By Zack Quaintance — Well well well, it all starts here, the beginning of Saga’s most recent arc. I will admit, the end of this arc was a tough one for me to get through, not because it wasn’t entertaining, but rather—well, you’ll see as this thing progresses. It is, actually, this arc I’ve wanted to re-read for the longest time, looking for more meaning as well as any signs that everything will be okay.
And it all starts here with Saga #49! An issue that starts with snippets of all the story threads that will eventually converge as this arc comes to an end. Are you ready? It’s taken over a year, but I think I am. Yes, I am. I’m ready to do this damn thing again.
Let’s get started!
Here it is, the official preview text for Saga #49, which first hit comic shops way back on February 28, 2018, which now that I think about it, was not really *that* long ago—ah!
The multiple Eisner Award-winning series returns with a spacefaring adventure about fake news and genuine terror. Get ready for the most shocking, most impactful chapters of SAGA yet.
Now, I have been desensitized by the constant hyperbole of comics marketing, but, in retrospect, this preview text really wasn’t kidding when it described this arc as having “the most shocking, most impactful chapters of SAGA yet.” Yeesh. Phew. I’m ready!
The Cover: I absolutely love this cover. In fact, I think I’ve referenced it several times throughout this re-read project as a cover standard that all other Saga covers should be held to. I think it works so completely, both within the context of the story and as a standalone piece of art. It’s my favorite, and I would maybe even buy a print of this to hang on the wall in my office, if such a thing were available. Don’t you get it?! We’re all the falling man in the TV face on TV, and, also, we’re all completely fuc—
The First Page: Nudity and shock, the 1-2 punch of so many excellent Saga first pages. In this one, we have The Will walking totally naked and in (space) chains as his captor commands him from off panel, to “Hurry up, Slave Boy,” which evokes thoughts of The Will having rescued Slave Girl, although I’m not sure if there’s a literary intent to that, other than being direct with the situation’s symmetry.
The Summary: From there we get The Will and his captor, Ianthe, bickering as they scramble up some rocks. The Will discourages Ianthe’s plan, as Ianthe busts out a remote to shock him through his collar and bracelets. As punishment for talking, Ianthe makes The Will do “another thousand” push-ups. While he’s doing that, Ianthe finds pollen residue left behind by the family’s treehouse rocketship, and she notes they can trace it. There’s an interesting line here, about how Ianthe has realized that her dead lover (killed by The Will) is just a bit player in whatever “bullshit hero’s journey” he thinks he’s been on. Hmm.
Cut to the family, whizzing in the treehouse through space, all asleep (sweetly) in the same bed together. They are interrupted by Petrichor and Prince Robot IV having sex. I will refrain from describing it as kinky, but I will note that he calls her “mistress,” so you can go ahead and run that through your own kink scale, to see if it qualifies. Things get awkward between them when his screen-face flashes I LOVE YOU. Petrichor stops short of returning the sentiment, instead noting that their respective races war interests would keep them from ever being an accepted couple. They stop talking and go back to the whoopy (whoopie?).
In the morning, Upsher and Doff are debating whether they should ask if they can tell the family’s story, when Doff just blurts it out, like ripping off a Band-Aid. Their big sale is that their news organization has a Source Protection Program, that could potentially give the family a pathway to a stable and much safer life, one in which they are no longer running from...well, everybody. An ancient enchanted process would give them all new bodies (it sounds too good to be true, and my recollection is that soon we find out it is…). They ultimately decided that their “daughter’s biology isn’t a liability. It’s a gift.”
The next scene is Hazel and Squire fighting over a toy. Ghus plays disciplinarian/voice of reason, and, as always, it’s adorable. Ghus tells them to use their words, and Hazel makes Squire run off crying with a terrible comment about how he doesn’t have a mother (she was murdered).
Robot IV seeks out Upsher and Doff, pitching them a scoop of his own. It’s a story he picked up in a brothel. What he has is a recollection of a recollection, in which a frazzled soldier tells a prostitute both sides worked together to attack Phang with a WMD, resulting in substantial casualties. Robot barters that info for the witness protection offer the reporters just made to the family. His television face says he wants them to say No as he waits for their answer—and, SCENE.
The Subtext: I mean, the plot here checks all the subtextual boxes that have been running throughout this story from its start, including both sides being complacent in continuing the war, families looking for peace, and making selfish decisions without fully including your loved ones. It’s a powerful start to a new arc in that way.
The Art: It’s one of those issues where Fiona Staples works real magic without the luxury of a giant set piece. These issues (this one included) tend to be my favorites.
The Foreshadowing: I think that line I mentioned earlier between Ianthe and The Will about someone that meant a lot to her being just an insignificant part of his “bullshit hero’s journey” is significant, because it plays with our own audience ideas of who is really at the center of this story and why. This will come up again at the end of this volume, when we get to the big tragic event all of these many issues have been leading us to.
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics
The Saga Re-Read is fortunate it does not have a TV face to broadcast what it’s REALLY thinking.
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 Comics Bookcase.