Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples
Image Comics, 2013
The little fugitive family of Alana, Marko, baby Hazel, and Isabel the undead babysitter expands with some growing pains to include Marko’s parents, while the original courtship and escape of Alana and Marko from their opposite sides of the conflict is recounted in more detail. Meanwhile, reeling from the recent murder of his on-and-off true love, The Will (with a The), one of the mercenaries formerly pursuing the family, joins forces with Marko’s vengeful ex and agrees to carry on the hunt, in exchange for her help rescuing a six-year-old from indentured prostitution. Prince Robot IV also continues his search for the family, knowing his father won’t allow him to return home to his pregnant wife until his mission is complete, with only a copy of Alana’s favorite book as a clue to their course.
For the sake of finding one, the excerpts given of Alana’s book, the secretly subversive one she and Marko first bonded over and the inspiration for their ship’s current heading, seem to come from a bland melodrama. But even that may an intentional part of the point, reflecting the way recognizing and sharing the value in a book sometimes requires the willingness to sound like a crazy person to anyone who’s only seen said book’s ordinary or even silly-looking surface.
Alana and Marko continue to be the lovable couple you’re compelled to root for, both in flashback and in their more complicated present, where they’re faced with reconciling their sudden union with the in-laws. Marko’s parents are both loving and badass, but carry the prejudices of a generations-long war full of atrocities on both sides. The friction around the news of their son’s interspecies marriage isn’t shrugged off easily, and Alana acquits herself with all the self-respect and sardonic wit we’ve come to expect of her, but ultimately the desire to stay close wins out, forcing all the lifelike patience, trust, and annoyance that comes with family.
As usual, the backdrop of all manner of sci-fi crazy does absolutely nothing to detract from the down-to-earth relatability of the characters and their struggle. Sure, this is an illegal mixed marriage in wartime. Sure, for them, the family thing is “complicated.” But the implication is, isn’t it always?
It’s sure complicated for The Will, with his new partner of convenience, their sort of adopted new six-year-old, and their lie-detecting cat, who cuts to the heart of whatever the group tries to cover or embellish with more efficiency than paragraphs of internal monologue could manage.
It’s complicated for Prince Robot IV, who’s trying to swallow his crippling PTSD and do whatever’s necessary to satisfy his father and get home to his wife.
And as a result, it’s intensely, nail-bitingly complicated for the reader, figuring out what to feel for these characters who do terrible things for inescapably understandable reasons, chasing stakes we can’t root against, at the expense of characters we can root against even less.
This is the paradox that continues to make Saga truly un-put-downable.
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