Saga #52 // Review
Saga #52, by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples, finds Marko, Alana, and company enjoying their respite from the war. When one of their number disappears, what dangers await them in their search for them?
As everyone hangs out on the beach, waiting for Upsher and Doff’s magazine to come through with their promised rewards, Squire disappears. Realizing how dangerous the island can be, they mobilize to find him. Squire is attacked by one of the island’s creatures, but is saved by someone unexpected. The Will catches up with Sir Robot and immobilizes him, promising to make him suffer for killing his lover, The Stalk. Sir Robot, though, offers to trade him something he has been hunting for a long time.
This chapter does a fantastic job of ratcheting up the tension. It lulls the reader into a false sense of security with the opening pages, which feature a game of chicken between Petrichor, Ghus, Hazel, and Sir Robot, while Marko and Upsher talk about their respective paths in life and how being a writer can be just as bloody as being a soldier. It’s a rather interesting idea; Upsher knows his stories has gotten people killed in the past. He might not have killed anyone personally, but blood is still on his hands. Marko responds by saying that’s why he wants to write novels. To Marko’s reasoning, creating fanciful tales will cost no one their lives, but Upsher knows that ideas can be just as dangerous as reporting about the seedy underbelly of governments and he scoffs at Marko’s idealism. The great thing about this exchange is Marko should know how ideas can affect people. If it wasn’t for the novels of D.Oswald Heist, he and Alana never would have bonded and fallen in love, throwing away their roles in a war they never believed in and started their family. His naivety about ideas is contradictory to his own experiences, and it’s here where Saga shows its biggest strength. Saga is a book about an intergalactic war, but it’s also very much about people and how they deal with the tribulations of life. In real life, it’s very easy to believe one idealistic thing while also knowing that said belief is false. Marko’s belief in his ideals while knowing deep down that those ideals are wrong is extremely realistic, and it’s insights like this that make Saga so enjoyable.
The confrontation between The Will and Sir Robot has been brewing for a long time, and it doesn’t disappoint here. Sir Robot has gone through a lot of character changes over the years, but this confrontation shows that he’s still out for himself first and foremost. Offering to betray his new friends in order to save his own hide is definitely something the old Sir Robot would have done, and it shows another thing that Saga does well. People change in a lot of ways, but at their cores, they very rarely do a complete one-eighty. Sir Robot would gladly give up his friends for a chance at survival for himself and those he really cares about. So would most people, but readers are more likely to look down upon this decision because he’s willing to give up one of the main characters of the book. Strangely enough, this action right here shows how three-dimensional a character he is. Even though he’s regressing, he’s just acting like any real person would. For the first time since he was kicked out of the Robot Kingdom, he has a future to look forward to with Petrichor and Squire and he would sacrifice anything to get to that future, even his friends. Most people would pretend they wouldn’t make the same decisions he would, but they’d be lying. Vaughan is an expert at building characters that act in realistic ways. Readers may not like Sir Robot’s decision, but it’s one they would probably make in the same circumstance.
Fiona Staples’ art is great as it usually is. The first page is beautiful. It’s a full page spread of Hazel on Sir Robot’s shoulders as they play chicken with Ghus and Petrichor. On Sir Robot’s screen is an open shark’s mouth and Hazel is screaming, “Attack!” It’s a shocking way to open this installment of Saga because it’s both innocuous and a great foreshadowing of the last page, another full page spread of Sir Robot’s screen. These two images opening and closing the book are very powerful, and Staples’ pencils capture each moment perfectly. The shark on Sir Robot’s screen in the beginning of the issue symbolizes the kind of creature he shows himself to still be by the end, one that will do anything to survive. She also does a bang-up job with the monster that gets Squire. It lures its victims in with colorful, innocuous, worm-like tentacles, and pulls them into a gaping mouth that’s way more terrifying than it has any right to be.
Saga #52 breaks this story arc out of the doldrums its been in for the last two issues. Vaughan and Staples pull out all the tricks in their repertoire to give this one something the book hasn’t had in a long time, a sense of danger and momentum. What happens next is anyone’s guess. This book has needed the shot in the arm this issue is for a long time.