Kids seem to grow up faster than ever these days, and it is apparently even more true in well crafted space operas. Behind one of the most jaw dropping covers Image Comics’ amazing series has ever been provided with is yet another spectacular installment of this ground breaking masterwork by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. As the series moves past its halfway point (as most Brian K. Vaughan creator owned jams tend to last between sixty-five and seventy issues), this issue provides another example of three seemingly disparate plot threads coming together into one fine tapestry.
While the previous issue continued the trend of the previous three, which was to offer a different set up with a set cast of the series’ massive cast, this one sets about with intercutting between them in order to bring them together. Hazel, who has long served as the distant narrator for the series (and therefore arguably the only character assured to survive until the finale), continues to make unexpected allies (such as the hermaphroditic Petrichor and her mantis-like school teacher) in Landfall’s internment camp for captured civilians. The reunited Alana and Marko seek to bring their entire rebel band by recruiting the robot formerly known as Prince Robot IV for their latest attempt to locate and rescue Hazel. Finally, journalists Upsher and Doff continue to be the hostages of the now overweight (and seemingly insane) mercenary “the Will”, who wants to locate the wayward family at seemingly all costs in order to avenge his sister.
As with every issue, the dialogue (and narration) seems instantly quotable as the story may span galaxies, yet is presented in a manner which seems to touch on the pulse of modern society. From issues of diversity to the perils of endless warfare (and ignorance), every issue of “Saga” seems to demonstrate exactly why it has captured the imagination of most within the comic book industry for reasons beyond the astonishing artwork and amazing character designs. Beyond the skillful plotting and dialogue by Vaughan, which is itself among the best in the industry, “Saga” seems to exist as a series which could not exist at any other point in time and work as well. The theme of all people (and the dramas and vendettas which surround them) tend to be universal despite where in the universe they come from is one which resonates with many, and is one of the core themes of this issue, and the series as a whole. Yet mixed in with such seems and heavy philosophy is a mature sense of humor and the greatest artwork of Staples career. She seems to top herself with every installment.
If there is one flaw, it is the sense of the story possibly telegraphing its finale. It seems to be setting up a rescue which will just barely miss Hazel because she will escape first. While it will still be entertaining and executed well, Vaughan risks telegraphing it a bit too bluntly this time around. Regardless, “Saga” is proof that a comic book doesn’t need a four dollar price tag, a crossover, or a relaunch to make every issue seem like an event (or a world) unto itself. There is simply nothing else like it on the shelves today, and it will be remembered for decades to come.
Below is a bonus review. It isn’t in league with “Saga” this month, but it is also another amazing series published by a “third party” company.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #55: With all of the attention that the “heroes in a half shell” are getting in their inter company crossover with Batman, it can be easy to miss the exploits of their amazing regular series. Michael Dialynas finishes up his run as “guest artist” with another tale written by Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman, and Bobby Curnow (and colored by the ever reliable Ronda Pattison) which fully exploits the emotional core of their cast as well as explores the reaction to every action. It is the world of Ninja Turtles, presented nearly with as much depth and maturely as “Saga” above. This issue (as well as this very arc) seems to be about various alliances and relationships being tugged apart by various circumstances. The decision to take over the Foot Clan after defeating the Shredder has caused Michelangelo to strike out on his own – only to find little harmony in the only other team of similar beings in town, the “Mutanimals”. Nobody and Alopex may work well together to help research their enemies (the Street Phantoms), but the immortal demon fox Kitsune seems to have chosen the latter as her pawn in the endless game of manipulation she plays with her brother, the Rat King. The efforts of said Rat King continue to produce results as Casey Jones’ edginess causes him to break up with April. The four Turtles reunite for the start of the next arc, which is an event which seems special again now that they’ve been apart for the last five issues. There is plenty for readers to chew on besides the exceptional artwork provided by Dialynas and Pattison, as the writers continue to mine the long history of the franchise for angles and ideas. The 1987 depiction of Casey Jones – as such an over the top crime fighter that he would literally fight someone for littering – is paid homage to in a way which still manages to present how over the edge Casey is slipping. Nobody (or Angel) and Alopex continue to be great friends who also easily pass the “Bechdel Test”. Every issue of this series is more innovative and nuanced than most in the industry seem to give it credit for, and this one is no exception. Bold storytelling and deep character pathos among all of the high flying mutant martial arts is this series’ core strength, which seems to always be on display.