Saga: Chapter Fifty-Five
- Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
- Illustrator: Fiona Staples
Through sheer serendipity alone, I picked up the collected works of Saga at the start of this year and had finished reading the most recent issue earlier this week. Knowing absolutely nothing about the plot, much less its footprint amongst science fiction, I had mostly started reading because of the name recognition of its author, Brian K. Vaughan. I had devoured his Y: The Last Man series years ago and have remained a stalwart of his nuanced, thoughtful writing style.
Vaughan’s latest epic, which started ten years ago, tells a kind of futuristic Romeo and Juliet story of literal star-crossed lovers from warring planets. Alana, a former prison guard from Landfall, falls in love and has a child with Marko, a soldier turned prisoner turned pacifist from Wreath, Landfall’s moon. Given that the two sides have been at war with each other for longer than anyone can remember – a not-so-subtle knock on our own planet’s inherent hatred for anyone that simply looks different – Marko and Alana spend most of the series on the lam, hunted by all manner of people and species for creating an abomination, a child with both Landfall’s wings and Wreath’s horns.
Through series illustrator Fiona Staples’ inventive and colorful imagery, Saga has introduced over its previous 54 chapters a Star Wars-like roster of aliens and creatures, most of whom end up hunting Alana and Marko. Indeed, Vaughan has said that the series is kind of like “Star Wars for perverts.” Given the amount of graphic sexual imagery and violence alone, it’s an appropriate selling point. Since Vaughan has said that he envisions the series to last for 108 chapters, the midway point – published a lifetime ago in July of 2018 – left off on a massive cliffhanger, with Marko suffering a potentially fatal wound at the hands of The Will, one of the many bounty hunters looking to collect on their heads.
Chapter 55 picks up three years after the events of the last issue. Hazel (Marko and Alana’s daughter) is now ten years old, and Marko is definitively dead. Vaughan and Staples haven’t lost a step in their respective fields since 2018 and Chapter 55, while mostly a table-setting entry, retains most of the elements that Saga does best – yes, including more graphic sex. There isn’t a ton of plot development this time around, but that’s ok, as Vaughan’s primary goal here is to re-orient the characters’ standings since the end of the last entry. Alana, Hazel, and Squire – the heir to the Robot Kingdom and son of Prince Robot IV, one of the series’ most fascinating creations – have settled into a seemingly normal existence on a new planet. We don’t spend a ton of time alone with Alana to see how she’s processing her grief, but early signs seem to indicate that she hasn’t handled Marko’s death particularly well.
Meanwhile, The Will, a contracted bounty hunter who was introduced as the primary threat to Marko & Alana but has since become an incredibly conflicted presence over the course of the series, reunites with Gwendolyn. Again, it’s too early to tell how much investment The Will has left in the contract killing game, but it’s clear he still cares for Sophie who, much to his chagrin, has seemingly become deeper entrenched in the same.
Vaughan’s open letter to the remaining loyal fans at the end of Chapter 55 is a sweet cap to an entry that re-establishes the stakes of his epic. It may be too early to tell what kinds of weird, darkly humorous characters and stories Vaughan has in store for the second half of Saga, but Chapter 55 is more evidence that, even after a four year break, one of comic’s best voices still has an iron grip on the world he’s created.