The first page of this comic is a full page spread of a TV set being pushed out of a robot’s birth canal. Never change, Saga.
Saga is finally back from another three-month hiatus, and the wait was definitely worth it just to be able to revisit these characters again. Since the ending of issue #18, which featured a time-jump spanning several years, Marko and Alana have settled down in the Switzerland of the galaxy, a planet called Gardenia that has not chosen a side in the ongoing intergalactic war. Marko acts as a stay-at-home dad while Alana gets to work her dream job at the Open Circuit, which to my understanding functions like a live-broadcast play where the audience members project themselves into the “theater” via virtual reality helmet. Pretty rad.
These hiatuses also allow time for cover artist, interior artist, colorist, and occasional letterer Fiona Staples to be able to do all those things I just said. My goodness, is this book gorgeous sometimes. The character designs alone have so much creativity in them that it makes me wonder how much of this stuff Brian K Vaughn imagines himself and how much of it comes from Staples’ wickedly talented cranium. One of Alana’s coworkers, a woman whose body is a flowery bush with limbs made of gnarled roots, is introduced almost as an afterthought. Another detail I absolutely love is a simple panel of the robot kingdom’s livestock, which shows oxen with an old CCTV security camera for a head. Who thinks of this stuff? I don’t care. It’s incredible.
The issue has the task of reestablishing the status-quo after it got a rough shake by the collar last installment and it does a pretty good job of it. Our characters have settled into a new routine of work, childcare, and keeping a low profile, and while they still have plenty of problems, they’re not the kind of problems that might get you killed.
There’s also a strange moment with a robot janitor, a new character who’s quickly introduced and then just as quickly shoved to the side for our main couple, who I’m sure will play a role in subsequent issues, as well as a lady with a bat-like face who…I’m also sure will have an important role in subsequent issues.
Now you might see my one major gripe with this issue surfacing: it’s all set-up. It’s certainly finely-crafted, intriguing set-up, but not a whole lot actually happens beyond that. And for me, that’s okay. For a series as intricately plotted as Saga, and juggling as many characters as Saga does, that’s forgivable. And with the teaser description on the Image Comics website being as vague but ominous as “Something terrible happens”, we know shit’s about to start popping off almost immediately. But after the majority of Saga’s last arc being slow and intimate character-centric build-up, I’m ready to return the action of the first two volumes.
Also, Gardenia is a dumb name for a planet. I know it’s supposed to evoke images of flowers and spring and new beginnings, but couldn’t they have picked something that doesn’t sound like they chose this name “because the planet’s got gardens on it and stuff”?
So it’s not perfect. But it’s so close, and it proves that even after the break Saga is still one of the best ongoing titles around.
And man did that ending kinda ruin my day.