Spoiler alert! This review reveals significant plot details.
Now, I am a lucky and spoiled person who is reading Saga collected in volumes, rather than reading each issue as it is released like a chump—er, I mean, true fan. I guess it’s comparable to binge-watching a show after the entire season has been released rather than watching it week-by-week. In the end, you get to the same place. But the experience is totally different.
Saga, Volume Two raises the stakes after Volume One set up the universe and the conflict. Alana and Marko are still on the run, and now they have a destination: Quietus, home of schlock romance writer D.O. Heist, who is apparently Alana’s idea of a sage who can advise them on how to spend the rest of their fugitive lives. But there’s a twist—because Marko’s parents have tracked him down, and they aren’t thrilled at his choice of wife. The ensuing family drama really showcases Brian K. Vaughan’s ability to synthesize different levels of conflict.
The centre of Saga is Hazel, the child of two worlds (TVTropes) who is also the narrator. This is her saga, it’s implied, her genesis and coming of age. She is important because her heritage is unique—Landfall and Wreath hate each other so much that both sides are terrified at the prospect that two of their soldiers could possibly have fallen in love and had a child. She is also important because of her parents—not only did they make her, but they have the drive and desire to raise her peacefully. In addition to the struggle to survive and stay one step ahead of everyone who wants to kill or capture them, Alana and Marko’s biggest struggle, and the centre of this story, is going to be about how to raise Hazel. We can already see that happening in these early issues.
I think it’s interesting that even as Alana and Marko adjust to being a parent, both of the antagonists hunting them are dealing with the possibility of fatherhood. Prince Robot IV learns that his wife is pregnant while he is on the hunt for the fugitives. His appears to be a marriage of state; though he seems to have some fondness for his wife, so far I get the impression he’s more concerned about perpetuating his robot line. (Generally, I think he’s kind of a dick.) The Will, on the other hand, has essentially adopted Slave Girl, whom he busts out from Sextillion because he’s down with killing children but not having sex with them. (I like the Will, unlike my feelings towards Robot IV—I feel like, despite his past, he seems like he can be redeemed with the right sort of experience.)
Even as Vaughan’s storytelling expands the universe and advances the plot, Staples’ art once again elevates Saga above simply “a good space opera.” Her characters are fun and diverse: robots, humanoids, mice medics…. This time I want to remark on the backgrounds and the scenery. Thanks to the different POVs and the magic of flashbacks, we see quite a few planets: Cleave, Landfall, Wreath, Quietus, and others. Staples gives each different characteristics and climates. I suspect that is difficult to do given the limited page space and how much has to be taken up by characters, action, or dialogue. But this, combined with the dialogue and narration, really helps lend a sense of grandeur to the setting of Saga. People in this universe get around. They planet hop, whether on their own ships, like the Will does, or chartered cruisers, like Prince Robot IV does when he goes from Landfall to Cleave (until he gets his own wheels, because reasons).
Volume Two ends on a sweet twist/reveal and cliffhanger that left me really excited to read Volume Three. I loved watching Robot’s confrontation with Heist only for the “camera” to “pan up” and narrator!Hazel to reveal that, in fact, they preceded the Prince to Quietus. Sweet! Can’t wait to see how this turns out.
If Volume One hooked me into Saga, then Volume Two only reaffirmed that feeling. This is premium grade crack storytelling. Don’t look at me funny when I say that, or I will cut you.