Sunday, 20 March 2016

Saga Book 3 (#13-18)

"It was starting to look like we'd overstayed our welcome" - Hazel

You're still not reading Saga?  What kind of a comics fan do you call yourself? Hah.  Well, here we are at volume 3 of writer Brian K. Vaughn and artist Fiona Staples story of an alien couple, each from a race at war with the other, and their baby girl Hazel (who provides narration from some unpsecified point in the futre) as they attempt to evade beings from both their factions trying to kill or capture them.  The female is a winged alien from the planet of Landfall who is called Alana.  Her husband is Marko a horned alien from Landfall's moon Wreath.  Their war has spread throughout the galaxy and is fought mainly via proxy planets and armies made up of unlucky conscripts.  They currently travel via a rocketship made of wood which can evade detection and they have also gained a teenage girl ghost called Izabel who is Hazel's first babysitter.  In book two Marko's parents tracked them down, and his father died using his magic to get their ship out of danger.  Currently they are being looked for by Prince Robot IV of the Robot Kingdom who are affiliated with Landfall, and the assassin "The Will", who along with his familiar "Lying Cat" is working for Wreath and has gained two companions, Marko's ex-fiance Gwendolyn and a six year old Slave Girl they rescued from a brothel planet.  Alana wanted to go and visit an author whose book "A Nighttime Smoke" helped form her anti-war views, bonded her with Marko when he was her prisoner and which resulted in them going AWOL together.  Unfortunately Prince Robot IV had the same brainwave and book two ended with him having shot the author in the leg, while Alana, Marko, Marko's mum Klara, Izabel and Hazel hidden in another room.  Before we catch up with what happens next, we jump back a week to their initial arrival on the planet Quietus.

We start at a Landfallian medical centre.  The soldier whose hand Marko cut off in book one is talking to a pair of reporters.  He is mainly filling them and us in on the story between Marko and Alana.  He says no one believes him that they have a kid so he's gone to the tabloids.  The reporters are revealed as different aliens from him, with webbed feet and pointed ears.
Upsher and Doff
We return to the family on the wooden rocketship on its way to Quietus to see Oswald D. Heist, authour of "A Nighttime Smoke."  Marko is depressed about the death of his father in the previous book and has grown a beard of sorrow.  Alana gets up to see to Hazel when she is crying and finds Klara has changed her. 

Klara waves the book in her face and says "I've been reading this donkey shit you fed my son."  She wants to know why Alana is risking her family to go and see the author.  Alana thinks it's what's best for Hazel. She says Klara doesn't have to come if she thinks it's too dangerous but Klara says she is going nowhere, "I've done more than my share of outliving."

Meanwhile, The Will, Lying Cat, Gwen and Slave Girl have made an emergency landing on a verdant planet.  The Will is trying to sort out a repair service to come out and repair his ship after the beating it took in the previous book.  When Gwen demands to know why it isn't being seen to like now, The Will replies "because I'm out of their same day coverage zone".  He and Gwen nearly come to blows, but Slave Girl stops them fighting.
The Will et al  on a repair stop.
The wooden rocketship family finally arrive and land on the planet of Quietus.  Hazel narrates that she hasn't been back there in a while but:

Hazel: "Quietus was the first place my family ever laid down roots...I can still remember the way mom described the smell.  Like secondhand smoke from her first crush."

Izabel ventures out first, being dead not much can happen to her.  The ground is paved with skeletons, Klara puts one of the skulls up to her ear saying she thought she heard it say something and it bites her.  Latching on tightly.  Marko rushes to her aid.
Welcome to Quietus.
A large skeleton creature rises up and Alana swings a large club at it.  Then it's head is blasted off and they all turn to see D. Oswald Heist standing in his underpants and a robe, holding a gun and a bottle of booze, he asks if they are cunts coming to take back his advance. "No one makes a worse first impression that writers" narrates Hazel.

On the planet The Will is on, he is moping alone by the fire looking at an old photo of him and his dead lover "The Stalk" who was killed in book one by Prince Robot IV.  Suddenly she appears in front of him as says he should quit being an assassin and settle down on this paradise planet he is now on.
The imaginary Stalk plays matchmaker.
She also says he should get together with Gwen as it's obvious she is wet for him.  And also they should give Slave Girl a name.  She disappears when Gwen comes to find out who he was talking to and that he woke Slave Girl up.

The Will: "That's not her name.  Now on, we're calling her Sophie."

