By Zack Quaintance — The end of the most recent story arc is upon us, and so is the shift into what I’ve come to think of as the more recent issues of Saga, those essentially published after the book went from big-time comics hit to somewhere closer to broader cultural touchstone (although it still needs the inevitable TV/film adaptation to go all the way), and this finale is a good one.
I’ve written about this elsewhere during our Saga Re-Read project, but I’ve found this arc to be more unpleasant than those that came before it. This is, presumably, by design. The book was maybe running the risk of turning into a series of madcap adventures that the core family continues to escape mostly unscathed. This arc changes that, using temporary separations in a way that emphasizes the stakes for those are basically as high as they would be when dealing with injury or death. Just...different. Anyway, what we get with this finale is a packed adventure story with tons of consequences. It is, in a word, good.
Let’s take a look!
Here it is, the official preview text for Saga #30, which was first released back on July 8, 2015. This issue has a special significance for me, because it was after this one that I decided to make the crazy jump from Saga trade waiter to Saga monthly reader, which then opened to door to buying a whole slew of creator-owned comics monthly and ultimately starting this website. Ah, the follies of financial irresponsibility. Onward!...
Sooner or later, everything dies.
Sigh. A preview that is both mysterious and terrifying, meaning that the only way to figure out even part of what it’s talking about is to read the damn comic. In other words, I supposed this morbid vaguery has done its job…
The Cover: This is without question my favorite cover from this arc, featuring as it does a clearly alien flower atop an ample splattering of blood. It gets to two of my favorite facets of Saga—the imagination and the backdrop of shattering relatable tragedy. I also think the color choices on the leaves provide a nice (if subtle) contrast to the deep crimson of the blood splayed over the ground. Great stuff.
The First Page: Yet another divided first page, this one used well to show us Marko and his current plight (with a dash of foreshadowing...but more on that in the foreshadowing section). The shot start on the planet where Marko has crashed, zooms in, and then zooms in again to show him splayed and wounded in the snow. It’s as intriguing a set of images as an establishing first page for a long-running story can offer, and it’s made even more powerful by Hazel’s narration, which suggests her father might be hurt worse than we think.
The Summary: Marko, Prince Robot IV, and Ghus crash land, with Ghus staying to tend to an injured IV while Marko storms off to find his family. Speaking of his family, Alana, Klara, and conflicted murderous kidnapper Dengo (who gets humanized here) fight their way free from the Last Revolution. Things...do not go well for the Last Revolution, but the survivors of manage to abscond with Klara, Hazel, and a spaceship without much fuel. Once they do, Alana turns to kill Dengo and is stopped by Marko. The reunion, of course, is quite satisfying.
As they struggle over whether to hurt a now-vulnerable Dengo, Prince Robot IV shows up and wastes him immediately as recourse for Dengo did to his own wife, quickly turning to enjoy his own reunion with his son. Elsewhere, Sophie, Gwendylon, and Lying Cat sneak The Will from a hospital (off page), and administer the antidote to him, waking him from a years-long incapacitation. The Will is devastated to learn that his sister died in the service of waking him. Finally, this arc ends with a shot of Hazel presumably interned in some kind of jail/kindergarten. Intriguing.
The Subtext: This is one of those issues where the plot mostly crowds out any potential subtext. What room there is for reading between lines is also mostly devoted to foreshadowing events to come. Still, there is the continued beating of the all violence is bad drum that has in many ways been the foundation of the commentary in this series. Any sort of broader familial subtext here is lacking.
The Art: There are a lot of panels in this issue of Saga, at least relative to some of the other recent issues. I didn’t expressly count, but it’s quite possible the only splash page in the entire issue is the final cliffhanger. As such, Fiona Staples is asked to pack a lot of intricate action into several busy pages...and she unsurprisingly pulls it off with ease. See below...
The Foreshadowing: There’s a good deal of foreshadowing in this comic, from the first page hinting that Hazel will lose Marko, to Hazel telling us later that she would spend a great deal of time separated from her own family. As noted in the subtext section, Hazel’s narration also hints that problems have always and will continue to stem from Marko and Alana struggling to limit their own use of force, as does her narration when The Will awakes from his coma: Nobody knew exactly what kind of nightmare had been awakened that evening...but in time, my parents would find out.
All in all, this is a pretty telling issue, at least in retrospect upon re-read. The first time through, the action made it hard to focus on anything past what happens next! It should also be noted that IV wasting Dengo for killing his lover as Dengo begs for mercy is an eerie parallel to something that happens to IV much later...
Join us next time for the start of a brand-new arc, the one that began after Fiona Staples went off and helped Mark Waid re-launch that new Archie line, which as far as I know are the only other comic interiors she’s drawn since starting Saga...
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
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.