Alana and Marko have escaped danger for now, but they are still fugitives. Their unique child, Hazel, will be recognized for what she is no matter where they go. So they are living in disguise on a backwater planet called Gardenia, and it’s causing no end of tension. Alana tries to support her family through a superhero soap opera, while Marko takes care of Hazel. Life seems both easier and harder than it was before. But as the end of the first chapter says, “This is the story of how my parents split up.” Sucker punch, much? Saga, Volume 4 delivers some of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ best work yet.
At first as I was all, “Noooooo, Alana/Marko forever!!!!” in my most fangirly of internal dialogues while I sat reading this volume. In retrospect, though, it was a cool move. It’s a natural development of the pressure they have been under—it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Vaughan and Staples don’t go for the cheap plays—they introduce a potential affair for Marko, but I really like how that gets resolved—and instead show us that the disagreement Alana and Marko have is a result of stress and tension. It’s not that Mommy and Daddy don’t love each other anymore—things are just … difficult … at the moment.
And then a robot shows up and kidnaps, like, everyone. Because Saga!
It has been literally a year since I read the first three volumes of Saga, because I bought those for a Christmas present for a friend. So my memory of the specifics is pretty vague. But it started coming back to me as Vaughan and Staples jumped to the various storylines. I suppose those multiple storylines is one reason this is called Saga, and I imagine it must be difficult deciding how much space in each chapter to devote to each story. So far they seem to be balancing it pretty well.
Although external conflict makes an appearance towards the end of this volume—and boy does it make an appearance when it finally shows up—most of the conflict in this volume is internal and emotional. I appreciate that, especially in a series that does have a lot of violence. This volume is a bit of a respite from that violence (at least at first) but no rest for Alana, Marko, et al. In particular, Vaughan and Staples show a new side of Alana we couldn’t see until now: motherhood guilt. She feels so bad not being able to spend enough time with Hazel, even though she is single-handedly supporting the family with her job. And it’s a crappy job at that. The resulting spiral culminating in substance abuse, recriminations, and an epic argument is nothing short of excellent.
Towards the end, as the storylines start to converge again, the theme of parenting and the extent to which parents will go for their children becomes more apparent. That very last shot at the end of Chapter 24 … well, without spoiling it, let’s just say that it’s the kind of use of the Enemy Mine trope (TVTropes) that we love.
If you’ve been reading Saga until now, you have no reason to stop. If you haven’t read Saga, go start at Volume 1 (or get Book 1, which collects the first three volumes) and settle in for a crazy ride.
Minor spoiler: I love that King Robot has a massive flatscreen TV as a head. I had to stop at that two-page spread and laugh for a solid minute before I could go in. It’s perfect.