The number thirteen is often considered unlucky. It is certainly an ever popular trope and a source of mystique, anxiety and excitement for many. It’s an eventful number, if you will. What manner or flavour will the number thirteen hold for this memorable comic series? None so far in the spooky sense, but we do get a tiny golden bit of significance on the upper right hand of the cover. Saga (as of August 2013) now carries the prestige of having won the Eisner Award for Best Series. Mileage amongst a wide readership always varies, but us folk here at The Fandomentals believe it’s well deserved.
So, what better way to brandish the honour than by picking up from last issue’s cliffhanger over thin ice? Well, it is a good way to continue the action, but it’s not quite where we’re headed. Rather than seeing a volatile follow-up at a lighthouse in Quietus, we’ll start by meeting two new sassy characters.
“I changed her”
There is something strangely ‘Roman’ about Landfall. Next to the perceived ‘barbary’ of Wreath, the Landfallian collective identity carries a feel of sophistication and regal, pristine ways. Although the winged soldiers will get their hands as bloodied as the horned ones, they may look a bit cleaner. The dichotomy between technology and magic certainly adds to the contrast. Refardless, Landfallians seem to buy into their own image, judging by the Landfallian Army Medical Centre’s exterior. Mind you, the presence of a ragged, homeless man outside drives the point further. Landfall is enamoured with its own image of a republic. Inside, the glamour fades a little with the price to pay for the facade.
The halls are full of military propaganda and wounded soldiers. It’s quite what you’d expect for the war setting. The soldiers return, wounded from the fray at some faraway world. Their psyche may mirror the physical damage. And in some instances, the body of values receives a similar scathing. One of these wounded soldiers is receiving a peculiar visit this morning.
The fellow is a survivor of the opening events from Issue #1. He was sent by his superiors to take out the Wreath fugitive and his ‘hostage’, and lost a hand trying. Alas, he experienced first-hand the truth behind the events. It was not a hostage situation, but an elopement brimming with taboo. He tried to relay this information to his superiors, but reception was… mixed, leaving him no option but to resort to less savoury means. Tabloids. Thus we meet a reporter and a cameraman belonging to an amphibian-looking race. These two look sassy as fuck, quite unbelonging to the ranks of ‘background characters’.
Journalism can be a wild profession, especially in fiction. We got our Peter Parkers, our Clark Kents; their lives as superpowered beings certainly add to their craft’s stakes. However, even the Lois Lanes and the Jimmy Olsens aren’t slouches themselves. How does this mystique around the craft translate into this universe? Strictly speaking, these two aren’t anything special. With the exception of the baby that has the galaxy’s figurative tummy rumbling, nobody really is. Nonetheless, they’re tabloid journalists, neither Landfallian, nor Wreathborn. They’re wild cards, and we’ll see plenty of them in the near future.
Now we cut to Hazel’s narration, as usual. However, instead of going back to where the events of last issue ended, we are looking on an earlier time. One of Saga’s signatures is a constant narrative leap in time. Events are not linked linearly; rather they are put together in order to arouse suspense and expectation. Thus, we got to know what pan of boiling water our heroes have come to land in. Yet we don’t know the state of things between and Barr’s passing on Issue #11. Now we see, through a considerably haggard Marko, that the loss took its toll. His mother Klara wears a mourning veil and often changes Hazel’s diaper during her parents’ restless nights. During these times, the widow has taken to reading Alana’s favourite novel, yet she’s not overly enthusiastic about the parents’ plan.
Seeking guidance on strong, heavy life matters from your favourite author really may not be the best idea, but what do I know? (Mr. Gaiman, should I run for Overlord?)
In the meantime, we go back to one our heroes’ pursuers. The Will, Lying Cat, Gwendolyn and Slave Girl seem to be safe and sound after a troubled landing. Slave Girl’s abilities seem a bit dulled as a result, but at least they appear to have landed on a lovely green space rock. Not that this helps the Freelancer’s mood, as he’s losing his cool about AAA, as you do. Belligerent tension grows between The Will and Gwendolyn, and some of it may be sexual. Nonetheless, Slave Girl’s managing to hold this group together… sort of.
And now, we arrive at Quietus, the first place Hazel’s family ever laid roots on. Unlike the sleepy coast-like feel we got last issue, this region is marshy and foggy. Star Wars devotees may find a vague aesthetic parallel here with Dagobah. Plus, we got the whole mentor thing, and Alana and Marko seem to think of Heist in that way, so it may hold true somewhat. With ghostly babysitter Izabel at the front, they find out that they’ve landed on the remains of an ancient battlefield. Grim. They sound find out these bones and skulls are alive and ravenous. Grimmer. A skull bites off one of Klara’s ears. So grim. A great serpent made of bones is about to kill Marko. So, so grim. D. Oswald Heist saves their hides while wearing nothing but a robe, stained tightiewhites and a bottle. Not grim, but not any less nasty.
Indeed, as Hazel puts it, writers make the best impressions. Pray you never see me out in the open, outside of the internet’s lovely, boundless pastures.
Meanwhile, back at the lush and fertile camp where The Will and company landed, night has fallen. The Freelancer sits alone before a giant beetle roasting over the fire. The mood is dour and melancholic as he looks at an old picture. It’s from back when he had hair of his face, and The Stalk was with him, and they were happy. He’s also smoking a joint, which might explain what happens next. His old lover appears behind, acknowledging herself as merely a vision. She has come to talk The Will out of the job, advising him to settle down with Gwendolyn and adopt Slave Girl. He, in turn, denies all of this, thinking The Stalk would never leave a job unfinished.
Being a vision taken shape by grief, this may be a voice of his own subconscious want. Still, The Will denies her words, yelling as you do when arguing with a vision. This wakes up Gwendolyn and Slave Girl, much to the former’s annoyance. As the pieces that his ‘Stalk’ had been talking about come together, epiphany ensues. It is so that The Will has decided they won’t call her Slave Girl anymore. From now on, her name is Sophie, and it’s long due time. Things become powerful when named. Characters become even more so, and in a way, newly imbued with purpose.
Although we only really met two new characters on this issue, we did see some new sides to known characters. Tbis is important, as past roles fall apart; they become nuanced and prone to greater signficance. In a universe where one birth unleashed such great pursuit, characters mean everything. Each transformation, conjuring, maturing, unveiling, naming can cast ripples across the stars.
Saga Issue #13 Credits
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
This review is dedicated to the memory of Sir Derek Walcott, passed away on 17 March 2017.
All images are courtesy of Image Comics