That's a great name, I heartily approve.  We return to Landfall, the two journalists - Upsher and Doff - have arrived at Alana's family home to interview them, although the woman who answers the door says the military have told them not to talk to the press.  They say it can be off the record, so she lets them in.

They initially mistake her for Alana's sister, but she is in fact her step-mother despite being Alana's age.  She married Alana's father after he and Alana's mother split up.   Her name is "Even" and she thinks she had a beneficial effect on Alana, although "she joined the armed forces a few months after I moved in."
Alana's step-mother.
Upsher asks if Alana associated with any "extremist organisations?"  Or that she has defected to Wreath.  Even says no, that's a joke, Alana "isn't a turncoat".  And they all pray for her safe return.  Hazel then narrates that her mother never came back to the planet of her birth.  Her new family, now on Quietus introduce themselves to Oswald.  When he sees a Landfallian and Wreathian together with a child he realises:

Oswald: "A Nighttime Smoke.  You read it.  You got it."

He is extremely happy at this turn of events.  They give him Hazel to hold and Alana says she is named after the librian who first recommended his work to her, "your stories literally saved my life.  Literally". 
Oswald meets Alana.
Overcome with emotion, Oswald vomits on Hazel.  Her "baptism" she sarcastically narrates.  Klara has had enough and say Oswald is a "pickled idiot" and they should leave.  Marko says they should at least stay long enough to treat her injured ear, so they all go to Oswald's lighthouse home.

While waiting for the repairman to come out and fix the ship, Gwen and The Will are "fishing" for flying sharks with his extendable sword-lance.  They down one and Sophie offers to cook it.  They send her back to the ship so Lying Cat can help with the shark coprse and Gwen says they need to heal her ability to track the translation rings Marko and Alana use.

The Will says he has his own network of informants and has put out a reward for any sightings of a wooden rocketship, so he doesn't break the N.D.A (Non-disclosure Agreement) the Wreathe high command have placed on the info that Marko and Alana have a kid. 
The Will makes his move.
Then he says to Gwen she can keep looking he wants to retire and stay on this planet.  He's not even bothered about get vengeance on Prince Robot IV anymore.  As he says all this The vision of The Stalk whispers suggestions in his ear.  She says this is the perfect time to kiss Gwen, so he does so.  After a long moment Gwen punches him.

Gwen: "Next time you touch me without asking, I punch your goddamn heart out." 

And she strides off, as The Stalk says salaciously "without asking?"  Back on Quietus the gang arrive at the top of the lighthouse into Oswald's study.  He tells Klara he has something that will heal her ear but will hurt.  She says she still has shrapnel in her ass from "The Battle of Cartwright". 

Oswald frowns and says that was where his first wife was killed.  She wasn't a soldier, just a street musician who was killed by an errant high explosive Wreath spell.  Klara sends Marko and Alana away so she and Oswald can talk privately.
Klara and Oswald start to bond.
She asks if his boy survived.  Oswald says when he was old enough he joined the armed forces and died after.  He says the loss of his son just about destroyed him but concerning his wife:

Oswald: "But if I am being honest nothing will ever hurt quite so deeply as the moment I heard the first person I ever really loved was gone."

He says he doesn't need to tell that to Klara, it's obvious she has lost someone she deeply loved.  "I wear it that plainly?" she asks. He says the rest of her days by and large will be shit.  Klara joins him in a drink and starts telling him her story of first meeting her husband.
Sophie and Lying Cat chill.
On the paradise planet, Sophie sits with Lying Cat, when she says she is dirty inside, Lying Cat says "LYING" and she smiles and cuddles up to her.` Gwen is trying to talk The Will back into looking for Marko et al.  He says he "forgot how closed minded you people are."  Gwen says she's had relationships with other species, but not with "our winged oppressors."  She also has no interest in being with him (Lying).

He just says she can hitch a ride with the repair crew when they leave and take Sophie and Lying Cat is she wants but he's staying put.  Then he gets a call, someone has a lead on the ship he's looking for.  But not the wooden rocket ship, The Stalk's ship that Prince Robot IV commandeered after he killed her.  He's refueling it and then heading to a planet called Quietus.
Alana's old commanding officer.
We are then introduced to a new character, Countess Robot X.  Upsher and Doff venture into a warzone to talk to her about Alana.  The Countess says this will all be deep background.  As her first commanding officer, she sent Alana to Cleave for disciplinary purposes, right? Asks Upsher.

Countess Robot X: "No, I had her transferred because she's a worthless cunt."

