The Saga Re-Read #29: Saga #29, the rigors of sacrifice

Saga #29 was first released on 6/10/2015.

By Zack Quaintance — Welcome back to The Saga Re-Read, where eagle-eyed readers may notice we’ve made a minor tweak...we’ve changed the surface level category to be a straight up summary. This is great, because it allows us to unpack more in the subtext section, while also turning these pieces into minor reference guides for myself and anyone else who might come in search of a literal plot summary of the major things (and some of the little ones too) that take place in each issue.

So, where are we at now in terms of this story arc? This is the penultimate issue. Next week will see the finale of this first arc in which the family at the story’s center has been separated by its plot. This has been a tougher arc to read, which is something I didn’t get during my first time through but definitely feel now. I just want them all to face these things together, damn it. Though suffering in stories will ultimately make the good times better, just like in life, amiright?

On to the individual elements!

Saga #29

Here it is, the official preview text for Saga #29, which was first released back on June 10, 2015. You know what that means? The Saga Re-Read project here is on the cusp of turning 30. We can only hope and pray that it has less anxiety about that than I do about turning 30 in my own life. Anyway!...

The Last Revolution makes their move.

Hey now! That’s an enticing summary, and—dare I say it?—even a bit revealing, at least by Saga teaser standards. The Last Revolution has essentially been coiled and ready to strike since the start of this arc, and now all signs point to that strike coming. Which brings us to the first of our individual elements, the cover. Onward!

The Cover: This cover, in all its neon orange glory, puts the Last Revolution front and center, which connects nicely to the issue’s solicit. Front and center there we have the scantily glad fish-woman character, who reads to me like a riff on an era of superhero art that was maybe in its death throes when this issue was published: an era of butt floss and stripper gear and just overall general objectifying of female characters. It’s not just the scantily-clad fish woman character though, the entire team plays like a parody to me, a send-up of the type of revolutionaries that are often glorified and made lead characters in galactic war stories like this one. Just a reminder that Saga aspires often to be capital S, Subversive.

The First Page: See above, at least to some extent. This first page is all business, reminding us that while The Last Revolution might look like early Image characters (like early early...back when they were under Malibu), they are ruthless zealots who only care about their own causes, so much so that they’d sell a literal child to a military industrial complex who is being pretty clear that it’s goal is to kill said child. Not the most visually scandalous Saga front page, but pretty appalling from a morality standpoint.

The Summary: The issue opens with The Last Revolution trying to negotiate a trade of Hazel to Wreath High Command in order to further its own fight. Talks, however, break down when the murderous android kidnapper Dengo is spotted. Even though he literally murdered Robot Kingdom royalty, the woman from Wreath is clear that she will not under any circumstances negotiate with “one of those death machines.” Just a nice little insight into how deeply-entrenched the war is at this point. The Last Revolution immediately throws Dengo under the bus to make the talks tenable again, thereby completing Dengo’s now-intense disillusionment with them. In the brig, Alana tries a desperate negotiation of her own, aimed at saving Hazel’s life. That’s not necessary, as Klara and Dengo save the day, however violently.

Sophie, The Brand, Lying Cat, and Gwendolyn, meanwhile, continue their quest to get the alien dragon semen (I think) that they need to save the life of The Will...and we get one of Saga’s trademark scandalous visuals, the alien dragon having himself across two pages. They get the sample, but at a pretty steep cost. RIP, The Brand.

As this unfolds, Marko, Prince Robot IV, and Ghus find themselves in a space battle. They take a big risk and retreat...right into an ice storm. That goes about as well as it sounds (much like Rick Moody’s classic suburban ennui novel, The Ice Storm, but I digress…)

The Subtext: This is another issue in which Hazel’s future self narrates the subtext into pretty much being regular text. She notes throughout that parents often make sacrifices for their children, as we watch the three separate storylines all require sacrifices to save the day: The Brand distracting as Sophie gets the dragon semen, Dengo killing again to save Hazel, and Marko and Prince Robot IV realizing that Yuma made the ultimate sacrifice for them last issue. I don’t know if there’s really any deeper meaning here than that. There’s certainly something to be said about glorifying revolutionaries and the disillusionment one often suffers as a result, once they show themselves to be either too extreme, too selfish, or a combination of both as we see here, but it takes a significant backseat to the more latent (sub)text about familial sacrifice, especially as it applies to children.

The Art: Whereas for Saga #28 we saw the finest work being done in facial expressions, this time around Staples talent manifests most clearly in a pair of action sequences, detailed in the full pages we’ve clipped below:

The Foreshadowing: I suppose one could read all of Hazel’s narration about sacrifice as foreshadowing for the events of the most recent issue, Saga #54, but it’s a bit of a reach. The events in that issue continue to strike me as more of a commentary on the end results of aggression and war, than any sort of statement on what we all give up to have families. Still, it’s there if you want to make that connection.

Join us next time for the conclusion of this arc as well as the inevitable existential crisis that’s likely to come before, during, or right after our little re-read project’s 30th birthday!

Saga #29
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letterer: Fonografiks
Publisher: Image Comics

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.