Saga: Chapters Fifty-Six & Fifty-Seven
- Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
- Illustrator: Fiona Staples
Chapters Fifty-Six and Fifty-Seven are plagued by the same issues as the middle installments of any ongoing TV series or comic. That is, they’re slowly paced and narratively stalled. Now that Fifty-Five has set up the second half of the series and introduced some new characters, Fifty-Six’s primary goal is to set up incoming plot threads. Alana’s ship is boarded early on by a mysterious band – in more ways than one – of smugglers. And, of course, they’re all different species, all of which have never been seen before in the series.
Vaughan and Staples continue to impress not only in the ways they create memorable characters with their own interior lives, but in the way they fit into the main storyline. But no matter how diverse the creatures may be, they all still manage to house their own resentments towards the Wreath-Landfall war, and those who stake their claim to either side. Such is the case with the incoming crew’s captain, who prefers anonymity enough to only be called Skipper, and who hates the winged natives of Landfall.
This provides one of the few bits of tension throughout either entry this time around. At first, it feels like the dueling crews will find some sort of commonality together: both are ragtag pseudo-families that operate outside the law, trying to find some way to not get directly involved in the all-encompassing war. Even the kids take a shining to the rest of the rival crew, as Hazel and Squire discover that their members have formed their own rock band. Only after Skipper and Alana have a private meeting does their ultimate goal come forward. Skipper quickly reveals himself to be a smart adversary when he realizes that Alana’s crew is selling the drug Fadeaway, and he recruits Alana to make a delivery to a nearby moon, with a big payday as incentive. There’s just one problem, and it provides a fairly thrilling cliffhanger at the end of Chapter Fifty-Six. Skipper wants Alana to prove she’s not from Landfall and (forcefully) asks her to prove it.
Fifty-Seven opens with a flashback to the distant planet where Alana received an abortion some time ago, and it’s revealed that after Alana had that procedure done, she returned to have her wings removed, for fear that she’ll be identified and targeted, along with her daughter. While I initially viewed this revelation as a cheap way to get Alana out of a jam, it is an interesting development for Alana’s character, as she drifts further and further away from where she was in Chapter One.
Meanwhile, The Will appears to be back on the straight-and-narrow path towards redemption, as he appears at the Robot Kingdom to inform the king that he knows who killed Prince Robot IV. It’s unclear right now what The Will’s ultimate goal is with this strategy. At first glance, he doesn’t stand to benefit financially from the piece of news, and doesn’t seem intent on revealing the true nature of Prince Robot’s demise, so we’ll have to wait and see how he can twist this plot thread to his advantage. The Will has always been at his most interesting when he’s caught between his ruthless profession and his own moral compass. Will his play with the Robot Kingdom be a mere cash grab, or will he continue to fuel the fire of the war?
It’s clear that Vaughan has grander plans for the rest of this volume in the series (the next three entries), but it’s hard not to ask when they’re going to get to the fireworks factory when you’re reading each chapter one month at a time. Though perhaps this is my newness with the machinations of comic books showing its true self. It’s too early to tell if the series will suffer with Marko dead in the second half of its run. He always provided an interesting counterpoint to Alana’s views on the war, so it will surely be worthwhile to see how much of that will stick with Alana in the chapters to come.