Saga, vol. 3

Saga 3Summary: Winner of the 2013 Hugo award for Best Graphic Story! When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults. In volume 3, as new parents Marko and Alana travel to an alien world to visit their hero, the family’s pursuers finally close in on their targets.

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Saga, vol. 3, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples 7.75

Vaughan is a clever writer. Whereas the last collection ended with a cliffhanger, instead of continuing where it left off this third volume of Saga goes back in time to explain how Marko and Alana happened to be at the same exact place as Prince Robot IV. This fleshed out the story, but also re-situated his readers.

Brilliant.

However, he’s becoming a bit indulgent. He’s introduced two more characters for us to follow: a pair of gay (yes, it is relevant to mention their sexual identity: Vaughan uses this to discuss prejudice) tabloid reporters who have caught wind of Marko and Alana’s story and who begin to investigate and connect the dots.

I suppose that this was essential to add to the story because the other characters aren’t doing much at this point: Marko and Alana end up on Quietus, home of her favourite author and spend their time there, while The Will is, as Hazel says, “taking the scenic route”. And there’s only so much time-killing that readers would have endured.

But, in some ways, ‘Saga’ has become a lot like Star Trek episodes of old, with our characters existing almost only as a reason to visit new life and new civilizations. It feels as though Vaughan is having more fun coming up with quirky settings than in developing the plot, which is sort of mired in Marko and Alana’s escape.

It’s come to a point that, although I like the characters and their missives, I can’t read more than two issues (there are six per volume) in one sitting. I find myself disinterested in reading their blah blah for yet another volume. Having said this, when I take up the book again, I eat it right up; it’s unmistakably engrossing.

But there are flaws. Although the action is secondary and usually serves the plot, it’s become a bit of a joke: everyone gets hurt or killed but it doesn’t have any impact on the story. For instance, in the last volume, Marko’s dad died. We get a glimpse of his misery here, but only a glimpse. And his mom is mostly doing fine.

In this volume, Heist gets shot in the kneecap, as Prince Robot IV tries to extract information from him (we are told this, because apparently his screams or the shot couldn’t be heard). In the next scene, Heist is able to get right back up, as though he has merely suffered a papercut. Here I thought he’d be handicapped.

Similarly, The Will gets stabbed in the neck and doesn’t die, even though the blade is long enough to be wedged in, and despite the extreme amount of time it takes to get help. In my estimation he should have drowned in his own blood, or immediately gone into a trauma-induced coma. Forget it: ’tis but a flesh wound!

Marko’s mom gets her ear torn off, but she doesn’t go into shock and doesn’t say a thing about it – as though it were common-place. In fact, once it’s bandaged up, no one ever mentions it again. She’ll probably grow it back, and I”m sure that Lying Cat’s blinded eye will heal and be fine in future installments.

The problem is that using these events to shake the readers can only work once or twice. After repeated false alarms, we become jaded and won’t care when something serious actually takes place, thinking that it’s just Vaughan crying wolf again. This detaches us emotionally from the various characters’ plights.

And that’s where I’m at. While I was really involved in the first book, now I’m starting to feel as though the book will go nowhere and just relocate its continuous non-plot in new settings, with a few side characters to pepper the pot. ‘Saga’ reads easily and it’s entertaining, but it’s turning into a soap opera.

A space soap opera. Not a space opera.

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