I may be too emotionally invested in Saga because the last page of this issue was like a punch to the gut. No, I don’t think that’s accurate. By the end of this issue, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples managed to pull my heart out, show it to me, and crush it to a bloody pulp. And as sick as that sounds, I still thanked them and asked for more. That’s the power of Saga. Vaughan and Staples continue to play around with our expectations and our emotions but we keep coming back for more because it’s so damn good.
The last arc ended with a little jump ahead in Hazel’s story, putting our narrator’s past self at around a year-and-a-half, maybe two-years old. It’s hard to tell, but it’s not all that important. Just know that adorable little Hazel is walking and talking, to a degree, and living a somewhat normal childhood despite her parents status as fugitives. Luckily, there are ways of hiding in plain sight. Alana is the breadwinner in the family, earning money in the virtual drama circuit while Marko is the house husband, taking Hazel out to play on the relatively neutral planet of Gardenia where the family has planted the roots of their wooden spaceship for the time being. And that’s about it in terms of the general story. We play a little catch up and get to see some domestic reality, which is Vaughan’s sneaky way of presenting the underlying theme of perception and truth.
It’s worth mentioning that the issue starts with the birth of Prince Robot IV’s son, though the nurse mistakenly refers to the child as the new Prince Robot IV since his father is presumed missing, possibly dead, or a traitor. The prince’s wife refuses to accept her husband’s death or betrayal. She believes he’s still out there despite the reality with which she is presented. This launches Narrator Hazel into giving us a little insight into the origins of the Robot Kingdom and its place in the war between Landfall and Wreath, choosing to take sides with the winged people of Landfall that, on the surface, has worked out nicely for them. But Hazel is quick to point out that not all citizens of the Robot Kingdom are members of royalty or well-to-do. Though we’ve only seen the upper crust of the Robot Kingdom thus far, every kingdom has to have its lower classes. In previous issues of Saga, we were only presented with Prince Robot IV’s plight because it pertained to the story. Our perception of the Robot Kingdom was filtered through the first three arcs’ main antagonist. Now, Vaughan and Staples are pulling back the curtain and revealing that what we see isn’t always the reality.
It’s fitting, then, that Alana and Marko are both in states of disguise. Working in the virtual dramas, Alana wears a costume that hides her true identity, though it can’t exactly hide her somewhat abysmal acting. But that appears to be the point. Alana is acting out a fantasy for others to consume, but the reality of the situation becomes clear when Alana literally addresses the audience after being heckled (Vaughan has moved from critiquing authorship to viewership). Try as she might, Alana can’t completely hide herself, nor can her family. Marko, in trying to give Hazel some joy being a child, takes her to a bouncy castle. Though Gardenia is technically neutral in the war, Marko still wraps his face up and wears a hoodie over his bleached hair. The disguise is a bit pitiful, but necessary. But for all the effort Marko and Alana are going to for Hazel’s benefit, the struggle and strife they went through when Hazel was born is starting to take its toll. The fictional argument Alana’s character gets into during her dramatic breaking of the fourth wall becomes is almost paralleled when she gets home and argues with Marko over taking Hazel out.
In his own way, Vaughan is breaking our own perception of Marko and Alana’s relationship. While the two clearly love each other and their flight from war is romantic for all its foolishness, Vaughan has always treated them like real people. For real people love isn’t always enough and sometimes things bigger than war can push them apart.
Rating – 10/10
Final Thoughts: They’re gonna make me cry. I know it. I know it. I just know it.