this war than before. At this rate, we probably won’t see an end to the series for some years to come—which is not a bad thing, come to think of it, but seriously, it’s past time to get moving on the overarching plot.
There’s a lot of beautiful imagery here, of course, this being Staples’ pet project and all. However, almost all of it gets overshadowed, as it often does, by the title’s all too comfortably graphic moments. Any of you who’ve read this issue knows what splash page I’m talking about when I say it grossed me out so bad that I couldn’t even look at it longer than half a nanosecond, which made reading the next page quite awkward, as I kept trying to keep offending page before it face down. I’m not telling either Vaughan or Staples to stop doing feels right to them, but maybe a little more attention to boundaries wouldn’t hurt. It’d make reading these in public a little less nerve-wracking, I’d wager.
Conclusion: Ongoing pacing problems aside, Vaughan and Staples are simply incapable of delivering a less-than-solid issue.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: - It doesn’t bode well that the first thing out of Alana’s mouth after getting introduced to Marko’s mom is to call her a bitch.
– I appreciate in a setting where you have holograms and ray guns and arboreal rocketships, people still use an A/V cord to watch home movies.
– Seems like Alana lost that baby weight pretty fast, though, no?