By Zack Quaintance — This arc reaches its midway point, again packing an almost-absurd amount of plot into one issue. This particular chapter is split between three continuing storylines: the family in the lighthouse, the journalists in pursuit of the story, and The Will and his crew on the halcyon planet. The first two chug along duly with more character development and insight but no major revelations.
The third, however...well, you’re just going to read or re-read this issue for yourself at some point, now aren’t you? Let’s get down into the weeds on Saga #15!
Here’s the official preview text for Saga #15, first released on Oct. 30, 2013, a rare comic that comes out on or near Halloween and doesn’t do anything overtly spooky:
Everything starts coming together.
My reaction to this teaser paired with that cover is a double eyebrow waggle and a hubba hubba. Working in tandem, these elements seem to promise one of the most salacious issues of Saga yet. To be sure, this book has been salacious in the past but not as blatantly as what seems to be hinted at by this cover. Hinted, however, is the key word, because it’s all a bit of a feint.
The Cover: This cover would perhaps be more at home on the front of a romance novel than it is on this comic, what with the way Marko and Alana’s attributes are both exaggerated (Marko’s biceps, Alana’s cleavage, etc.) plus also the faroff blurry castle in the background, which has no presence in our actual plot and just kind of screams romance novel to me, or at least fantasy. This is all, however, as I noted above a bit of a mislead, with the story behind the cover being one of Saga’s most plot-heavy yet. There’s like three panels about sex, total, and they aren’t very sexy at all, played as they are for laughs versus eroticism.
The First Page: We get one of the Robot royal family standing over a slain alien dinosaur saying, Would one of you overgrown condom failures kindly remove the dead fucking dragon from my runway? While not one of the more iconic openers, this splash is a pure distillation of many of Saga’s core elements: violence conducted with nonchalance, profanity, blunt talk, striking character design, and a distinct-and-confident voice that has increasingly crept into Staples and Vaughan’s story, made evident here somehow by the phrase overgrown condom failures. This whole arc to me has felt like watch out A TON of sh*t is going down, and this issue’s opener continues a precedent that flows right on through to the final page.
The Surface: Plot, plot, plot, with a whole lot going down. Amid the rapid evolution of what’s happening here, we also get some background on what kind of soldier Alana was: one that challenged orders that would cost innocent lives but ultimately carried them out, putting duty ahead of morals. There’s also some work done here to flesh out Upsher and Doff’s passion for their jobs, particularly when the writer (I often confuse their names) is shot by a sniper and subsequently tells the photographer to Just keep snapping pics. This is awards bait, in spite of having just seconds ago suffered a flesh wound. Also, I’d just like to note how clever it is to have Marko’s (surprisingly progressive) mom subvert usual tropes by telling Alana, a new mother’s place is in the workforce. Oh, and I think we’ll go into this more next week, but the twist that The Will et al now face is pretty clever. Me gusta.
The Subtext: Our opening act here gives us a whole more insight into the cost of war and the way forever fighting molds perspective. One of our journalists remarks of a bygone battle, One of our stringers lost an arm covering that battle. To which Countess Robot X responds by calling it unpleasant. Also showing the ambivalence that creeps into forever wars, Countess Robot X contemplates whether her people even chose the right side, so detached is she from the reasons she’s still fighting. We also get a little insight into how nations and individuals justify widespread and continuous death and violence, as Countess Robot X goes on to describe everyday commuters as a few appeasers who welcomed these savages with open arms, which should hit close to home for us readers who have lived through questionable American combat initiatives abroad. This is doubled down upon later in the same scene when the countess orders the top floor of a residential condo complex incinerated before describing the other side’s actions as madness. You (obviously) can’t see this, but I’m shaking my head pretty hard right now.
The Art: Staples work sort of fades into the background here as we are put through a whole bunch of plot development, which is a credit to her sequential storytelling ability. Essentially, in this arc she’s showing herself able and willing to do what the narrative demands, be it big dead monster designs or a group of characters talking over a board game.
Foreshadowing: Hazel does a good bit of it in this issue with her narration, again preparing us for a fall (or falls) that is to come as she notes Some parents let their young kids win at games, but mine never did. I don’t think it was because they were particularly competitive, they just wanted to teach me a valuable lesson. Life is mostly just learning how to lose. We, of course, don’t know the ending of this story yet, but Hazel continues to suggest it will be bittersweet at best. Saga #54, as re-readers know, was certainly a big step in a tragic direction.
Check out past installments of our Saga Re-Read.
Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase. He also writes comics and is currently working hard to complete one.