Written by Guest Contributor: Jordan North Even when Saga isn’t doing too much it is still in a different league than 96% of comic books you’re likely to find on the shelf. Issue 16 sits quietly with itself, favoring more character progression than plot development which, as a rule, you should never do. But, you’re not Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples.
It takes special skill to be able to take your peripheral characters and make them just as interesting when they’re in panel as most writer's leads. That’s the level the Saga team is working on. An opening scene between our oft-visited pointy-eared journalists Upsher and Doff and a special agent from Landfall manage to engage us with a sprinkle of lore, a big revelation and a refreshing/smart perspective on discrimination within the first few panels, all the while never feeling expository or showing any storytelling seams really. When any character in your created universe is one I don’t mind spending time with in the story, you’re doing fiction writing right.
Moments at the house of writer Oswald Heist shine here and stand out (again) showing us the closest thing to a true family unit we’ve seen set from our mismatched gang of ex-warriors, ghosts and fugitives. It’s really nice to get an opportunity to see all these characters simply getting along and enjoying themselves—interacting at all really. All of Vaughn's characters are so varied and well realized and his interactions so well written that even seeing the group sit around as a children's book is being read makes for a riveting few pages, if only because this series does such a good job at making you feel like a fly on an actual wall in a real place listening to real people in these little moments. Bits between Heist and Marko`s mom are particularly great--I can’t remember an over-the-hill romance I’ve rooted for as hard in recent memory.
It can`t all be fun and games though as—without spoiling too much-- Prince Robot 4 reenters the game, ready for blood. I will say, as much fun as its been watching the gang bond at Oswald`s place I’m excited to get back into the high drama of Marko and Alana's cat and mouse game with their formidable adversary. Btw Prince R's sickeningly ironic call to his pregnant wife about a, “house by the sea” and their baby as he arrives on the scene to give our protagonists and their family hell is genius. This is a truly twisted character and I have a feeling we’ve only seen the start of his depravity. As much as it hurts me to see Marko, Alana and the gang suffer, it sure as hell promises to be an entertaining ride.
With a couple big reveals, lots of great moments between characters (surprise) and one hell of a blue-balls cliff-hanger ending this issue of Saga stacks up to the others, which is to say its better than damn near most anything you’ll find on the shelf this week. I do admit there were a couple odd places this issue where perspective shifts and dialogue left me confused, but at this level that’s picking knits. Fiona Staples does fantastic work as usual sketching breath into Vaughn's fantastic cast—(one drawing in particular of one of Gwendolyn's former flames is a landmark in the absolute right direction in comic book artist`s generally one-note rendering of the female form that left me airing out my collar), and Brain K. Vaughan continues his work as one of the best scribes in comics. Together Saga's creators maintain their damn high bar.
I can’t wait to see where next issue goes. Brian K. Vaughan always makes sure of that.
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan Artist: Fiona Staples Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 11/27/13