Look we're up to Book 7 of this series and about a zillion different characters have appeared I can't summarise it all in one introduction. If you haven't been following, go read the previous posts, go on shoo. I always appreciate the hits. Anyway this series by writer Brian K. Vaughn and artist Fiona Staples tells the story of a war between the planet of Landfall and its ornery little moon Wreath. A war that has grown to encompass most of the galaxy as planets take sides and go to war as well. But a Landfall woman called Alana and a Wreathian man called Marko fell in love, eloped and had a child called Hazel. Much happened as they turned into something of target for both sides trying to cover up that they existed, immediately prior to this book Hazel was captured and spent several years in a prison, after her family was split up due to events. But finally she was rescued and one of her fellow prisoners a somewhat salty transwoman Wreathian called Petrichor came along as well. Now the reunited Alana, Marko and Hazel are travelling back in their wooden spaceship to drop off Prince Robot VI and reunite him with his son after he got caught up in their shenanigans as Petrichor makes clothes for the new baby because Alana is pregnant again. The story is narrated by Hazel from some point in the future and this six issue volume contains the first major arc, "The War For Phang".
Marko and Alana are watching their daughter sleep and are so happy to have her back. Alana says they need to tell her she's going to have a sibling. Marko says she should take a test first, but Alana says she's late and craving roast beef sandwiches, "and those things completely gross me out unless I'm knocked up". Marko says pregnacy between their species is a dangerous thing but Alana thinks everything they were taught about the incompatibility of their races was just propaganda to keep them apart.
|Marko and Alana together with Hazel.|
Elsewhere onboard, Prince Robot VI is naked and trying to orgasm from masturbation, he tugs away saying, "come on, you bastard let's clear out this cannon before it backfires." But he doesn't see to be having much luck and one of the images in his head is Alana. Hazel comments that there had been a time when Prince Robot VI wanted to kill her parents with his both hands. "Thankfully, my folks had a way of growing on people" she goes on to say.
Well some of them anyway. Izabel the ghost babysitter is chatting with Petrichor who is spinning away making a romper suit, "earning my keep for our new prison wardens." Izabel asks why not some nice maternity gear but Petrichor says she won't dress a "filthy Landfallian". She is grateful for the ride but hopes Alana and Prince Robot VI gets sucked out during a hull breach.
She notes that Hazel is still missing her grandmother and all her friends from the detention area. Izabel says she's been sitting for Hazel since she was a newborn, she'll be OK. Petrichor wonders if she's told others she's trans. Izabel says, "who even cares, Petri?" Petrichor looks a little sad and replies quietly, "you have no idea."
Izabel said Hazel had to keep the truth of her own body a secret so she understands the value of privacy. Petrichor asks if she does, Izabel points to her missing lower half saying, "lady, does it look like I give a shit what anybody's got going on below the waist?"
|Petrichor and Izabel.|
They all congregate in the engine room, including Prince Robot VI, "what have you sex criminals ruined this time?" It seems a fuel artery has sprung a leak and they are running on fumes. If they toss the magic helmet into the furnace it'll get them enough thrust to reach the next system. They have no alternative, they are going to have to land and refuel on Phang.
This godforsaken place was also caught up in the Landfall and Wreath war. An exotic land made up of thousands of species who all hated each other. They are ruled by either a duly elected president or dictator depending who you asked. A violent insurrection rose up and the interstellar community was forced to choose between a government and its people. So the Landfallians and Wreathians took opposing sides. The war was more for territory than helping the people of Pheng, the comet has fuel in spades.
Hazel: "Over the years, wave after wave of young soldiers gave their lives to ensure that their enemies never seized control of this motherlode. The locals had a pretty rough time of it too. the infrastructure was a shambles, Phang was left with only one real export. Refugees."
We then cut to Sophie and Lying Cat, now on Wreath. Sophie admits she misses her home a little but everyone she loves are on Wreath. Gwendolyn walks over to her and Sophie says she has applied to intern with a real Freelancer.
|Sophie and Lying Cat.|
Gwendoln says that's sweet of her but she is over Marko. Sophie says that Marko is the reason Gwendolyn doesn't have a better job on Wreath. Gwendolyn says it's not that simple and when Lying Cat starts saying "Lyin...ghh?" he finds Gwendolyn's stick in her mouth. She tells her to take a walk. Sophie pleads with her saying she knows how "abusive creeps like Marko think". But Gwendolyn says it's time to find out if Sophie has any family left, Sophie asks why now, things can't get worse on Phang where she is from.
Back in the wooden spaceship and after some back and forth between them all regarding whose army did what to the comet the ship lands.
