Sunday, January 06, 2019

Book-A-Day 2018 #371: Saga, Vol. 9 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

If you know anything about Saga, you know there's a big change at the end of this book, and that the series is now on a longer hiatus than usual. If you know nothing about Saga, you might just have been living in a hole for the last seven years, and nearly anything I could say would be a spoiler for the first fifty-some issues and nine volumes.

But that's always the issue with writing about a long-running media thing: there are the people who follow it passionately, who know everything you could possibly tell them, and the ones who have ignored it, who won't get any of the backstory. What I try to do is write down the middle -- for the people who know the thing exists but aren't uberfans, who might be caught up or might not, since life is complicated and this media thing isn't going to be everyone's biggest priority.

That brings me to Saga, Vol. 9 today. It's written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated -- pencils, inks, colors, the whole deal -- by Fiona Staples, as all of the issues to date have been and all of the issues to come are supposed to be. If you want to remind yourself of how we got here, you could check out what I wrote about the previous books: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.

It's a soft-SF epic, set in a a universe influenced by Star Wars but full of its own quirks and specifics. Two soldiers from opposite sides of a very long-running war -- their people are set up to be opposites in as many ways as Vaughan could manage -- met before the series began and fell in love. The first issue depicted the birth of their daughter Hazel; Saga is meant to be her story, and she's been narrating the comic more and more as she's gotten older. Now she's somewhere in the middle of what we'd call her elementary-school years -- maybe six, maybe eight. She and her parents, and various helpers, have been on the run her entire life, and have been chased by various others, on and off, the whole time. There are a lot of moments of peace, but the war is always in the background: both sides would very much like to capture and/or kill both parents, and do that or worse to Hazel.

Vaughan and Staples have been clear from the beginning that Saga is Hazel's story, not that of Marco and Alana, her parents. But she was a baby for the first twenty or thirty issues, so that message wasn't as clear as they might have thought. And, frankly, even now she's not old enough to have a story really separate from her parents and keepers -- the emphasis on Hazel in the interviews around the most recent issue and hiatus seem to me to be signposts to say "Saga is going to run for a lot of issues -- well over a hundred," given how long it's taken to get Hazel to this age and how little agency she has had so far.

I don't mind long stories, as long as they are stories. Saga has a lot of serial comics in its DNA, but I think it still has the bones of a single story. I wouldn't be surprised to see Saga come back after the hiatus with a time-jump, bumping Hazel up to an age when she really can affect events. Maybe not, though: maybe I'm just trying to hurry along something that will continue to go at its own pace.

Saga is still a very strong, humanistic work of SF, a story of people in danger and how they react to various stresses and demands and threats. Not all of them do what we'd hope they would, just like life. But they're all real, and they're what keep Saga worth reading.

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