By Zack Quaintance — And like so many things on the site this week, today the Saga Re-Read is making its (triumphant?) return. It’s been a nice break, in the sense that now we just might have an announcement about the book’s return before this whole thing is over, although I still think the smart money is on it coming back in November, following the release of that super-mega-first-half-of-Saga hardcover.
Still, I really don’t want this thing to end! But when it does, I’ve already been kicking around some ideas for a replacement re-read project, with The Wicked + The Divine taking the lead. Part of the reason for this is that there are some surface similarities between the too. Wic + Div (as us “cool” folks call it) is another well-regarded Image comic, I don’t remember its early issues all that well, I’d like to remember it’s early issues better, and it’s headed for a milestone, in this case a finale rather than a hiatus like Saga. So we’ll see.
But now onward to the (triumphant!) return of the Saga Re-Read project!
Here it is, the official preview text for Saga #44, which was first released back on June 28, 2017…which feels like just yesterday! The nature of this re-read is changing ever so slightly as it approaches present day, going from a total refresher to a nuanced second look at comics and storylines I remember fairly well. Preview time...
Hazel and her family search for elusive treasure: affordable healthcare.
This one is funny and relevant, although more so relevant to real life than the actual plot of this comic book. Still, we’ll take what we can get here! Let’s check out the individual elements of the issue.
The Cover: Aw, such a sweet cover, with Marko throwing Hazel playfully into the air. And she’s gotten so big! This cover doesn’t really reflect much of the issue (other than the ever-present family dynamics), but it is great for a warm-fuzzy feeling. It’s also nice that the book is so far into its run that it can take quieter issues like this one and use it as a chance to give us some subdued family imagery out front, especially in lieu of what comes 10 issues past this one...
The First Page: The first page gives us two rando characters: a winged couple en route to get an abortion on the abortion planet where this arc is set. It plays on one of Saga’s repeated strengths: it’s ability to recontextualize real-world relationship dramas in fantastical sci-fi settings. What we get here is a couple arguing about who’s to blame for an accidental pregnancy, both bitter that it’s come to this...and then it’s interrupted by an intergalactic gun-slinger who is half horse.
The Summary: Said arguing couple are quickly gunned down by a gang (family?) of what appear to be pro-life vigilantes. Afterward, the gang wonders why so many abortion-seeking couples of late have been moving away from the known vigilante clinics, and they go off to investigate—which puts them on a collision course with our family. Meanwhile, back in the treehouse spaceship, Alana’s miscarriage means the baby’s magic has gone to her, and she is experimenting with it. This quickly begins to seem dangerous, hastening the urgency with which she needs to have her miscarried baby aborted.
After some arguing, it is decided that Alana, Marko, and Hazel should go together. Something about safety and support. Garbed in sort of funny western gear (especially Alana), they jump a weird space train with a sinister face that made me think of Stephen King’s Dark Tower novels. During the jumping, Hazel and Alana must use magic to save Marko, who almost tumbles off the top. Hazel also asks a sad question about whether Marko and Alana will have another baby, and she gets, unsurprisingly, a sad answer.
Left alone, Petrichor is sacrificing photos of old lovers as she tries to use her own magic to summon “someone to $*&.” She is unsuccessful as you’d expect (we’ve all been there, right?). The vigilante gang lays eyes on her in the aftermath, wondering what a horned person is doing in winged territory.
Alana has a nightmare that starts as a recollection of a sexual encounter with an ex and turns into guilt that her drug usage when Hazel was young inadvertently caused her recent miscarriage. When she awakes in the train, Marko is sleeping, and Hazel has become the couples son (unclear whether it’s the baby they lost or a gender swapping).
The Subtext: As I wrote in the headline for this piece, Saga #44 is a story of miscarriage, abortion, and a violent pro-life posse. It’s complex, dark, and polarizing stuff. There’s subtext all throughout about these complicated issues, but I think it’s all fairly straightforward, connecting easily with debates and feelings on these matters in our own real world. What I think is worth discussing here is how none of this feels forced. It’s all organic to our story, in keeping with past predicaments faced by our protagonists. It’s not played for sermonizing or for grand states. It all just is, and our characters must face it for reasons that have come naturally out of our plot.
The Art: There are some fetching designs in this one, though nothing as jaw-droppingly original as some other issues. The half-horse cowboy vigilante and the train with a face come to mind. Staples is presumably putting out more subdued work here to let the heavy subject matter breath. A wise decision.
The Foreshadowing: As I mentioned, I think the cover is a bit foreshadowy, serving up some some good times between Marko and Hazel before what is to come. There’s also another mention of violence only beggeting more violence. That’s become somewhat standard at this point, though.
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics
The Saga Re-Read is spending its days beseeching the gods for this book to come back soon.
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.