Hazel: "Every new world we visted was an adventure. And few adventures ended worse than this."
Petrichor strides out and discovers a small, meerkat looking alien who says his name is Kurti and he is really hungry. When Petrichor tells him they have food inside, he asks will it be enough for all of them and over ten more pop up behind him.
Prince Robot VI says they are deserters "masquerading as peacemongers." Petrichor agrees. One of the other little aliens says they don't care who they are, their homes have been destroyed and they have been wandering for ages. All they want is a little water and Hazel says they have lots and can she show them? Marko and Alana share a look then say of course she can.
Marko tells Alana they can't turn them away in front of their daughter. Alana says she just wants to get out of here as fast as they can. The comet's soil is rich with energy so it should take no time. Hazel notes they were always bad at estimating how long things would take. They thought they'd be on Phang for a few hours, "we were there for six months".
|The family grows.|
Elsewhere Marko and Petrichor are keeping an eye out for any fighting coming close by. She says it was stupid to align with the clan of beasts. Marko says they are saints, but Petrichor says that when she was stationed here one of them blew itself up at a checkpoint and killed three of her best men. Marko says you can't judge a people based on the actions of a few. Petrichor turns her back and says:
Petrichor: "Yes, I'm we aware of your niave beliefs. I just hope I'm gone by the time you find out how wrong you've been."
Izabel finds Hazel and Kurt exploding bugs with Hazel's magic. Izabel scolds them, but Hazel says she's not the boss of her and runs off. Future Hazel snarks, "what, like you were never a vicious little asshole when you were that age?"
|Chekov's spell in action.|
Izabel says she'll go, she can be his advance team. She's not doing it for him but for Hazel and her parents. He doesn't understand why she is so loyal to people have her in indetured servitude. But Izabel says Marko and Alana have overpaid her. They treated her like their flesh and blood and "they showed me the universe."
Hazel: "While my family enjoyed the world's longest pitstop, the various forces that wanted us dead were still hard at work. Some harder than others."
We then cut to The Will and his companion, a dog called Sweet Boy. He rings on a doorbell and a Wreathian woman answers. He tells her he is trying to get in touch with Gwendolyn and the woman says that's her wife. Her name is Velour and tells The Will that Gwendolyn and Sophie are in Cerfurbo for a week, on "High Command business". The Will asks what kind of business and she says, "none of yours" and slams the door in his face. Sweet Boy laughs as they walk away.
Izabel is doing some scouting and comes across a man with two heads, he's another Freelancer called The March and he has a little boar companion called "Bootstraps" (one of the heads appears to be female, but I'm going to stick with calling The March "him" just because it's easier, sorry). He tells her he is looking for Marko, she denies knowing him but he says she can only be here if she had been attached to a baby. Izabel babbles and tries to get away but he throws a lasso at her and actually captures her with it.
We then cut to Kurti as he brandishes a rifle he found, the others start playing with it and accidentally fire it. Alana appears and asks what "the fuck is wrong with you kids?!" Kurt whispers that she "said a cuss". Alana confiscates the weapon, then Hazel comes running in to the kitchen where the others are saying she can feel that Izabel has gone, she can feel it.
Prince Robot VI admits that she had gone to check for reserves of fuel, it's not like she could be killed again, "can she..?" Hazel cries that she was mean to her and now she's dead. Marko says he is sure he can track her down. But Petrichor says she'll go and look for her, Marko is a wanted man whereas she most likely won't run into a soldier who knows her.
The Will is enjoying some downtime on Wreath in a titty bar. He is contacted by his Freelancer rep who note he hasn't taken a job in months. He says he'll get back to getting Marko and Alana and the baby, but he is told that assignment has been transferred to a "better-reveiewed" Freelancer - The March. Insurance says he also failed his last drug test and so The Will is fired.
|The Will, not in great shape right now.|
The Will tries to uses his lance on it but that was deactivated as soon as he was fired. He is no longer authorised to legally terminate individuals. His rep wishes him luck as The Will breaks off the Wreathian mans horn and stabs him with it and he slumps to the floor as the Wreathian staggers off and the rep calls him "Billy", no longer is he The Will.
Back with our main cast, Hazel is sitting and thinking. Kurti comes up to her as she asks if he believes in Paradise? He says he does, and they wonder together what it must be like. Hazel thinks it might just be "a fakey story they tell. Like the Feather Fairy". Kurti asks what the Feather Fairy is and Hazel tells him that one day a feather from her wings fell out and that scared her, but Izabel told her that the Feather Fairy would trade her a gift for every feather she put under her pillow. But she just got marbles that Izabel put there.
