Saga #54 // Review
Saga #54, by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples, is a true heartbreaker. It’ll be the last issue for the next year, as Vaughan reveals that he and Staples are taking some time off to recharge the issue’s letters column. This one…this one is a doozy. Vaughan and Staples have pulled out all the stops here to make a lasting impression before they go away.
Now, there are times when reviewers say that an issue is hard to synopsize. This is exactly that. Basically, after last issue’s shock ending, the Will and Marko battle it out. During the fight, both men experience flashbacks in times of duress. The fight is brutal and it ends with each man being true to their natures. That’s literally all that can be said without spoiling what is one of the most powerful moments in this book’s history.
Make no bones about it, this chapter of Saga is going to make readers cry. Vaughan and Staples have spent years building these characters, and readers have an emotional stake in this story. It’s a testament to how well-written the book has been. Sure, in recent story arcs, the overarching plots have been a bit weaker than they used to be, but Vaughan and Staples always made sure to throw in lots of moments that built the characters up, making them more real to readers. Anyone who reads Saga will speak glowingly about the core characters and the family dynamic they’ve developed. It’s one of the main selling points of the book. Sure, there’s the big sci-fi/fantasy war in there, but at the core of it all, it’s a book about a family and their love for one another triumphing.
The last few story arcs have been preparing readers for this in a way that was impossible to see at the time. There have been little moments, reminders that sometimes love is not enough to ensure a triumph. Sometimes, terrible things happen, and that’s just the way it is. This story arc in general, and this issue in particular, are exemplars of that. Between what happened to Doff and the ending of last issue, Vaughan has been preparing readers for what happens here in little ways. There’s a moment in this comic where the ending seems preordained. Then, there’s a moment when it looks like the tragedy has been averted and all will be well, but then who the characters are steps in, and readers get the moment they were dreading just pages earlier. It’s an emotional roller coaster and, by the end of the issue, there shouldn’t be a reader with a dry eye.
This one little moment changes everything. Saga will never be the same again. This moment opens up a whole new territory for the people at the center of this grand tale. What road will they go down? Will they want revenge? How can they function with this integral piece of the family gone? Vaughan and Staples have struck narrative gold here, altering the status quo in a shocking and brutal way. The worst part isn’t the event itself, which is heartbreaking, but the fact that readers will have to wait so long for the continuation.
Staples captures every moment perfectly. The fight is well choreographed. There’s a cool jellyfish starship thing in there that no other artist could have pulled off half as well. The piece de resistance, though, is the last page. It’s a splash page and it leaves readers with a sight that will start the waterworks. The last image from Saga that readers will see for a year is so powerful. It’s perfect for what it is, but it will rend readers to their core. It’s an artistic triumph for a book that is full of them.
Saga #54 is wonderful. It’s perfectly paced and beautifully drawn. It’s going to change this book forever. It’s a must have for fans of the book. It’s painful, but that’s a testament to the amazing work that Vaughan and Staples have done. This one is going to mess readers up. Bring a box of tissues.