saga_17-1This was originally posted at Word of the Nerd on December 19th.

I tell myself I’m not going to get emotionally invested in a comic and then what does Brian K. Vaughan do? Kill all your darlings…well played, Mr. Vaughan. Well played.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In the penultimate issue of the current arc, we finally catch up to where we left off at the end of the last arc. Before that, we get to check in with our journalist couple, Upsher and Doff, who receive an unfortunate visit from The Brand and his partner, Sweet Boy, a demonic-looking Saint Bernard complete with a tiny cask around his neck. The Brand has been hired to silence the reporters. He does, just not in the way you’d expect. Back at the lighthouse, the family of fugitives try to form a plan of escape while Prince Robot IV continues to interrogate a bleeding Heist, unaware that the people he’s hunting are right above him. Gwendolyn and Lying Cat have also caught up to the group, converging on the lighthouse in order to assure that Marko remains alive so he can heal The Will who hasn’t been doing so well since Sophie stabbed him in the neck while under the influence of a planetary hallucinogen. Marko prepares for the worst, implying that he’s willing to kill their daughter in order to save her from the torture she’s most likely to receive. Alana doesn’t see the situation as that extreme, assuring Marko that she’ll do anything to save their daughter, though killing is a step too far. Klara, however, takes matters into her own hands and, of course, this being Saga, nothing ever works neatly, or well.

The focus of Saga has, for the most part, been on Marko and Alana’s love affair and the disruptive nature of two individuals from warring peoples finding a way to be together. They choose not to participate in a war that has destroyed so many lives, but in having a child, they’ve produced proof that union between the armies of Wreath and Landfall is possible. They’ve inadvertently discovered the opposite of war, which, according to Heist’s latest novel of the same name, is sex. Actually, they use a more explicit term, but I’m trying to keep this review as clean as possible considering the subject matter of this issue specifically. Since their arrival on Quietus to visit the author, The Opposite of War has come up a few times in conversation between Heist and his house guests, though it isn’t until Prince Robot points a gun at his head that the author coaxes the answer out of his unwanted home invader.

Heist and Prince RobotWhile we’re conditioned to believe the opposite of war is peace, when Prince Robot is pressed by Heist to tell him where his mind went during one or two of his near death experiences, he reveals that he was involved in an orgy with the men and women he served with in battle, people he loved and respected, though never in a romantic way. It’s worth noting that Fiona Staples renders a very tasteful orgy – a splash page with Prince Robot standing in the center surrounded by the memory of what he experienced. It actually puts a splash page of Prince Robot from issue 12, wounded and possibly dying, into context. On his face is a sex scene, which may be proof of what Heist means. War is an aggressive act of violence but, as Heist says, peace “is just a lull in the action.” Peace time means waiting around for the act of violence, the next battle, the next war. In Heist’s philosophy, sex is the opposite of war because while war is an aggressive act of death and destruction, sex is an aggressive act that creates. It doesn’t have to be a child like Marko and Alana. It could be the creation of anything: love, joy, ecstasy, or just a sense of being part of something else, something that is not entirely you.

It’s a beautiful thought, actually, if only Vaughan didn’t have to go and wreck it with all the other stuff that happens. I swear, Saga is just going to ruin me when it ends someday. Not now, thankfully, but I can only imagine what Vaughan has planned for the long-term.

Final Thoughts: Things are not looking good, but I can’t look away!

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