By Zack Quaintance — So, this is an interesting issue, in that it was discounted to $.25 and aimed at attracting new readers to a long running title. I like these sort of things and comics like this. I came up reading books that were 400-some issues into their numbering and still working hard to summarize what had been going on lately on the off chance it was even just one reader’s first issue. This harkens back to that just a tad.
I also like it because I like Saga, and after the darkness that set in at the end of the last arc, this book moves a bit back toward the adventure story side of the comic. It does not, however, sacrifice even a little bit of the darkness that has been building. It just cadges it with some flashbacks, snappy pacing, and a new crazy plot (dung men!) Anyway, it’s a brighter issue aesthetically that still moves us toward some more dark places.
Let’s check it out!
Here it is, the official preview text for Saga #43, which was first released back on May 31, 2017. Hey now! I certainly remember this cover. It was one of those promotional $.25 issues Image Comics does with its massive hits to try to usher in new readers at jumping on points…
NEW STORY ARC BEGINS FOR JUST 25 CENTS!!! SAGA returns monthly with a brave new direction, and to celebrate Image's 25th Anniversary, this full-sized issue costs just 25 cents! In a perfect jumping-on point for first-time readers, Hazel and her star-crossed parents embark on a thrilling new adventure at the westernmost edge of the universe.
Whoa hey, and they also really laid it on thick with the preview text, at least by Saga’s minimalist standards, although the only thing that really pertains to our individual chapter here is the fact that they’re on the westernmost edge of the universe. Let’s dive in!
The Cover: This is a great Saga cover, from the colors to the imagery to the demeanor that just so perfectly captures Alana. It also sort of screams this is a story in space that also bounces around other genres, which is kind of apt. All in all, a great pick for a $.25 cent issue designed to reel in new readers who maybe have heard a thing or two about the comic.
The First Page: The book is certainly not interested in watering anything down for the presumably new folks coming for the reduced price here. We open with a full page of bird sherrif lady saying, “Howdy strangers!” while standing in front of a sign for ABORTION TOWN. Saga has long pulled no punches, and it wants anyone thinking about trying it out to know what to expect: family drama, sci-fi theatrics, and social satire/commentary. Also, I wish I could articulate why better, but this little image also somehow does a great job of capturing this comic’s worldview.
The Summary: Our cast—specifically Alana and Prince Robot—are decked out in western gear. They are pretending Robot is the father of the child for political reasons. The sheriff is shocked those two species can even physically procreate. Alana is eight months along, and the sheriff bird woman says that’s too far. The sheriff notes they are under The Wings’ jurisdiction, and if you have a problem with their rules, you can take it up with their elected officials, “most of whom ain’t women, mind you.” Sounds familiar. Sheriff points them to the other side of the planet, where the doctors will break the law. Hazel then goes into a (beautifully rendered) summary for the benefit of the new readers.
We then go back in time a bit, to right after Alana had her spill that cost her her second child. Petrichor sniffs and bows to Alana as Marko notes that their culture reveres women who have suffered what they just have. This scene also enables Petrichor to confirm what happen and note that it must be removed because it threatens Alana’s health. Hazel’s narration notes that there has been a time jump of “a brutal few months.”
Marko is digging a new septic line for the stationary tree ship while Hazel changes the bandages on the hands Petrichor burned getting the ship fuel during its escape from Phang. A conversation about biology ends in Petrichor telling Hazel she is unique, unlike anyone who has ever lived before. Alana returns and gives Marko the news that they have to use this planet’s “creepy back alley option.” Marko is beating himself up, assuming the second baby died from the bad karma he accrued by killing The March on Phang, in spite of his pacifist vow. Some dung people emerge from somewhere to threaten the family. Alana surprises herself and everyone else when she fends them off with flames from her hands...magic.
The Subtext: This issue is a bit lighter on the subtext, presumably to make it a more straightforward adventure that someone who knows nothing about this book can just pick up and read. The commentary is right out there with the questions the creative team hopes to raise. It’s fine, and it’s all very well done.
The Art: Some great stuff here. Last issue was a little compressed, but this one is right back with three fantastic big splash pages, presumably to let it all breath a bit more and make the whole affair friendly for less savvy comics readers, which Saga has always somewhat been aimed at.
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics
Like Marko, the Saga Re-Read is beating itself up and digging ditches to feel better...sort of
Check out previous installments of the 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.