By Zack Quaintance — It’s cliched to say, but change is a constant in Saga, which is part of what makes the story so compelling enough to span the 54 issues we find ourselves pouring back over now. This is my way of announcing that we’re changing our re-read format, with a big tip of the hat to Cory Webber, who is leaving us to focus on life…or whatever. Fortunately, I refuse to let life (or whatever) get in the way of my own online comics grousing (for better or worse).
Now, we’re turning this weekly piece into what I think this site does best: a snapshot of how a particular comic was perceived at a given time. In the case of Saga, what that looks like is an ongoing weekly review of the series (one issue at a time) during the book’s hiatus, which—not to spoil Saga #54—currently finds itself at an emotional turning point. I’ve been having a lot of fun writing about it, and don’t expect that to change any time soon.
What that in mind, let’s get to Saga #10! It’s taken two-and-a-half months, but here we are in double digits...
Here’s the official preview text for Saga #10, which was first released way back on Feb. 20, 2013:
Marko and Alana's long-lost babysitter Izabel finally returns to the fold, but at what cost?
Kind of a dramatic summary, given that I think it’s been four issues tops since we’ve been separated from Izabel (and it certainly doesn’t feel like a long time while reading now, even with a week between each chapter). Still, intriguing stuff, right? Especially that capper: but at what cost? Let’s take a look at individual elements of this issue…
The Cover: There was nowhere to go after last week’s cover except for less thirsty, but here we get action of a different type: Marko’s mother confronting his ghostly estranged live-in babysitter with a giant axe on the ruins of a dying world with a rust-colored sky (that old canard). It’s a nice-enough image on its own, but what I really like about this cover is the way it shares so little in common—from color pallette to composition to content—with pretty much any other cover that has come before it. It really sets this book apart, even if overall this isn’t one of my favorite Saga covers.
The First Page: Did I say less thirsty too soon? Perhaps. On re-reading, I’m noticing this stretch of issues is where Vaughan and Staples really embrace the power of the first page, often reserving it for splashes of the grotesque, unexpected, violent, or, in this case, shirtless Marko, literally beckoning the reader to Please. Keep reading. I had forgotten this particular opener, but, also, it was 2013 and I was not (yet) actively involved with the comics Internet. Perhaps most impressively, this framing of Marko isn’t even gratuitous...upon turning the page we find that he’s talking to Alana, who is currently reading the subversive novel so vital to their love story. The thirsty shirtless shot of Marko on the first page is actually him as seen through his lover’s eyes.
On-Page Action: The first act is almost entirely a flashback of Marko and Alana falling deeper into the infatuation that would become love and ultimately give rise to their relationship, and it’s depicted well, indicative of the dynamic that would later take hold between them. Marko is slightly cautious and hesitant, almost resigned to his fate, while Alana is bolder and a little more reckless in a shrewd way, giving him the spark he needs to do what’s best for himself. After this blissful bit, we get right back to our plot...we search (and find) the babysitter, we have some domestic tension, and we hit a plot point at the end that I didn’t remember came this soon—SPOILER—the potential loss of Lying Cat (I say potential because I don’t remember if this a tease or not…if not, I’ll address it more directly next week).
Deeper Meaning: There’s certainly a motif here about the power of subversive art, about defying norms and conventions that have become twisted and unnatural over time, or maybe were always twisted from the start. That was my favorite subtext this issue. The rest of the themes in Saga #10 are pretty blatant and overt.
The Art: First, I love Fiona Staples’ artwork and think she’s one of the top talents in comics. That much should be implicit every week. Second, I’d like to then use this section to talk about new development in her work or designs that become apparent. This week that takes the form of a ghostly space ape engulfed in flames, as well as his cadre of witch aggressors with upside faces (yes, you read that right…also, see the page included here). Oh, and a planet also hatches.
Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.