So Saga lost me a little bit last month. I sat down to lunch on a Wednesday, picked up the issue and flipped through it then put it down after turning the final page with a shrug, sated but not stunned. I had come into the experience expecting a five star meal but got something more akin to McDonalds, an enjoyable enough treat but one without any sustenance, the hunger stopped for only a second. For many this would be enough, that’s what they come to comics for, five minutes of simple escapism and a story as strongly imaginative as Saga will always provide that but I expect so much more from the book. Maybe the first two issues simply set a standard that the book couldn’t begin to meet each issue? Maybe the novelty of this world had worn off? Maybe Vaughn and Staples had run out of ideas. I open this issue take a look at the first page and know instantly that none of those things are even remotely true; if that was all the covers contained then it would have filled me up for the month, but there is more, much much more.
Again the book introduces a crazy concept and acts as if it doesn’t care one bit about it; there are giant heads on legs living and breathing and barking out the rules of the Sextillion to both us and Ne Will but no one treats them any differently than an average human. Strangely in the midst of all this strange it is the splash page of an average human that shocks the most, there are so many magical men at play that one real person seems like a real revelation. It would be easy to say that the series has too many ideas, if such a thing is possible, but Brian seems aware of this and even gets a character to reference it: after asking where they are Marko is treated to a line featuring just four of the fictional terms the series has scripted so far and in response he echoes our own reaction by uttering, “I have no idea what anything you just said means.” and rather than explain it to him or us the book instead steps forward, further into its emotional arc. That is what the book is really all about, the insanity is just inherent in the setting; it’s best to just ignore that, there’s nothing to see here it seems to say.
More important than the quantity of ideas though is their quality; while their blasé attitude suggests that these things are simply spewed out onto the page there is actually a decent amount of thought that has gone into them, each plays a particular role and has a particular purpose. The final panel twist of the last issue and the front page introduction of another protagonist seemed tenuous at first, despite their centrality; here though we see them weaved seamlessly into the story, each adding an element that we previously weren’t aware was missing.
This month’s madness mostly comes in the fucking forms of the Sextillion employees and if you thought breastfeeding and television headed robot sex were weird then you ain’t seen nothin’ yet: this planet has naked angels, Dinosaurs with Dildo’s and one creation that puts Total Recall to shame; it’s shameless. It is though without a doubt carnally satisfying and yet not empty titillation, this too has a point. Not wanting to say anything that would spoil the surprise but it is because of all that extreme sexuality that the aforementioned splash comes as such a strong surprise.
As far as I’m concerned Saga has already put out three of the year’s best single issues and in that light me being critical of one comes across as pedantic; I was shocked not to love it and relieved to reverse course this month with what is quickly becoming a favorite comic. It is because I love Saga so much that I fear so strongly for it; each issue introduces so many surprises and strange new worlds and it is incredible, but I wonder how long it can last before Brian finds that he has too many balls in the air to easily juggle?
I think though that maybe this fear is as unfounded as the one I had last month after issue three, for it was only when the series slowed down that I found myself struggling to enjoy it; perhaps Saga then is like a shark in that it must continue to move forward at this ridiculously frenetic pace lest it instantly fall apart. If that is the case then it is certainly in the right hands; there isn’t a more inventive team out there than Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples and there isn’t a more imaginative book than Saga. Like Marko I have no idea what it all means but I’m happy to be here in this larger than life place with these most lovable of people. If I ever said I didn’t love this book I was lying.