Review: Saga #12
It’s about time we checked in again with Prince Robot IV, and it’s a neat little issue that sees him facing off against famed author D. Oswald Heist. The emotional roller coaster of the last few issues has come to an end. And now the time has come for the overall story to move forward, and this makes for a nice little opening chapter. We finally meet Heist, who seems like a pretty cool dude. And Prince Robot IV continues to prove why he is the most villainous out of the main characters. Will he be the actual villain in the end? Maybe. It’s hard to tell at this point. I don’t think anybody is truly evil, but that just makes for a better story overall.
Saga has a lot of story to tell, and it’s hard to believe we’re only at issue #12. So much has happened so far, I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around what might come next. I’m just glad I’ll be along for the ride.
Also, Brian K. Vaughn hits us with another awesome final page cliffhanger.
Comic Rating: 4/5: Good!
The action and excitement of the past few issues is gone, replaced with what amounts to nothing more than an extended conversation between Heist and the Prince. Vaughn is a master of dialogue, and the conversation serves to reveal so much about each character. It’s also just generally entertaining. I can already tell that Heist is going to be a fun character. And Prince Robot takes a step towards diabolical, which only serves to make him a more interesting character too. There is also the promise that he is on the verge of finally confronting Marko and Alana, which should be a pretty big moment.
Fiona Staples’ art is once again simply fantastic. Her characters are clear and well drawn, their emotions obvious, and the weird nature of their bodies made believable. This issue is all about a conversation between a bearded Cyclops and a robot with a TV for a head, yet it comes off as perfectly normal. I love that about her art. Everybody just looks so believable and human, even when they’re walking, talking TV sets or giant mouse people, it’s all so nice and normal. And seriously, the last page of this issue is just badass.
It’s seems we’re not yet done with the flashbacks, only this time we get a peek into Prince Robot IV’s past during one of the earlier Wreath/Landfall wars. We learn a bit more about how the Robot Kingdom were attached to the Landfall armies. We open with Robot suffering a wound to the neck and the soldiers crying out for a medic – who just so happens to be some kind of mouse person. More on this later. Robot and the mouse medic chat for a bit about why she agreed to fight for Landfall, and we get a little backstory about Wreath attacking her planet, and how fighting for Landfall is going to help pay for her education. She patches up Robot all well and good.
But then there’s a biological attack, with a thick green gas floating into the area. The soldiers all put on their gas masks, but the mouse medic doesn’t have one. She mentions some kind of treaty, that biological attacks are forbidden, but it’s too late for her. Robot tries to comfort her, but her body suddenly swells up and explodes like a popped balloon.
Then it turns out this flashback was just a dream, which plays out on Robot’s TV head while he’s sleeping. He’s woken up by a phone call from his Landfall handler, who wants to know why Marko, Alana and their daughter aren’t dead yet. Robot catches him (and us) up on what he’s been doing. He believes that our heroes are going to visit a planet called Quietus to visit the author Heist, who wrote the romance novel A Nighttime Smoke. Alana is obsessed with the novel, and Robot thinks it is the key to tracking her down. His handler doesn’t particularly like the idea, and makes a not so veiled threat against Robot’s pregnant wife. Robot calls him out on the threat immediately, but the handler just tells him to get this taken care of so that he can come home and be a good father.
I would definitely like to learn more about what separates the Robot Kingdom from Landfall and why the two are working together.
Prince Robot lands on Quietus and immediately finds a small seal child, who is pulling along some sort of walrus pack animal. Good times.
This is the weirdness of Saga, and I think I’ve figured it out. All of the main characters are some variation of humanoid. All of the background characters are some type of animal person hybrid. Marko is a human with horns, Alana is a human with wings, Heist is a human with one eye, Izabel is a human with a snub nose, Prince Robot VI is a human with a TV for a head, and so on. Everyone who isn’t a main character, or a member of their race, is an animal. Like the medic mouse, those mole gangsters from a few issues ago, and now the little seal boy. It’s a neat, albeit very weird, idea.
So the seal boy points Robot towards the old lighthouse, and he walks up and knocks on the door. Heist greets him and invites him in, assuming Robot is there for an autograph. He goes to search for a pen, and Robot explains that he’s searching for a Wreath man and a Landfall woman, a new mother. He has reason to believe they’re going to visit Heist because of his book, A Nighttime Smoke.
Heist laughs. That piece of shit? A Nighttime Smoke was long out of print, and rightfully so. But Robot tells him to drop the pretense. He knows that A Nighttime Smoke is a thinly veiled treatise on radical pacifism, a call to inaction.
Heist pours himself a drink and explains that he crapped out A Nighttime Smoke during his second divorce, as just a way to get a paycheck. He said he wrote himself in circles until he reached the required word limit then handed it off to the publisher. He toasts Robot for finding some sort of deeper meaning in the nonsense he wrote.
Robot finds a portrait of a young cyclops on the wall with a Landfall uniform, and Heist explains that it was his son. He’s dead now. The two chat about Robot’s own upcoming children, and what’s expected of him as Robot Kingdom royalty. Robot heads for the door and Heist promises to pass word along if he sees the couple. But something’s not right…something is a little off…
All of the pretense disappears, and the conversation turns sinister. Heist clearly holds a great deal of resentment towards the death of his son, and Robot asks if that’s why he wrote the anti-war book. Heist heads back to his desk and pulls out a gun, pointing it at Robot – but the Prince transforms his hand into a blaster and shoots Heist in the knee. Heist falls, but gasps that his gun is just a prop. Robot is calm as he kneels down in front of the author, pulling out the man’s pen. He tells him about the war wound in his neck and wants Heist to stab him there. If he doesn’t, Robot will shoot him. I think it’s a test of his pacifism.
But Heist tosses the pen and scoffs that Robot has no idea the number of combat veterans who kill themselves (like his son), that the real number would keep him up at night. Heist tells Robot to finish him off already, it’ll boost sales. But instead, Robot just grabs a chair and sits. He tells Heist that he’s just going to wait for our heroes to arrive. He tells Heist that nobody is going to bother them, then he reads a passage from the book that states “Never worry what other people think of you because no one ever thinks of you.”
Then Hazel’s narration kicks in and tells us that Prince Robot IV was wrong about her family coming to Quietus anytime soon…
…because they’d already been there for a week.
I did not see that coming! Vaughn is a master of the final page cliffhanger. He sets us up with Hazel’s narration – I thought for sure she’d reveal they were going to some other destination – and then slams us with the reveal. Hot damn, that was an exciting twist. It not only provides a great teaser for the next issue, but also rewrites the whole issue. Now Heist’s tone, character and dialogue are doubly awesome, knowing full well that he was hiding our heroes in the attic. I think Heist is going to be a really cool character.
This was a neat issue. It’s a great character builder for Prince Robot, showing us his cunning and determination – as well as the fact that he can be a lot crazy. Prince Robot IV is the closest thing this comic has to a villain, but I don’t especially think of him as a villain. That’s probably the point. Vaughn is too good to paint anybody in black and white. I may not care about Prince Robot as much as Alana and the family, but Vaughn is a master storyteller with all of his characters.
Sadly, we’ve reached another Saga breaking point. Vaughn and Staples are going to take a few months off to give her a chance to catch up on the art. I have no problem with this tactic, as I’d hate for any other artist to come on board to fill-in, it’s just a shame we have to wait so long for new Saga.