The Saga Re-Read: Saga #35, in which A LOT happens but still no reunion

Saga #35 was first released on 3/30/2016.

By Zack Quaintance — One thing I’ve noticed often during this re-read is that there are almost two distinct types of Saga issues. The first is a surface level rapidfire burst of action and plot. The second is a slower, more emotional sort of issue that uses a lot of metaphors to get at deep truths about love, family, and relationships. This series is so grandiose (look at its title), that it certainly has room for both.

That said, Saga #35 and the rest of this arc are heavier on action. It makes sense. Hazel being away from her parents against their will is a situation that needs to be resolved before we can get back to exploring familiar dynamics within a family. And Vaughan and Staples do a fantastic job building up to that reunion, weaving in some new characters and finding interesting ways to test the ones they already have. I’m digging this arc far more during re-read then I did in monthly installments, when my irrational heart was loudly yelling, just get the little girl back with her parents, you clods!

Let’s take a look at Saga #35...

Saga #35

Here it is, the official preview text for Saga #35, which was first released back on March 30, 2016. I don’t remember this one (or, specifically, this cover) nearly as well as Saga #34, but hey, March is always a hectic month, so maybe that’s part of it? Anyway, let’s get right to it…

Hard time.

Yeah, that tells us next to nothing, and certainly not anything new that we don’t get from the cover itself. In other words, it’s a classic Saga non-tease and also I’m starting to wonder why we do this section at all, but I digress!

The Cover: It’s another of those Saga covers that uses a tropey idea—an inmate getting tattoed up in a prison—and makes it unique to this world by applying Saga’s relatively singular alien aesthetic to it. The color palette, meanwhile, is muted by comparison to some more vibrant Saga covers, which makes sense. This is a story about hard time and prison, after all.

The First Page: All the color lacking in the cover is (over?) compensated for here, in a first page that also returns to the tropey setup deployed on the exterior. Here we get an alien Tony Montana looking character surrounded by scantily clad women who are pouring a glowing gold space narcotic on the table as he strokes the chin of what appears to be a Lying Cat-esque monarch beside him, presumably conducting business. This is the first-time we’ve seen this character, and the splash page here tells us a lot, playing on familiar imagery from other works and mediums.

The Summary: Twist! Turns out the gentleman from the opening is a former news photographer, and the person he’s on the phone with is Doff! Who is still held captive by The Will. Doff is calling because The Will has his lance to Upsher’s head, and he is asking the man to reveal the whereabouts of Prince Robot IV, who has paid him handsomely to keep all that quiet. The man won’t reveal it for any monetary price, and instead wants dirt on the bureaucrats who have hamstrung his liquor license. Doff happens to have the info, and an exchange is made. The Will and his captives head off toward Prince Robot, whom The Will notes is nearby.

Cut to Marko, Alana, and Prince Robot IV, now planning an ill-advised prison break. We learn they’ve stolen a teleporting crash helm from a museum, one that is maybe old and unreliable but should be able to get them in and out of the prison. The plan is for Prince Robot to pretend to be some other member of the royal family on his way to an interrogation, so that the prison will turn off its teleporting defenses. In the prison, Hazel and some of the inmates who have come to protect her are having a tense moment with her helpful (and so far trustworthy) teacher Noreen. Noreen has a plan that we don’t learn much about.

Marko, Alana, and Prince Robot’s plan is going well until it suddenly isn’t. Their ship floats into a space minefield, which have since been outlawed but that doesn’t do anything for them at the moment. They power through it and continue with the plan. The final scene sees The Will finding Prince Robot IV’s son, before Ghus rides in on Friendo with his giant axe to (maybe) come to the rescue.

The Subtext: This is a very good issue of Saga, loaded with interesting plot points. The subtext, however, is a bit on the lightside. There’s something going on here that has to do with justifications for actions, but it’s so light that I can’t quite nail it down. We see it with Marko riding into battle, The Will threatening to kill a child because Prince Robot IV killed a woman (albeit a badass county hunter), and Marko picking up his sword again, which he swore to never do in the opener. There’s also a bit of truth-related justification going on with our journalists. It seems interested in asking what happens to values when real threats start to arrive, although none of our characters make choices that I’d consider irredeemable here.

The Art: Excellent as always. En route to these screen grabs, I pulled about four more that I later discarded. I just like this imager and the final panel here is very funny.

The Foreshadowing: Not a whole lot. The Will’s singular drive to find Prince Robot IV might be considered a bit of foreshadowing for what’s to come, and, indeed, his arrival to find the boy prone is a bit familiar, as is him holding captive Upsher and Doff. But yeah, not a lot of direct references to the future, and, perhaps most notably, I think this issue is entirely absent of Hazel’s back-looking narrations.

Join us next week as we start the final 18-issue stretch of Saga!

Saga #35
Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letterer: Fonografiks
Publisher: Image Comics

Check out previous 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.