Summary: The #1 New York Times bestseller returns! Visit new planets, meet new adversaries, and explore a very new direction as Hazel becomes a toddler, while her family struggles to stay on their feet. Collects Saga #19-24.
Saga, vol. 4, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples 7.75
Remember when I said that ‘Saga’ was turning into a “space soap opera”?
I wasn’t kidding: In volume 4 of Vaughan’s sprawling, multi-layered saga, Robot Prince IV’s son is kidnapped by a Robot revolutionary, forcing the Prince out of his sex and drug-addled stupor at Sextillion. Meanwhile, Marko meets a sexy single mom at the park while Alana is working as an actress on the Open Circuit – and delving into recreational drugs to get through the day.
Conveniently enough, the revolutionary finds his way to the very station that Alana is working at, with the intention of taking over the airwaves and broadcasting his message to the masses. But he’s diverted from his mission when he’s told that Alana and Marko were able to have a child together; only the stink that this will raise will garner the attention he requires to spread his word.
And so he, too, is off after the pair.
Meanwhile, Alana and Marko are fighting because they aren’t enjoying their current arrangement. Distrust begins to build between them, with Alana thinking that Marko is cheating on her and him worrying about her growing drug intake. The narrator, Hazel, who is their child, warns us that their relationship won’t last, though they will try to salvage it in various ways.
Vaughan once again does a terrific job of making the situations real, of creating credible character dynamics, but the way he gets to them is sometimes a bit contrived: it sometimes seem a bit blown out of proportion just to move things along quicker – like the way that Marko and Alana separate, leading him into the arms of the sexy mom (I mean, I know they’re immature, but…).
Still he does delve into some of the realities of human existence, which is an excellent use of the sci-fi medium. I just wish that it didn’t feel so much like melodrama because I don’t have much patience for that. I’m sure most people wouldn’t feel the same way, but I don’t think that everything tips on a dime or that explosive situations require obvious triggers to set them off.
I think that we come to most of the turning points in our lives in far more gradual ways than this.
Imperfect though the set-up may be, I still loved that he tackles parental responsibility, drug use, and the effect of emotional distance in long-term relationships. I also liked that he discussed the rampant poverty in Robot Kingdom, wherein the upper classes bathe in luxury while commoners struggle with basic things like health care – a severe, unaddressed, problem in 2016.
But my favourite aspect of the book is the discussion between Alan and her colleague about the Open Circuit, how it “narcotizes” the population. Despite her protests that some shows had changed her way of thinking, she had to placidly admit none of it compelled her to change the world. This is so real of our own love of media, and I’ve been struggling with this notion myself.
I mean, we put hundreds of millions of dollars into films that only serves to entertain for two hours – and yet that money could be used to feed countless people, clothe them, give them shelter, to make the world better. And the time we spend making them and consuming them could be used to greater purpose. But there we are, sitting by, consuming instead of building a better world.
As a movie and music junkie, it’s a difficult notion to face.
Thankfully, ‘Saga’ isn’t all serious musings and no diversion: Vaughan only delves into those matters in little fits, allowing the rest of his book to work its magic. There are countless creative touches, like the fact that the Robots’ faces are different monitors depending on their statuses: commoners have old-school ones with dials, royalty have regular ones, and the King has a HUGE flatscreen.
Ha! What an amusing concept!
And this is why it’s hard to put down ‘Saga’, despite its contrivances and melodramatic flair: it tackles real-world challenges while introducing enough creative touches that it teases the mind and makes you want to see what will come next. I have to admit that, at this point, I have a love-hate relationship with ‘Saga’, but it’s a better book than most. And it’s strangely addictive.
Just like any good soap opera.
(Ahem… space soap opera.)