By Zack Quaintance — They’re back! After an issue without the story’s central couple, Saga #32 is almost all Marko and Alana, with a brief Prince Robot IV chaser at the very end. It’s also one of the better issues in terms of capturing the beauty of their dynamic, of being romantic in the way that only stories about long-term relationships can. Oh, plus there’s a heist!
Maybe it’s because we’re now firmly into the stretch of issues that I actively remember reading as they came out, but I find myself thinking of this arc as the one in which Saga as we’ve known it in recent years really hit its stride, really found a comfortable cruising altitude. The relationships are mature, we know our central characters, and Fiona Staples artwork has become nothing short of absolutely phenomenal. It’s a beautiful thing, and for may the hundredth time I’m finding myself really grateful to be undertaking this re-read project. I will also, it should be noted, be sad once it’s over...although I may jump right into Paper Girls at that point.
Anyway, onto the other parts of this feature!
Here it is, the official preview text for Saga #32, which was first released back on December 23, 2015, on one of those really fun new comic book days that happen during the height of the holiday shopping season and (hopefully) don’t inconvenience the staff at shops all that much…
Marko and Alana learn something.
Welp, once again we know pretty much nothing. Although, I suppose after an issue of not seeing them at all, we do find out here that we will in fact be getting a storied centered on Marko and Alana, who were reunited in Saga #30...before being separated from Hazel by a DRAMATIC TIME JUMP in Saga #31. Let’s do the thing and take a look at the individual elements.
The Cover: This marks two in a row that I’ve really liked. Again, the composition and colors here are pretty fantastic, as is the casual romance with the even more casual fantasy/sci-fi touches, the wins on Alana and the sword/shield on Marko...it’s all very cool.
The First Page: Hey hey! For the first time in six or seven issues, we get one of (what I consider to be) the trademark sensational Saga opening pages, this one being Alana accosted and choked by a disguised Marko who’s (presumably) pretending to be holding her hostage. As we learn shortly, they’re actually running a scam and working to fool a security guard. It’s a nice way for the book to let us know that during the DRAMATIC TIME JUMP, Marko and Alana have become a cohesive team once again, as cohesive as they were before, anyway.
The Summary: The story opens with Marko and Alana trying to lie there way past a security guard in a building where there is information about where Hazel is being kept, before that goes sideways and they knock him out instead. They’re in the midst of a full-blown heist. As they go about executing it, they hash out what happened between them in a way that almost feels organic and not intended to mostly remind the audience about stuff.
They eventually get caught, and it looks pretty much as bad as it could get for Marko and Alana. That is, until a missile appears in the air. Security flees before we see that the “missile” is actually the family’s spaceship/treehouse. The excitement of it all pulls them into coitus, and they decide afterward that they’re going to need (presumably) Prince Robot IV for the next phase of the plan, which involves a rescue operation on the Wings homeworld of Landfall. The issue ends with Ghus and a surly Prince Robot IV seeing their ship approach.
The Subtext: I don’t know if this counts as subtext or not, but I found this to be a very romantic issue, at least as it pertains to the conversation between Marko and Alana as they perpetrate the heist. Brian K. Vaughan’s writing here does a wonderful job of teasing out the dynamic between them, showing how complementary they are to each other, and, ultimately, why their love really truly works. We see Marko being his overzealous self when it comes to making a mense about throwing a bag of groceries at Alana, and we see her admitting her own culpability in the frayed relations between them. We see Marko’s peacefulness and practicality paying off as Alana’s spontaneous risky thinking teases him out of his uptight shell. It’s all really sweet, and one of the best recent examples in any fiction of what it feels like to be in a happy marriage (which I maintain is part of the reason this book works so well, because it so often perfectly captures both the very good and the sometimes bad of marriage, or long-term romantic entanglements).
The Art: There wasn’t all that much of a unifying thread to be found in the artwork this week, so instead I just pulled together some of my favorite segments and panels. Gallery is below...
The Foreshadowing: There are maybe a handful of minor and inconsequential instances of foreshadowing dotted here and there in this issue, but I think far and away the most interesting is when Prince Robot IV correctly tells Ghus that everyone who gets tangled up with Marko and Alana finds themselves dead eventually, essentially predicting part of his own storyline as well as that of many of the other side characters, too. It’s also funny in how Ghus very lightly sticks up for them.
Join us next week as we get within striking distance of the 20-issues-to-go mark!
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.