She was a turrent gunner on the Countesses' Vondertank.  She hesitated when Wreathian civilians were in the firing line.  She still dropped the bombs but the hesitation nearly cost lives on their side.  Upsher starts to ask if Alana wasn't kidnapped, but then is felled by a sniper bullet to the shoulder.  Doff fusses over him but Upsher calls him "honey" and says he'll be OK and this Alana story could be the big one.

At Oswald's lighthouse, Alana is doing the laundry.  Izabel bursts in and says she must come upstairs, Marko is laughing.  They are playing a version of pictionary which is part of a larger game called "Nun Tuj Nun".  Marko's dad loved the game.  Oswald is a collector of board games:

Oswald: "There are only three forms of high art.  The symphony, the illustrated childrens book and the board game."
Board games are serious business.
The visual round over, it's time for the arm wrestling one.  Meanwhile The Will's ship has been repaired.  Sophie offers one of the repairmen a shark flesh kebab which he accepts.  The Will then tells The Stalk vision he is done talking to her and tells Gwen he'll finish what they have started.  Sophie has wandered off somewhere so Gwen and Lying Cat go look for her.

The game on Quietus is getting serious.  Alana beats Klara at arm wrestling, now comes the Psych-out round.  Klara starts laying into Alana for "playing the domestic goddess" when she should be part of the workforce.  oswald agrees, saying they'll need money to keep moving and evading capture.  Alana says his book didn't say anything about "joining the bullshit ratrace".

She goes on to say that the rocketship provides for their every need, but Marko says Hazel can't grow up indoors all the time.  Alana, feeling bullied, runs out of the room closely followed by Marko.  Klara and Oswald grin, they won the Psych-out round.  Alana goes and sulks outside, when Marko appears she tells him to drop his trousers she wants to suck his cock.

Marko: "Something tells me once again you're using sex to avoid discussing an uncomfortable subject."

He says they don't have to be workers, they can be creators.  He says "we'll find a way to balance work and family and whatever else comes our way."
Alana contemplates the immediate future.
Watching them, Oswald says to Klara he has an idea about how Alana and Marko can make it, but he thinks it'll work better is they fool them into thinking it was their idea.

The Will gets an emergency transmission from the repair ship.  Turns out the one who ate the kebab started hallucinating and trying desperately to return to the planet.  They advise that if he ate any of the local cuisine they need to purge immediately as it appears it all contains a parasite that tricks the host into want to stay and become part of the planet's eco-system.  Then a zombie looking Sophie stabs The Will in the neck from behind, and The Stalk vision tells her to stand on his neck until he stops moving.
Sophie is tricked.
Back on Landfall, Special Agent Gale is being harrassed by Upsher and Doff.  They show him a picture of Alana wearing a wedding band which is a Wreathian tradition. Can he confirm it is her?  Gale says they need to spike the story now.  She isn't a deserter, she's a spy in deep cover.  When Upsher and Doff ask what she is doing, Gale says he can't say.  Only that "trillions of lives are at stake."

Upsher and Doff are somewhat dubious.  Gale says their planet "Jetsam" has suffered due to the Wreathians, and the place "still treats your faggots like crap, huh?"  He's pegged Upsher and Doff as a couple.  Openly gay men don't have much of a career on Jetsam, he says somewhat threateningly and that he can't force them not to run the story just that they'll consider all the consequences if they do. After they leave, Gale calls the alien who arranges the assassin jobs.  He wants Upsher and Doff dealt with, so the alien sends "The Brand".
Storytime on Quietus.
On Quietus, Oswald is reading Hazel a story.  Alana wonders why he hasn't written one. "Because it requires collaboration with an artist.  And artists frighten me" he says.  His second wife was an artist, now she does set design for "Open Ciruit" which appears to be somekind of pirate media station.  Oscar says he has an old unit upstairs in the guest room, "why don't you go break a few rules."

Gwen and Lying Cat are still looking for Sophie when a naked horned woman appears in front of Gwen.  She quickly asks Lying Cat if "the person who took my viginity is standing there."  A confused Lying Cat says "Lying".  Gwen realises they need to getback to the ship fast because of what The Will might be seeing.

Alana and Marko, using things that look like virtual reality headsets watch a stage production of a melodrama performed by a Circuit troupe.  When they take the headsets off, Alana admits she thought about auditioning for one of the troupes.  Marko says she really should.  Alana responds that the Circuit is made up of crooks and carnies, but Marko says better them than soldiers, and he wouldn't mind being the stay-at-home dad.
A possible career comes up.
Gwen and Lying Cat come across Sophie choking The Will to death and Lying Cat knocks her away, but Gwen stops Lying Cat from killing Sophie who she knocks out.  She tells Lying cat that they have to rush to Quietus as Marko knows combat medicine and could heal The Will with a spell.

