It’s easy to forget between bounty hunters, Lying Cats, and endless cycles of death, destruction and devastation, Saga is essentially a story about one family trying to keep it together against all odds. In Saga #32, the story gets back to that core as the focus shifts back to Alana and Marko on a heist on a planet called Variegate to find information about Hazel’s whereabouts.
Sure, the cliffhanger regarding Hazel is tense, but this issue was refreshing in the face of that and where the comic has been going. One of the initial appeals of Saga was the core couple of Alana and Marko and just how well they worked together as a couple with the deck stacked against them. However, the past couple of arcs have gone away from that, both with the two suffering marriage problems and being separated by circumstance for close to a year. To see them working as a team again, it made the book feel like how it did in that first arc.
The issue opens with Alana and Marko posing as an accountant and a robber respectively as they’re confronted by a security guard. The security guard is not one of Fiona Staples’ best character designs, opting for a orange and yellow striped humanoid who is quickly put to sleep by Marko. Instead, what’s more interesting here is how much this scene deliberately calls back to the first arc of the comic. Staples has always been good about giving the characters distinctive looks as time passes, but not making their looks static. Marko is wearing a similar outfit to the one he was wearing when Hazel was born and Alana is back to her signature short hair and poncho after two arcs with long hair. However, it isn’t an exact one to one. Alana’s hair is way shorter than its ever been and Marko is sporting a beard again. Perhaps, even, the characters look a tiny bit older around the eyes from the five years previous to when we first met them. It makes sense. These two have been through more than anyone could ever imagine, but reminding of their signature styles is a nice reminder that this is still a story about these two.
Also recalling back to those first arcs is Marko’s vow of non-violence. He’s apparently doubled down on it since all the problems the two faced on Gardenia as well as what he did while separated from Alana and Hazel. Alana tries to tell him that all is forgiven, but Marko remains firm. “Alana, you and I are going to put our family back together,” he declares while taking a gun from his wife, “but only if we do it in the spirit of which that family was forged.”
It occurs at this point that this really is the first major time skip in Saga with the way the two most familiar characters in the story recall back to the time in which we first met them. Arcs have skipped ahead few months to a year at most, but this is significant. These are the same characters we met back on Cleve, but time has progressed in such a way that their reasonings for trying to act as they did then is way different. Or perhaps the same from a certain point of view.
Marko uses his “magic” (which he clarifies is a technique called Spelling) to turn the gun into a skeleton key in probably one of the prettier scenes in this issue. The two break into the vault of records to find what they’re looking for: confirmation that Hazel and Klara are still alive. It also confirms that the two are being held as “apolitical detainees” in a camp on Landfall, Alana’s home planet. It’s already easy to tell that Vaughn and Staples are going to make retrieval of Hazel as hard as possible for the couple.
Still, there isn’t much time to celebrate the discovery because the two are caught by The Constables, a group of three intimidating police figures that could basically be described as human flamethrowers. This is the part of the issue where Staples’ character design really shines because these cops look downright terrifying and at first look, I would not want to run into them in a dark alley.
However, that intimidation doesn’t really last long because the three end up being absolutely bumbling and end up setting fire to the hall of records, which is all just paper scrolls. As Alana uses the opportunity to use her acting skills to make them look like members of The Last Revolution as the tree ship approaches and the Constables make a run for it, the whole scene recalls back to something that has not been seen in Saga in a while: the humor. Saga is not a comedy, but the characters do often embrace the ridiculous nature of their lives to be sarcastic and throw jokes. To paraphrase beloved Space Princess Carrie Fisher, if their lives weren’t funny, they would just be true.
What follows is easily one of the best scenes Vaughn and Staples have created for Alana and Marko in the entire series. As the treehouse approaches at full speed, Alana breaks out a window, flies out, and tells Marko to reach out and grab her by the waist. When he tries to counter that he’s too heavy to be held up by her wings, Alana remarks that she knows that and that with the right timing, they should both be able to use his weight to hitch a ride.
Marko doubts, but with one look from Alana, he leaps. And they make it into the ship.
In that moment, that’s where Saga reminded me of what I loved about the book to begin with. There’s a lot of cool things about the universe and the characters in the book, but it’s still about a couple that fell in love and learned to trust each other in war time in order to create a life together. Through all their ups and downs, Alana and Marko still trust and love each other, even through the most harebrained of plans. It’s romantic in a “we’ve long moved past the NRE stage” kind of way, and Saga at its best should be that kind of romance at its core.
After the two break their “unspoken vow” of not having sex until Hazel is rescued, the two come to the realization that if they’re going to rescue their daughter from Landfall, they’re going to need the help of one particular man. One particular robot man, that is.
The last scene of the book is reintroducing Prince Robot, who has since been demoted to a knight called Sir Robot and is living on the outskirts of the robot kingdom with his son Squire, who looks so much like his mother and also older than Hazel? Saga has never explained how the Robots age in comparison to the other species in this universe, so now would be a good time to do so. Still, this doesn’t really matter because Ghüs, the actual best character of this book, is also reintroduced. Ghüs and Friendo were the true cherry on top in this issue, which Robot tries to spoil by saying he won’t get involved with Alana and Marko. Oh honey…
Saga #32 isn’t a high action issue, but it is one that gets back to the core of the series. It reminds that the series with all its adventures and subplots is still about Alana and Marko learning to make it work at its core. It calls back to the first few issues of the series in a nice way without making the characters feel like they’ve backtracked to do it. Think of it more as Saga’s own take on getting the band back together. It’s fun, lovely, and strangely romantic in its own war time sort of way. As it should be.
Art by Fiona Staples
Written by Brian K. Vaughn
Letters by Fonografiks
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Ashley is a writer based out of Atlanta with a penchant for all things nerdy and has done a whole other host of weirdness, including work at Steampunk Chronicle, Nerdophiles, the Ratchet Retrocast and the Killer Queen and 27 anthologies published through Red Stylo Media. Most of her current work is non-fictional and found at her blog as well as PopOptiq. She can often be found online crying about comics, TV, pro-wrestling and music.