Hazel: "There are no fairies. It's just like Paradise, another made-up like they tell us so we won't be scared. But we should be. We should be scared."
Kurti is still pondering how Izabel could physically put marbles under her pillow. Hazel says she is going to kiss him now and they gently kiss on the lips (Kurti is a kid too).
|Hazel and Kurti get closer.|
We then cut to The March exploring the abandoned Robot Kingdom Embassy. It looks like they all killed each other. One is still alive though missing his lower half, he asks for a bottle of "Juniperus" to drink before he expires. The March says he'll pour him a drink if he tells him what happened here.
The March asks if this is to do with the current targets but the Ambassador says it's larger than that. They uncovered something shocking they were going to share with their hosts here on Phang but there was a "disagreement" between them and the Royal Gaurd as to whethere or not this was a prudent course of action.
The plan is underway, "they intend to exterminate every living thing on this comet". The March asks who the hell is "they", the Horns or the Wings? The Ambassador just laughs saying "or?" and then expires. The March says "dammit. I always wanted to see how these freaks drink." And he downs the booze instead.
|The March and Bootstraps.|
Watching him sleep and looking at the images playing across his screen are Hazel and Kurti who note that his dreams are always creepy. Kurti says it's more interesting that reading sacred scrolls with his cousin. He then tells her that with Izabel gone Hazel will be the sitter for the new baby because that's how it goes in his family. Hazel says it's not fair, she just got mum and dad back and now she has to share them. Then Prince Robot VI wakes up and they run off as he yells at them.
Marko and Jabarah are watching a battle taking place in the distance. He wonders why the Wreath forces to the north are suddenly retreating, they have the Landfallians outnumbered ten to one, "since when do my people run from those odds?" Jabarah hands him a sword saying they should be prepared to fight. But Marko refuses to take it saying he wants nothing to do with instruments of death again.
Jabarah says that he mustn't be scared, the blade is only as good or evil as the person who wields it. "I'm not fucking scared!" yells Marko. He then asks Jabarah to forgive him, Phang was the first place he killed someone. Holding a sword was as exhilarating as holding his daughter for the first time, "more so on my worst days". While they talk, The March is watching them through a telescope.
|Marko admits his struggles with his violent nature to Jabarah.|
She says she is concerned for the rest of Phang, can they guarantee civilians won't be harmed. Gale says they will relocate as many locals as possible, but this is foremost about "bringing a dignified end to a theatre of war that's already cost both our sides way to much." She says is that all Phang is to them, a "theatre?" Gale walks off saying that if anything goes wrong with this, Wreath High Command will have her executed long before she can rat them out to the press. Neither of them notice Sophie was peeking behind them and heard it all.
Back on Phang, Petrichor is searching for Izabel. Then a giant mushroom speaks to her saying perhaps it can help. It says it's a "Bluecap" planted in places of conflict to remember the battles fought there. Petrichor asks if she has seen a spirit pass this way. The Bluecap says it hasn't, no one resides here anymore the peple were evacuated at gunpoint. Petrichor asks why, what is coming? The Bluecap tells her "the real question is... where are we going?" And we get a double page spread of Phang heading towards a giant figure floating in space.
|Petrichor chats with a giant talking mushroom.|
He says he sees himself in "high definition" and realises he has feelings for her and points his gun arm at her. He tells her his feelings aren't sexual, he thinks she'll be " an excellent mother to my son". Then he puts the gun to his head and says, "please help him be a better man than I was."
|Prince Robot VI is depressed.|
Inside Prince Robot VI is still holding his gun-arm to his head, "right. Safe travels then". Alana pleads with him not to do this, she says his son would be haunted by this. Prince Robot VI says he is doing what's right and she sees an image of herself in bondage gear on his screen. Prince Robot VI implores her to look away, then Marko comes in and the drugged up Prince points his gun at him.
As the words "Sorry" appear on his screen, he shouts "die Moon cunt" at Marko and blasts him, but Marko has his shield and manages to protect himself just being rendered unconcious. Prince Robot VI realises what he's done but then Alana wallops him across the back of his head with an ornament and he's down for the count as well.
Meanwhile Hazel and Kurti are playing hide-and-seek. Unfortunately it's then that The March appears and grabs Kurti telling him that if he tells him where the family he is after is, he won't hurt him or his loved ones. Kurti just tells him his "breaths smell bad". So The March holds his sword to Kurti's throat and walks out into the open saying he requests an audience with "foot soldier Marko".
|Shit starts to go down.|
Hazel: "To this day, I still prefer the silence of space to the rhythmic din of worlds like my mom and dad's. Peace always sounded nice... but peace and quiet is the dream".