Oswald and Klara think they have hooked Alana on the idea of joining the Circuit.  They chat for a bit then Oswald nips upstairs to fetch a book.  Izabel appears and says, "he's completely into you, you know."  Klara knows.  Izabel asks if she is into him.  Klara sys she lost her husband only a few weeks ago.

Izabel: "Life is stupidly short.  Why not enjoy the last act?"

Then Oswald rushes downstairs and tells them to hide, someone is approaching.  It is Prince Robot IV as we catch up finally with the ending of Book two.

Upsher and Doff are in bed together and Upsher says he thinks Alana and Marko have gone to see Oswald D. Heist because all their sources say she was obssessed with his books.  Doff is unsure, saying the paper won't be happy if they travel all the way to Quietus and just come back with a puff piece on a cult author.
Introducing "The Brand".
Then they realise someone is in the room with them.  The person fires a dart that hits each of them then reveals herself as "The Brand" with a large dog called "Sweet Thing".  The poison on the dart is called "Embargon".  They say a word about Alana now and they'll die.  Upsher asks why she didn't just kill them outright.

The Brand: "Because the only journalists that deserve killing are sports writers."

Also they were fair to her union last time they went on strike so she's given them a chance. They can still be reporters, just not of this story.  And with that, she leaves.

Back on Quietus, Izabel tells the others Prince Robot IV has shot Oswald in the kneecap.  She can't use her illusions on his race.  Klara wants to go and fight him, but Alana says they have a family to think of now.  Prince Robot IV inspects some of Oswald's news writings.  One of "your overlong polemics on pacifism" he asks.  Oswald says peace isn't the opposite of war, just a lull in the action.  Prince Robot IV demands a summary of what Oswald believes is "combat's antithesis".

Gwen and Lying Cat have also arrived on Quietus.  She decides the fact a "tubehead" is there, means that Marko is as well.  They move in closer.  The Will is lying on the floor of his ship, with Sophie tied up but now free of poison, close by.  He says with effort that it'll be "Honest Cat's" (which is what Sophie calls her) job to look out for Sophie now.  Sophie says the others are bringing someone who can heal him but he starts rambling about money much to her confusion.
Prince Robot IV has a raunchy flashback.
Klara and Izabel disappear while Marko and Alana argue.  Marko says he'd rather kill Hazel than let her fall into the hands of the Robot Kingdom.  Alana says that won't be happening. Oswald asks Prince Roboy IV if he has had any near death experiences.  Prince Robot IV says yes and they were disturbingly sexual.  He admits he was in an orgy with every man and woman he ever served with and it seemed like everything was as it should be.

Prince Robot IV: "Because the opposite of war... is fucking".

Then Klara appears armed with an axe and threatens him.  Oswald pleads with the Prince not to hurt her, but he blasts her in the stomach.  Oswald fires his gun at the Prince and injures him so badly he goes "offline".

Oswald rushes to Klara's side, she has broken a hip but the axe absorbed most of the blast. Then Gwen runs in and Oswald swings round pointing his gun at her, she reacts by spearing him through the head with The Will's extendable sword and kills him.  Klara yells in anguish and fires a spell blast at Gwen which she deflects.  Lying Cat then attacks Klara.  "Fuck" says Gwen as she surveys the scene, "Fuck."
Oswald is killed by Gwen.
Gwen tells Lying Cat to watch Klara and only kill her if she gives any trouble.  She goes upstairs.  Klara looks at Oswald's body and says "I've had enough!" and pokes a thumb in one of Lying Cat's eyes.  Izabel then appears and says to Lying Cat that Gwen had no right to execute a civilian in his home, "true or false?"  Lying Cat looks shamefaced and says nothing.  Then Izabel turns into a huge cat and tells Lying Cat she's a "useless runt of the litter!" And Lying Cat flees.  Prince Robot IV stands up behind Izabel.

Marko, Alana and Hazel are up on a high balcony.  Gwen appears and says to Marko, "you really did fuck one of these animals."  Then she asks about a healing spell for a jugular wound.

Gwen: "The man I love has been hurt and I need your help to make him whole again".

