Since before the release of Saga #1, the elevator-pitch-turned-marketing-tagline being bandied about to describe the series has been “Romeo and Juliet meets Star Wars.” And it’s a pretty solid line. If you weren’t already buying for superstar writer and professional bald guy Brian K. Vaughn, or for the wonderful artwork of Fiona Staples, that line told you all you needed to know about the comic: a space opera featuring epic romance, galaxy-spanning conflicts, and maybe even something resembling Chewbacca (and we got something even better in the form of Lying Cat. Come at me, Star Wars fans).
And while we certainly got all that, with every new issue of Saga I realize more and more that this alleged space opera is overwhelmingly more “opera” than “space”. Soap opera, to be specific. Many of the plot developments and character turns of this issue are developments that would be right at home in shows like Days of Our Lives or General Hospital, like the near constant brushes with marital infidelity or the surprise murderings. But, like most soap operas, so much of what’s happening relies on the intricate storylines and complex character motivations, so I feel that a spoiler warning after this paragraph is necessary. So here are my thoughts for you if you’re still on the fence about Saga: buy this book. It’s a damn fun comic with great characters, fantastic art, and a ghost babysitter, and the three trade paperback editions are real cheap and can catch you all the way up to #18.
If any of you pay attention to Image’s solicitations, you might have seen that the preview text for this issue simply read “Something bad happens.” Coupled with the fact that The Outhouse didn’t receive an early review copy (presumably for fear that the issue would leak), this led me to believe that this issue would be, for a lack of a better term, a big fucking deal. However, upon reading the issue itself I found that all the hype may have been a bit overzealous.
Sure, Prince Robot IV’s wife gets a blade through the face (through the screen?), but she’s just a minor character. I was expecting to see a major character death, or maybe even Marko and Alana’s “split” that was mentioned at the end of last issue. Disappointed definitely isn’t the right word to describe how I felt, but I might say underwhelmed.
Still, I thoroughly enjoyed this chapter, even if the story Vaughn is setting up is most likely going to end in tragedy for just about everyone. Not only is Marko continuing to develop a relationship with the bat-faced dance instructor (a relationship which may develop into a romance, a probable catalyst for the future break-up), but Alana starts munching on some hallucinogenic drugs. If someone were ever to teach a class on how destroy a marriage, this issue would make a good textbook. I imagine that someday there will be a stately-looking professor in thick-rimmed spectacles and a tweed jacket pointing to the panel where Alana denies that being the mother precludes her from getting mad stoned and indicating to his students that “This kills the relationship.”
It should be foregone conclusion by this point, but once again Fiona Staples knocks this issue out of the park. The standout moment of this issue was Alana tripping out on “Fadeaway”, a drug she gets from one of her coworkers. The use of panel breaks here is very inventive, splitting the image to imply passage of time and leading up to a full page splash that got a big laugh out of me.
At the end of the day we’re left with a lot of questions. What will destroy our main characters’ marriage first, Alana’s drug habits or Marko’s possible affair? What does Janitor-bot want with Robot’s son? How long will we have to endure images of Robot’s sexcapades? And just like always, Saga gives us more than enough reason to wait for the next issue to get some answers.