Review: Saga #8
This issue perfectly captures the fun and personality of a Brian K. Vaughn book, and shows us exactly why Saga is one of the very best comic books on the stands these days. You don’t need superheroes to make a comic book good. You just need fun characters, fun adventures and apparently a rocket ship made out of a tree. Fortunately, Saga has all of those things.
Everything I wanted to happen last issue happens in this issue. Characters have meaningful moments and conversations. We learn new and interesting things about nearly everybody. And everything seems to really mean something.
Comic rating: 5/5: Great.
It turns out that last issue was all just st up for this issue. And while that definitely counted against last issue, we can still celebrate this issue! Last issue introduced Marko’s mom and dad, then paired them off with either him or Alana, but did nothing with them. Well, did very little. This issue has all of the emotional moments, conversations and twists that I could have hoped for, and all written with Vaughn’s typical wit and charm. It makes Barr and Klara worthwhile additions to the cast – especially Barr, who has some excellent moments – and it truly propels the ongoing story into its next chapter.
After a disappointing previous issue, Saga is back on course, as far as I’m concerned. The immediate danger has passed, and Vaughn is ready to start spending time with these characters and getting to know them. I couldn’t be happier with this issue.
Join me after the jump for a fully synopsis and more review.
We start with another flashback, this time revealing when Marko and Alana met. She was a guard in a Landfall prison, and Marko was one of the prisoners. The flashback opens with Alana just finishing a romance novel written by D. Oswald Heist, the one that was mentioned in previous issues. Alana is ecstatic, claiming that the book has changed her entire outlook on life! Her fellow prison guards are less than thrilled at her exuberance.
Alana tries to convince her fellow guard McHenry to read the book so that she’ll have someone to talk to about it, but McHenry thinks it sounds kind of boring, but Alana is pretty sure that was the point. (We first met McHenry back in issue #2, when she was telling Prince Robot IV about Alana and this book.) The other guards are spared Alana’s weirdness when prisoner #9763572 starts acting up in his cell. They’re monitoring his vitals in the guard room. Alana is so excited that she volunteers to go investigate the prisoner, and doesn’t shut up about the book until she’s out the door.
Down the hall, prisoner #9763572 turns out to be Marko, who’s bound and bloodied in his cell. The two lock eyes. Could it be love at first sight? Marko tries to talk to her, his voice ragged. Alana can only look on in stunned silence. Hazel’s narration tells us that, in each other, these two lost souls finally found someone with whom they could share everything.
Back in the present, Barr is putting Hazel to sleep in her crib while Alana wakes up in her bed. You may recall that he had used a spell to knock her out at the end of last issue. Barr explains that he couldn’t have Alana detaining him any further because he has so much to do and so little time in which to do it. He’s dying, remember. Alana tries to get out of bed, but fails because she’s still weak. So Barr helps her up. Alana cries out for help from their spaceship, but Barr explains that he and the ship have been talking, and it has already agreed to help him in his project.
Down on the planet, Marko and his mom defeat the giant, naked monster with a binding spell – though she wanted to kill it. Marko wants to use his ring to try and interrogate the beast – named Fard – but Klara points out that it was Gwendolyn’s ring, Marko’s ex-fiancee. Mother and son get into a little spat over how Marko left Gwendolyn, but Marko points out that Klara hated Gwendolyn back when they were actually together.
Up on the ship, Alana wakes up in her bed, with Hazel sleeping on her stomach. She finds a mysterious present at the foot of the bed. Turns out it’s new clothes, made by Barr. He’s found a spinning wheel in one of the ship’s gardens, and he made Alana a whole set of new clothes. She’s amazed at her luck that her father-in-law is a seamstress. Barr corrects her. He is an armorer. And the clothing she’s now wearing is laser-proof and gun powder resistant – though it won’t protect her from knives, so he suggests she try not to get stabbed. He’s working on even more items, like a blanket for Hazel and a jacket for Marko, but then Barr suffers a bit of chest pain and has to stop working.
Alana tells him he needs to rest, but Barr insists he keep working. Things are only going to get harder for Alana’s family, and he wants to make sure he’s done enough to protect everyone once he’s gone. Alana insists that they can fight this disease, but Barr tells her that he has made peace with his passing, and it is incurable. He hasn’t told his wife or his son because he doesn’t want to spend his last moments alive surrounded by sadness and mourning. Alana points out that he told her that he’s dying, and he doesn’t even know her. Barr just smiles and tells Alana that she talks in her sleep, and that it’s clear she loves Marko very much.
That is an absolutely adorable scene. Seriously, beyond that fantastic “your son is so goddamned beautiful” line, this whole conversation is just magical. So full of heart and strength, a meeting of two truly deep and meaningful characters. I was disappointed with the opening chapter of Saga because I felt like it was constantly in motion, never taking the time to settle down and explore its characters. Well now that time has come, and I must say, it’s truly wonderful.
Down on the planet, Marko interrogates the giant, who is expectantly unruly. But Marko still asks if he’s seen the ghost girl, and the giant has indeed, but he says they’ll never find her before the birth. Turns out, it’s not a planet, it’s a giant egg!
Elsewhere, the seahorse-looking guy who hires freelancers is dealing with one of his unruly operatives. The March (with a big mustache) wants to get paid, but the seahorse guy would prefer to just play it cool with a stingy client. He then takes another call from Wreath High Command, who are upset that the assassination of Marko and Alana hasn’t been completed. But The Stalk was killed and The Will is going through some difficult times. That’s when the caller reveals that she’s standing behind the sea-horse guy.
Did not see that coming. Gwendolyn looks badass.
This issue delivered everything I was looking for when I started reading Saga. Vaughn is fantastic when it comes to creating meaningful characters and bouncing them off one another into fantastic moments, and this book was full of them. Every bit of conversation between Alana and Barr was brilliantly touching. Whether its her giddiness over her new clothes, his reveal that the spaceship is on his side, or that final conversation about Marko, it was just a joy to read. Barr is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters in the book. He’s only really been in two issues so far, but when and if he does eventually pass away, it’s going to be devastating.
Marko and his mom don’t get scenes as good, but that one where he defends Alana is pretty awesome, even when he backs off a bit and says ‘please’. She’s still his mom. I hope they get Izabel back soon, I bet she’ll have a blast hanging out with the family. I’m starting to regret my decision to read this issue-by-issue, because I bet this would be so much better in trade format, all in one sitting. Oh well.
The art by Fiona Staples is still amazing. I’ve been looking back over some of the earlier issues, and there is definitely a rougher feel to them. She’s polished up her craft to a very noticeable extent, and it looks phenomenal. Here’s hoping Vaughn keeps his word and she’s never taken off the book. That would be a shame that this comic could not bear.
So Saga is back on track. The characters are as great as ever, and they’re finally getting a chance to spend time with one another. I just hope they’re not kept apart for too long. I want to see this big, happy family all in one place!