But Marko can't help, his magic only works on Wreathians.  Alana says there is a M.A.S.H unit in the next system, but Gwen just says coldly, "bitch. who told you to open your face?"
Prince Robot IV is not his old self.
Downstairs Prince Robot IV doesn't seem to be his old self.  He just asks if there is anything he can do to assist.  So Izabel asks him to take the unconcious Klara to safety as the room is now on fire.  He carries her outside then haltingly says there is somewhere he needs to be badly and walks away back to his ship.  Alana and Gwen meanwhile are arguing.  Gwen calls her a homewrecker.

Alana: "Marko never had a home with you, you delusional bitch."

Gwen fires the sword at her, but Marko pushes Alana and Hazel off the balcony.  Marko then says he's changed since he met Alana and she should just kill him.  "You broke my fucking heart" cries Gwen.  Then Alana flies up saying "you'll live" and zaps her with the stun gun.

Alana: "How did you know..?"

Marko: "What, that my wife can do anything?  Isn't it obvious?"

Alana, Marko, Klara, Izabel and Hazel depart Quietus, leaving Oswald "mixed amongst the ashes of his creation".
Alana being awesome as usual.
Upsher and Doff are looking for ways to cure themselves of the effects of Embargon.  Their editor pokes his head round the door and says there is a potential story in the disappearance of Prince Robot IV, but they decline as they know he is linked to Alana and thus too risky to cover.

The Brand visits The Will in the hopsital Gwen left him at.  He seems virtually braindead, she hugs him while Gwen, Lying Cat and Sophie look on from afar.  Hazel then narrates that "It would be a long time before we saw our original pursuers again".  They travel from planet to planet never settling anywhere for too long and the book ends with the reveal of Hazel now old enough to walk.
Hazel is now a toddler.
And so ends another fantastic installment of this epic space soap opera.  There's a real feeling of high stakes with Vaughn not afraid to make you fall in love with a character and then abruptly kill them off.  It leaves you thinking even Alana and Marko might not be safe and that makes you all the more caught up in desiring their well being because they are such a devoted couple.  I'm left hoping that Upsher and Doff can find a way to stay a part of the story because they seem like another interesting addition to the cast and I am curious to know more about The Brand and her relationship with The Will, who I also want to get better.  There's also the mystery of what's happened to the rebooted Prince Robot IV whose wife was expecting their first child when he was injured.  I haven't read volume four yet so I don't know if events during the time skip will be covered in any depth but it's going to be fun seeing how things have developed for the remaining cast.  As usual, Fiona Staples art remains a delight, and Vaughn simply has an extraordinary knack of making even mundane events such as playing a board game or reading to a child gripping stuff that advances the plot.  Roll on the next volume!


  1. saga is definitely the best comic of all the ones I am reading right now.

  2. I feel the same. I hope the easter bunny brings me book 4 :)

  3. What kind of comics fan do I call myself? An unemployed one, that's what kind :-P

    I'd rather have wings than horns.

    If your first babysitter is a ghost you probably grow up with a fairly relaxed, liberal attitude towards life.

    Aliens who dress like humans are weird. If humans ever make it into space, wouldn't it be more likely that we'd start dressing like the aliens, to assimilate?

    Imaginary Stalk has such a romantic way of putting things :-P

    Asking Slave Girl what name she would like would have been better, but it's a start :-) And I guess most children don't get asked what name they'd prefer.

    I'd agree about the illustrated children's book being a form of high art :-) Some days I wish I could return to the time when they were part of my life.

  4. Heh, when you lack the vices of drinking and smoking you don't feel so guilty spending some of your stipend on comics, I find :D

    I'd like to be able to fly as well, though I'd love big scary dragon wings.

    Ghost babysitter Izabel is a fun character.

    I think having the aliens in human dress is a choice like giving them very um.. salty language. Makes them more identifiable and relatable.

    Hey it's a great name, I'm not complaining ;)

    Having a young nephew has bought childrens books back in to my life. Many of them are from when me and my sisters were kids, because we tend to hang on to things forever.

  5. Oh cool, are you reading your nephew the Beatrix Potter stories? Those are ace.

    When I am Queen of the Universe, you may have big scary dragon wings :-)

    (Sophie is genuinely one of my favourite female names, and was before I knew that that was your name IRL.)

  6. He's still a bit young for Beatrix Potter, but he'll definitely be read them when he is old enough. He generally likes things like The Gruffalo and anything with cats in it.

    Thank you O Queen.

    To return the compliment I've always thought Lucy to be a really nice name :)