I don’t think I’m over the last page of the last issue, guys. Seriously. I don’t know what devil-magic Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples have gotten into, but the empty feeling in my soul remains after learning that Marko and Alana may not be together by the end of the current arc. It doesn’t stop me from reading, of course, but now it’s like the Sword of Damocles is hanging over the heads of the characters and everything they do from now on is part and parcel of a future we’re privy to thanks to future Hazel’s narration. And as much as I’d like to think it’s just Vaughan messing with our heads through clever wordplay, something tells me that he’s playing for keeps on this one. He began laying the foundation before we even knew it and Saga #20 indicates the paths that will result in Marko and Alana’s split.
For the briefest of moments, we’re taken back to Sextillion where the missing Prince Robot IV has been “hiding” out since his defeat at Heist’s lighthouse. Unfortunately, the prince may not be all that right in the head, which doesn’t bother Mama Sun at all. The more money he spends, the happier she is to let him remain hidden from the world. Meanwhile, on Gardenia, Marko is treated to a screeching Hazel ready for breakfast just as Izabel disappears for the day. Alana is at work early so, like any parent hoping for some respite from a demanding child, he takes Ginny up on her offer for private dance lessons to keep Hazel occupied. Alana, also seeking her own form of escape, convinces Yuma to let her partake in some strong drugs in a place where she doesn’t have to worry about being a mother for most of the day. And back on the Robot planet, Princess Robot receives an unexpected visitor.
One of many running themes behind Saga has been one of escape. The story started with Marko and Alana on the run in the literal sense, but as the book has progressed Vaughan and Staples have delved deeper into ideas of escapism and the different forms it takes. Though this is a sci-fi/fantasy/action/love story, Vaughan grounds it in the reality of war and no amount of magic spells, laser rifles, or spaceships made of trees can change the effect war has on people. As a result people will do almost anything to escape that reality for even a few minutes. In one of the more clever aspects of the story, Vaughan has made the mundane aspects of life into the escapist fantasy of his escapist fantasy comic book. The book that brought Alana and Marko together had passages about characters doing laundry or getting an apartment. Now the Open Circuit dramas Alana “acts” in feature superpowered characters having domestic disputes or arguing about how much they’re paid in the workplace. Is there a deeper meaning? Perhaps, but only as much as we’re willing to analyze art in order to find it. Or maybe it’s just mindless drivel, something to transport people away from the harshness of their actual existence. As Yuma, the late D. Oswald Heist’s ex-wife, puts it, they’re giving the audience drugs.
Escapism, however, can also lead to unforseen consequences. Go too far down the rabbit hole and digging yourself out becomes harder and harder. Hazel has already informed us that this is now a story about her parents splitting up and we can see the means by which it may occur. For one, Marko and Alana don’t even share any time together in this issue. Marko wakes up alone, left to take care of an ornery toddler while Alana goes to work. While they’re separated they go about escaping in their own ways. In Marko’s case, it’s a bit understandable. He wants to give Hazel a somewhat normal childhood, so taking her to a dance studio where he lies about his name to the instructor he met, Ginny, isn’t a huge deal…yet. Alana, on the other hand, goes right for the drugs everyone at work seems to be on because she’s just as cool as the other kids. Tellingly, when Yuma reminds her that she’s a mother, Alana proclaims, “not for another six hours.” She goes on to say that she hasn’t had a day off since the day Hazel was born, and before that if we’re honest. The first chance Alana gets to tune out for a while she takes it because even though she’s doing a job she’s always wanted and has a loving husband and daughter at home she still needs her own form of escape.
Are these the first steps towards the collapse of Marko and Alana’s relationship? I’d like to believe that Vaughan and Staples aren’t exactly telegraphing it the way I see it going. One of the amazing things about Saga is its creators’ ability to shock and amaze us with brilliant art and turns in the story that are completely unexpected. The way I’m reading it, it seems too simple. Then again, that might be the whole point. Saga has proven itself to be a book that’s as clever as it is beautiful, but the heart and soul of this story is the love between Marko and Alana. The tragedy of it all could be the collapse of their love because of the reality of their circumstances. They’ve been on the run since the moment they met and they continue to hide because they’re never quite safe. That kind of pressure, that kind of stress would be enough to strain any marriage, so I’m curious to see where Vaughan and Staples take us.
Rating – 10/10
Final Thoughts: I’ll say this, Fadeaway is a hell of a drug.