STORY: Brian K. Vaughan
ART: Fiona Staples
Science Fiction is a fickle mistress. With a fan base firmly entrenched in decades and decades of their favorite stories, it’s often difficult for writers to come up with something truly original. In fact, most of the sci-fi books I’ve been reading recently are simply based on TV or film properties (see Space 1999, and Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation2). Albeit, I’m making my own choices here, but before the debut of Saga, the last time I was truly surprised and “wow”ed by a sci-fi story was when I binge-read all the currently released Invincible trade paperbacks. Robert Kirkman has an affinity for ‘alt sci-fi’, and Brian K, Vaughan has been following suit with Saga.
While Vaughan spends an understandably large amount of time in this series focused on the Romeo and Juliet scenario between Marko and Alana, he also endeavors – especially in this and last issue – to focus on the tertiary characters he’s introduced since issue one. Last month, the Will actually got more panel space with a trip to Sextillion and his subsequent liberation of a nine year old girl sex slave. This month, he’s got to actually get off the planet, while Prince Robot IV gets the news that his wife is pregnant back home, and the Stalk gets caught between a rock and a hard spot.
Let’s start with the Will. Last month, his stoic attitude was suddenly shaken when he was confronted with the option to take a child to bed and do whatever he wanted. It was a subtle nuance Vaughan had granted the Will – a character so ingrained in his work that he’d almost lost sight of his humanity. In a fit of rage, he murdered the secretary (pimp) who offers him the small girl before offering said girl her freedom. It was a touching and emotional moment that really gave the Will a lot more credence as a character going forth. Up until then, he could have left the narrative never to be seen again. In Saga #5, however, that nuance in the Will’s personality morphs into a panicked, desperate fop-sweat when he’s confronted by the girl’s actual owner, who will only relinquish the child for the price of the remainder of her contract: $650,000 (or the equivalent to dollars in his universe). It’s interesting how Vaughan has been building the Will up as this hardened bad ass, who’s now breaking down – calling the Stalk for money, of all things – over the wellbeing of a small girl he just met. It shows how much Vaughan is invested in this series; how much he plans to shake things up as he goes.
Similarly, we get to see a new side of both Prince Robot IV and Marko this issue, as they each deal with marital and paternal issues that challenge them in different ways. IV gets a call from home from his wife, the Princess, who informs him that she’s pregnant. It’s a joyous moment that’s sadly cut short by the Princess’ reminder that the Robot King will not let IV return home until he kills the baby born of traitors. Whether or not Vaughan may have been watching Avatar: The Last Airbender a lot aside, IV’s been a pretty big dick since the beginning, so it’s nice to see that it’s mainly because his father’s an even bigger dick. Also interesting to point out is his enthusiasm when Princess reveals she’s with child – an odd reaction for one with such deep-seeded father issues.
Marko and Alana are confronted by Landfall troops who initially attempt to take them prisoner before receiving termination orders. One quick shot at Alana and Marko rages out on them all. This is where Fiona Staples’ art really, really shines. The fight sequence is breathtaking – Marko’s motions are extremely fluid and the violence is stylized, but not gratuitous. Eventually, Marko’s violent instincts take over and he starts muttering about killing all the Landfall soldiers. Before he can seal the deal, Alana shoots her husband, bringing him back to reality – much to his appreciation. When pushed to the edge, Marko breaks and the result is haunting. It feels like this might just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Marko, or Wreathians in general.
It’s not entirely clear how all of these plot lines will eventually intersect. The most obvious confrontation will be Marko and Alana’s meeting with Robot IV somewhere down the line. The Will started off as a clear-cut enough character who’s slowly changing into the wild card that doesn’t really have a horse in this race yet, per se. However things pan out, it’s sure to be amazing.