By Zack Quaintance — In some ways, this is the quintessential issue of Saga. It blends moments of domesticity so well with science fiction, commentary, and the suspenseful escape plot we’ve been following from our first issue. It is, perhaps, fitting that this is the book’s 50th issue, and one that comes before a massive status quo shift. Oops, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
This was a fun issue to re-read. The last arc has become distant to me during this hiatus, dominated as it has been by my reaction to Saga #54. We’re almost there, and I’m interested to see how I react to the rest of the run-up. For now though, let’s focus on Saga #50.
And let’s do that by jumping into the individual elements...
Here it is, the official preview text for Saga #50, which first hit comic shops back on March 28, 2018. One thing that is absolutely crazy to me is that this comic was still holding on to its $2.99 price point. Wild!
SAGA TURNS 50! To help their friends, Hazel and her parents risk everything to visit a dangerous new world. Celebrating 50 consecutive issues by the same award-winning creative team. Plus, the winners of the latest SAGA COSTUME CONTEST are revealed exclusively in "To Be Continued," the letters page showcasing the best readers in comics!
There’s one good sentence in there about the plot (better than most of these summaries), with a whole bunch of 50th issue fun stuff. A net win for all involved, if you ask me.
The Cover: This is, simply put, the sweetest Saga cover, one that’s essentially a family photo. It will later (stay tuned!) take on a more meloncholic place in the Saga lore, but I remember thinking how nice it was that the family could all be together like this so deep into our story, as if it were a turning point toward a happier time. More on this in coming re-reads, but in retrospect, it was basically a calm before a fall, not unlike how many characters got happy moments before being killed on Game of Thrones.
The First Page: And the first page certainly keeps with the happy family motif from the cover, albeit in a non-traditional and sexy way. It’s a sex scene, with Marko—ahem—going down on Alana, but in a really fantastical sort of way. They are in a river or lake at night, moonlit, and he’s picking her up above his head with her crotch in her face as if he’s about to powerbomb her. There are two moons in the sky and possibly a shadowy amusement park in the background. This page to me is, perhaps, the purest distillation of Saga, at least it is if my choices are kept to a single page.
The Summary: The act from the first page continues, until Alana—close your ears and eyes, children!—squirts in Marko’s face. Afterward, they float naked in the waters and talk about their shared lives. It’s tender, it’s sexy, and it’s intimate in the way only a well-worn marriage can be. It’s wonderful. They discuss what they should do next, before Marko mentions it’s been almost seven years since he proposed. Alana calls him “My sweet ejaculate face” as Hazel’s narration jumps in to tell us, “My parents were never big on anniversaries.” Funny.
Inside the empty amusement park, Upsher and Doff are working on their new story about Prince Robot, writing and taking pictures as he moans about how long it’s taking. Robot is focused on the military implications of this story as the reporters ask him to re-hash how he learned it from a prostitute, guessing (correctly) that that part will help drive reader interest. Robot warns them that crossing his kingdom could lead to their assassinations. Upsher notes that danger covering the war is nothing new for them, and that they’ve both been ready to die for some time. They talk about why they’re willing to die, and the answer falls somewhere between loyalty to their noble profession and wanting to be famous.
Elsewhere (inside the amusement park’s empty Tunnel of Love, to be exact), Petrichor is training Hazel to fight. Hazel expresses anger toward Prince Robot, who is Petrichor’s lover, and says it is because he’s making Squire, her friend, move away. It’s the usual everyday life stuff integrated with Saga’s sci-fi absurdities. Petrichor then breaks the news to Hazel that she’ll be going with the Robots.
Our next scene is Ghus and Squire discussing the impending changes as well. Squire tells Ghus all the right things about being sad but obeying his father, before confiding in the stuffed Ponk Konk toy that he’s planning to copy the adults in his life and run away from his problems, which is a story development I’d totally forgotten about.
Elsewhere, Ianthe ambushes one of Doff’s former colleagues, who is masterbating to some virtual reality. The guy protests, saying he quit working for newspapers ages ago, and Ianthe knows, responding that she knows. The guy tries to call his cat and his security, which Ianthe says has already been killed by The Help, who is The Will, continuing to endure his enslaved humiliation. Ianthe demands to know where Upsher and Doff are hiding as a bloody The Will (still wearing the cuffs and all), begs him to just tell her what she wants to know.
The Subtext: There’s some stuff in here about journalists and why they do their jobs, but for the most part I don’t think there’s any new subtext to be unpacked here. This is a relatively straightforward issue that has a lot of plot to get through, and it does it in a well-paced and entertaining manner.
The Art: I’ll just talk about the first page here in brief before getting on to the gallery...Our story opens with a nine-panel grid of the couple continuing the act, all in close ups. A hand on the back of head here (with a visible wedding ring), a set of curled toes there, and each row ending with Alana saying yes, progressively louder. Here Vaughan and Staples have done it—they’ve made sex deep into married life incredibly sexy. It’s great stuff.
The Foreshadowing: At the time, I thought the opening scene was just more of our relationship story playing out, but now it looks an awful lot like setup for the fall to come, as I mentioned earlier. Squire also states his plan to run away, which is less foreshadowing and more just a preview of what’s about to happen. Finally, I think The Will’s utter humiliation and fear of Ianthe is not really foreshadowing, but more of an extreme misdirect that will serve to make what happens later all the more shocking.
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics
The Saga Re-Read is ready for the fall.
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 ComicsBookcase.