Every time I review an issue of Saga I’m simultaneously exhilarated and terrified. Saga has been and continues to be the most consistently excellent comic I’ve read two years running, but that also doesn’t leave me with a lot to say when reviewing it on a monthly basis. The Outhouse didn’t exactly hire me to type “It’s really good” under any Brian K. Vaughn related piece of media and call it a day, but that’s basically what’s been happening since I started working here (if a little more verbose). True story: I actually got this job after the bossman himself Christian Hoffer liked my sample article about Saga #18, so I actually owe a lot more to this book than most people.
Even when the Saga slowed way the hell down last arc and it seemed like everyone’s opinion toward the book was turning slightly sour, I still dug the hell out of every painstakingly-crafted character beat and line of dialogue. So I imagine I’m going to sound a bit tiresome when I write yet another Saga review so positive it’ll make everyone wonder if I’m receiving sexual favors from BKV himself. Who woulda thunk?
Anyway, Saga #22 is the culmination of the storyline all the fans have been dreading: the destruction of Marko and Alana’s relationship. Marko discovers Alana’s drug use, and Alana pulls the “you whispered another woman’s name in your sleep” card. The immense popularity of a series in which the male lead chucks a grocery bag full glass jars and metal cans at his wife after she admits to being under the influence of drugs in front of their daughter leads me to believe that the fan base must be full of masochists. Or sadists. Or whoever’s in the center of the fucked-up venn diagram between the two. But I can’t judge. My love for Saga basically makes me King Sadomasochist.
For all the tragedy on display, Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples are still able to fill this issue with plenty of fun. The introductory two-page spread of King Robot made me laugh so hard I had to steady myself against a wall. And I was sitting down. And I always enjoy the antics of toddler Hazel, especially when paired with Izabel. The choice to make Hazel a chubby-faced monster of a child instead of presenting her as some sort of flawless cherub gifted from on high was incredibly smart. We’re clearly meant to like and care for Hazel, so a lesser writer might have tried to make her as perfect as possible, both in physical appearance and in temperance. But Hazel is kinda ugly and she annoys the hell out of her parents to no end, and that inexplicably makes her more endearing and adorable. Children don’t come out of the womb as model citizens, and knowing that Hazel was kind of brat in her younger years makes her more relatable and her occasional moments of sweetness even sweeter.
Talking about Vaughn’s snappy, intelligent writing or Staples wonderful art almost seems like a moot point by now. They’re still great, people. The only negative thing I have to say about the book is that while the first and last pages are always a beautifully-rendered splash page, and while the finale page always impresses and excites, it’s seems like that first page is losing a little bit of its luster. I rarely find myself excited about it anymore and more often just raise an eyebrow before turning the page. But other than that, Saga is still as heartfelt, exciting, and maliciously tear-jerking as it’s ever been. The only thing sadder than the end of Marko and Alana’s marriage will be the three-month hiatus after #24 ships in October.