We rejoin Sophie, Lying Cat and Gwendolyn. Sophie is irritated that they are collaborating with Landfall. Gwendolyn spouts some excuse that this is for the good of Wreath but before an argument can ensue, The Ex-Will, now just Billy appears with Sweet Boy.
He tells them that he's come to try and make things right with his old partner Lying Cat and maybe Sophie could come with him and learn to be a proper Freelancer. "Lying?" says Lying Cat. He then admits he's not a Freelancer at the moment but he could start showing Sophie the ropes as he makes things right with the union. Gwendolyn puts a protective hand on Sophie's shoulder.
Sophie says she can make her own decisions. She goes up to Billy and tells him she'll always be in his debt for rescuing her from the nightmare she was trapped in.
Sophie: "But working with Gwendolyn has shown me there are ways to change the lives of millions, not just the individual men like you are paid to hurt."
Her place is on Wreath but if Lying Cat wants to go with him she won't stand in her way. We then get a shot of Lying Cat siting between Billy and Sophie... then she slinks behind Sophie having made her choice. Saddened Billy leaves them saying "Good luck with your politicking ladies" as he walks off into the sunset.
|Oh Lying Cat, you so cute.|
Alana bluffs that Marko left weeks ago with Hazel, but perhaps they can make a deal for the other half-breed he left her with. He calls her bluff and incapacitates her with his sword whip. Petrichor mutters that the blast radius is too tight, she'll hurt Kurt as well. At that, Hazel bites Jabarah's hand and able to speak, casts a spell that makes small explosions round The March which startles him into dropping Kurti.
He grins that it was a cute trick but now she should get down here and kiss her mama goodbye. And then he is absolutely riddled with holes from the laser rifle and falls down dead in a pool of blood. Everyone looks on in paralysed shock as the shooter is revealed to be arch-pacifist Marko.
|Marko will shed blood to defend his family.|
Sophie says she recognises that war can't be won without casualties, but how many are too many? Gwendolyn says it varies by battlefield, she can't give her an exact number. Sophie then asks is there really a hell? Gwendolyn says of course there is and it's reserved for the Landfallians who started this. She tells Sophie not to speak of this in front of Velour and Sophie says she wouldn't have mentioned this but she's been having bad dreams and... then Velour arrives with cupcakes and Sophie is happy again.
Inside the wooden spaceship, Prince Robot VI is tied to a chair, he wakes up and his first words are "Oh. Oh no. Alana and her baby..?" Marko says they're OK no thanks to him, he nearly got them all killed.
Prince Robot VI: "So why the bloody fuck haven't you cut off my head yet?"
Marko draws his sword saying, "good question" and moves to strike. Then Petrichor appears saying he'll be cleaner to execute once they are out in the vacuum and she brings fuel! Turns out The March left his vehicle outside their camp and she was able to drive back to the Robot Kingdom embassy and find some there, and Izabel is to thank for that.
|Fuel! Time to go finally.|
Alana freaks out saying they'll all die. But Jabarah has faith they'll escape. Alana says even if they do there is nothing but ruins for them. Jabarah says the Creator will provide for them. Alana points the rifle at them ordering Jabarah to call her people now. Jabarah bids her farewell saying that she hopes their new baby will be "as perfectly joyous as your first" and if they are looking for a name, "might I suggest Kurti?" In their tongue it means "sunshine" and she leaves. Hazel says she didn't even get to say goodbye, Future Hazel reflects:
Hazel: "The more you care about someone, the more likely it is that your eventual parting of ways will be as sudden as it is baffling".
Meanwhile Billy is having hallucination sex with his dead old girlfriend The Stalk while his dead older sister The Brand watches. His sister sighs and says there has got to be a more efficient way to masturbate than gnawing on tainted meat and fantasizing about old girlfriends. Then suddenly Sweet Boy is shot in the head. A masked figure appears and tells Billy he killed someone they loved, and they shoot Billy in the gut saying "... so this is gonna be a kind of process."
Then we cut to some Robots watching Phang and they say that it's going to pass through the Timesuck unscathed. Then they are attacked by some Landfallians disguised as terrorist group The Last Revolution. They take the controls of the observatory and insert the glowing cube Gwendolyn had passed onto Gale, saying "this is for all the guys Phang took from us." And a white light spirals out of the observatory and into the mouth of the Timesuck.
|I don't think my heart can take much more..|
Hazel: "You know that old cliche about millions of deaths being a statistic.. while the loss of one life is a tragedy? If that's true, what is it when you lose something that never even had the chance to be born?"
|There are five lights Brian! Five lights!!!|