SAGA #12

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

The Story: Prince Robot just can’t wait for a book signing.

The Review: I always enjoy giving a so-called controversy a few days to land.  I notice that more often than not, the scandal that prompted such initial furor usually turns out to be far less interesting than it first appeared.  To me, it’s all about learning as many hard facts as you can before you start making your opinion on the matter and putting it out into the world.  One’s good opinion is too precious to squander on half-baked gut reactions.

So it didn’t surprise me one jot that the story of Apple apparently refusing to allow Comixology to sell Saga #12 on its app, due to a couple bukkake visuals in the issue, turned out to be a story of Comixology preemptively deciding not to submit the issue to their app for the same reason.  Was the concern worth it?  Well, I think once you’ve allowed the uncleaned, bare loins of a gargantuan space ogre to go through the publishing channels, all bets are off at that point, right?

To me, the more interesting question is whether that kind of graphic visual serves any point to the story other than being graphic.  Vaughan claims it’s always to a purpose, the mass blowjob included.  So what is the purpose?  Unless he’s suggesting that Prince Robot IV is suggesting, in the throes of pain, that he’s anything less than a robust heterosexual (which would be quite a twist indeed, given his very pregnant wife), I really can’t imagine what purpose the two images, brief as they are, have in context to the action at hand.

However, this is undeniably a minor point in the issue.  For more worth your attention is the atrocity Wreath commits against the Landfall army, crossing both political and moral lines in the process.  This of course serves as a contrast to the massacre of the Wreath people that Marko’s parents made him witness back in #7, proof (as if you needed it) that neither side is blameless in this conflict, and neither has righteousness on their side.

Unfortunately, there appear to be only a handful of individuals in this universe who see it that way.  Everyone else has to operate under the pressure of a necessary war, Robot included, for whom the stress is even greater once his employer begins encroaching on his peaceful life back home.  This perhaps motivates him to be more vicious in his encounter with D. Oswald Heist than he otherwise might be, though if he hadn’t, the scene wouldn’t have had the gripping quality that it does.  For a while, Heist almost succeeds in convincing you that A Nighttime Smoke, the catalyst for this whole series, is just some garbage he whipped up for money, rather than a “thinly veiled treatise on radical pacifism, a compelling—if not entirely persuasive—call to inaction,” as Robot claims.

Things get a little ugly once each man drops his façade, but they’re bound to get even earlier once Robot discovers that—spoiler alert—Marko and Alana have been taking shelter with Heist for over a week already and are at that very moment preparing to confront Robot.  I don’t know how well they’ll stand up to the soldier-prince, but perhaps we can bet on the Will showing up in timely fashion and wreaking havoc on his ex-girlfriend’s murderer? That is really the moment we’re all living for, now.

Staples deserves extra credit for going along with every single one of Vaughan’s ideas, no matter how graphic they are, whether they have a point or not.  Beyond that, she adds her own contributions to the story through small, artistic details.  Notice that Marko’s mom has apparently lost an ear at some point between her husband’s death and now.  Also, it has to be said that the conversational dance Heist and Robot have with each other wouldn’t be nearly as convincing without the expressions she gives to Heist.  You couldn’t even partly fall for his con without the acting skills Staples imbues him with.

Conclusion: An issue that feels like the series taking a deep breath before it plunges into some real drama.  Even infected with a bit of controversy, it shrugs, and moves on.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I rather love the typewriter Heist has in his possession.  Hovering, holographic keys—love it.

– People apparently still use pens in this universe.  Charming.