I’ve been wondering lately whether or not I was doing the right thing by buying Saga month in, month out; wondering whether I should maybe stop buying the single issues of this sensational comic. I was torn, then lo and behold the world delivered unto me a message, a sign, first by having the series left out of my LCS’s delivery then through Apple controversially refusing the comic the right to be hosted digitally through Comixology ( which I use as a back up in all such cases) because it features, somewhere in a background, the sight of sex, gay sex (007?). It seemed that the world wanted me to stop reading Saga but as I’m stubborn these twists actually only made me more keen to pick up the issue, balancing things out. The real decision on the series future then was going to be made based on this issue and how it managed to close out the comics second arc before the multiple month break.
Firstly I need to say that issue twelve of Saga was, as it always is, sensational but it simultaneously featured full-strength examples of the issues that I have had with the series recently. The issue begins by introducing a fascinating new character – one of many made up this month, which is what the book does with every issue – and tells a rampantly readable story around her and her interactions with Prince Robot IV, one of the many amazing characters on the books margins. It’s an amazing scene, one with characters and concepts strong enough to support their own ongoing comic and this is my main issue. See in its own way this overload of imagination can clog up a comics pace just as much as the lack of it; the very definition of wheel spin is when the whole goes nowhere because a single part is going too fast.
I love Prince Robot and I loved reading his interactions with the previously unseen author Heist; the dynamic nature of their dialogue, the power shifting between the two as they parried words and attempted to learn the others intentions before they let their own slip was a phenomenal example of just how great a writer Vaughn is and in the context of the comics larger story it was even better, reverberating with Prince Robot’s own psychological issues. The problem though is that these two characters are arguably not in the top five most central, their names may not appear in the title sequence of the Saga TV show and so the issues feels more like a spin-off.
When you only have twenty-two pages a month to tell your story spending this many on tertiary tales, as terrific as they are, becomes a bit frustrating. In the larger scheme I can see that this added depth will be beneficial, that having these fleshed out supporting characters will make a the main story more effecting but at the same time it makes reading the single issues strangely unsatisfying. Hickman is often cited as having a similar problem, but I would argue the issue is inverted here: Hickman has huge ideas that he patiently takes fifty issues to fully explore while Vaughn introduces three or four crazy new concepts with every issue of the ADD addled comic, never really returning to render them more fully.
At first this approach meant that Saga was constantly fresh, as compelling and unconstricted as a first-issue each time you opened a cover and yet now it is making me wonder whether or not it’s worth buying the book each and every month, even though on a micro level it is arguably the best written and drawn book on the shelf ( I have really run out of ways to describe the brilliance, though the two creatives have not run out of ways to deliver it). We are well past the point of arguing about whether or not Saga should be read( though tell that to Apple), it is an essential book, but I will be spending this short break from it pondering just how I want to read it.