The funny thing about Saga is Brian K. Vaughan’s ability to set up a plot, completely diverge from it, and then return to it without making you feel as though the plot has actually been forgotten. The last six issues of the book’s second arc kept most of its focus on three major plotlines: the semi-origin of Marko and Alana meeting and falling in love, the appearance of Marko’s parents, and the combined forces of Marko’s ex, Gwendolyn, The Will, and Slave Girl. All of these plots were given plenty of time to breathe, letting us get to know the characters a little more through Vaughn’s excellent dialogue and Hazel’s expository narration. But looming over the last six issues was a fourth plot thread hitherto unaddressed until now.
From the beginning of Saga, Prince Robot IV was charged by his father with the task of hunting down Marko, Alana, and Hazel in order to curb any political backlash against the Robot Kingdom and their ability to hold power in the warzones of Landfall and Wreath. The caveat to all of this being that if Prince Robot IV doesn’t take them into custody and end this unholy union and their demonic offspring, then the young father-to-be can never return home. In the final issue of the first arc, IV was headed towards the planet Quietus, home of D. Oswald Heist the author of the book Alana was reading when she and Marko ran away together. IV believes that’s where the two are headed because of the anti-war propaganda hidden within the seemingly mundane romance novel. During the second arc, we’ve been privy to excerpts from the book (which I kind of want Vaughn to write as a companion to the comic) and its subtext as interpreted by Alana, Marko, and even Prince Robot.
So who is this famed D. Oswald Heist and what makes him worth travelling across the universe to meet in person? Well, the cyclops IV meets is a hardened, bitter, and jaded author who wrote the book in question for a quick paycheck to keep his house after a nasty divorce. Lovely, right? But this is Saga so can it be as simple as that? Of course not! Like all of his characters, Heist has an instant voice that makes him sound more like Vaughan’s surrogate, a writer constantly plagued by fans looking for meaning where no meaning exists in the words he writes…says the girl trying to find meaning in the words Vaughan writes. Pardon me, I’m going to go have an aneurysm now. The ensuing conversation between Heist and IV, though it begins affably enough, has an air of tension reminiscent of the first twenty minutes of Inglourious Basterds, especially when the conversation takes a turn for the worse.
While it may seem like an odd choice to end the second arc by focusing solely on Prince Robot IV, it makes sense since IV isn’t a character that needs to be in every issue in order to flesh him out. Hell, you probably learned everything you needed to know in the beginning of this article, which isn’t a bad thing. In the span of one issue, Vaughan manages to catch us up on the prince and convey the toll his exile from home is taking on him. Actually, when placed in context, his story makes fits in nicely with the overall narrative of Saga. Like Marko and Alana, IV is a soldier primarily motivated by his family. The irony being that his task is to essentially destroy a family in order to return to his own wife and unborn child. Even the conversation between him and Heist starts and ends on the subjects of children and the price paid through war. IV is like all of the characters in Saga. He’s been affected by war – much more significantly in this issue – yet he clings to the idea that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. He has hope, which is very powerful and very dangerous when threatened. And it wouldn’t be right if Vaughan didn’t give us an arc ending that makes you want to cry out in frustration because the book won’t be back on the shelves for a few months.
In Other News: There’s apparently an issue with Saga as downloadable content through Apple devices because of their NSFW status. This is coming off of the 1500 French comics banned or censored by Apple for the same reason. Seriously? Saga is marketed through Image as a book for “mature” readers and for Apple to come down on them for this issue in particular (there’s a very small depiction of gay sex) when other issues have show much more graphic content seems dubious at best. We’re big girls and boys, Apple, and if you’re the type of parent who doesn’t know what Saga is or doesn’t understand what the word “mature” means, then how the hell do you know how to work with a computer?
Update [04/10/13]: It’s been reported and confirmed that Comixology was actually responsible for Saga #12 being pulled from Apple’s iOS devices for download. Based on Apple’s Terms of Service for the app, those working at Comixology thought the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it images of mature content to be a possible violation of Apple’s parameters. The rest is a series of miscommunications and overreactions (even by me) over the banned issue, which is once again available for download through all Apple devices and apps. Mark Waid actually breaks it down really well on his blog. The apology issued by Comixology at least shows that they understand the nature of the miscommunication, though it does raise questions as to why this issue was the one that made them question the content versus all previous issues of Saga. Brian K. Vaughan even issued a statement just to clear everything up.
Final Thoughts: If you’re offended, then don’t read it, but don’t spoil it for the rest of us! Also, Fiona Staples art is gorgeous and none of it should be censored. She works her butt off to create beautiful comics and deserves your respect and awe. Anything less is insulting.