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    Review: Saga #17

    By | December 20th, 2013
    Posted in Reviews | % Comments

    Hold up. Before we get to the review, I want to slide this little warning right up in here: due to the nature of this issue (meaning: balls-to-the-wall crazypants) there will be some discussion of the events of this issue that are highly spoilerrific. Don’t come crying to me if you haven’t read the issue, but still read the review and Dumbledore dies.

    Written by Brian K. Vaughn
    Illustrated by Fiona Staples
    Prince Robot IV gets everyone into trouble.

    There comes a time, every once in a while, where a work is so universally praised that it all comes together in a white noise surrounding the work, sometimes clouding the smaller details. Sometimes you have to ask “Sure, people like it, but why?” and “Saga” is one of those works for me. The book debuted to almost universal praise (ourselves included) back in 2012 and almost every issue since has seemed to unite everyone who reads it in this loving stupor. That being said, here we are at the seventeenth issue of “Saga” which might go down as a turning point for the series. You see, ever since #12 (which was revealed to be a LOST-esque flashforward), we’ve seen the series slow down to take a look at how the characters have fared since the first couple of arcs. It’s with this issue that Vaughn and Staples reveal what they have been building to, a grand conclusion to the third chapter of the series. All of the threads are brought together, some for the first time, in what can only be described as an explosive series of events that leave the series open to continue in a very changed form. When comics tout that theirs is the issue the changes everything, this is the one they mean.

    What is perhaps “Saga”‘s crowning glory is the scope in it’s exploration of the characters featured in its world. With the backdrop of a genre-defying mix of science fiction and fantasy, Vaughn and Staples have created characters that are wholly alien in presentation, but who also speak to very specific human emotions. Even to the point where the death of a character, no matter who, hits home simply because of the deft writing of the character instantly connects them to the reader. When it comes to the end of this issue, where Vaughn and Staples wipe the slate clean for the most part, it’s not only shocking, but sad in a very poignant way. The last four issues stopped dead to show these characters in their most small and intimate moments in order to pull this issue off, but when it comes to it it works. Even Vaughn takes a moment in Hazel’s narration of the story to explain the move which makes it all the more heartbreaking. While this series is sure to go down in history with most of Vaughn’s work, it’s this issue that may stand out as the one that showed that this series means business.

    While Vaughn pulls out all of the stops in his writing of this issue, creating what might be the biggest turning point for the series since the first issue, Staples puts in the work of her career. Fiona Staples has garnered the worlds attention and all of our hearts with her art in the series so far and uses this issue to break our hearts by realising Vaughn’s script on the page with more emotion than many artists can manage. The characters of “Saga” speak to our humanity not simply because of Vaughn’s writing, but because of Staples’ use of expressions and body language in her art to take characters that look completely alien and make them feel as familiar as family. She uses that here to infuse moments that would already be heartbreaking with such emotion that it transcends simply watching a comic character, printed in ink on paper, die and becomes watching someone you are about die. There are very few artists that would be capable of that, but Staples is one of them and uses it to make this one of the best issues of the series so far.

    There is so much more that could be talked about in this issue throughout the build-up to the climax, but the events of the last few pages overpower the lead up to it. Yet Vaughn and Staples don’t rest on their laurels in creating those moments that fall slowly into place, building to the moment where the dominoes crash down. In issue 12 of the series, we saw Prince Robot IV interrogating the writer D. Oswald Heist on Quietus when it was revealed that Alana, Marko and their family had been there a week. Here, we have caught up to that moment and Vaughn has created even more of a link between issues in references to the controversial opening of #12. #12, as you might remember, was banned by Apple because of the opening pages showing Prince Robot IV’s TV-head showing sex between two men. Here, Vaughn and Staples reference that directly and use the moment to turn it up to 11 in a page that has to be seen to be believe. Just don’t read the issue near anyone else.

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    “Saga” #17 is a high point for the series, there’s simply no beating around the bush. While Vaughn seems to be open about the manipulation of the deaths of these characters, when each beat hits there’s no discounting how emotional each one is. It’s a testament to this series that it has created such emotional connections between reader and character that an issue like this works in such a small amount of time. That’s because of the teamwork between Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples and how they have both infused these characters with such life and humanity that you can’t help but feel for them. That’s why this series has seen near universal praise and why it will continue to do so until it goes down in the history books.

    Final Verdict: 9.6 – There’s no one not already buying this series, right?

    Alice W. Castle

    Sworn to protect a world that hates and fears her, Alice W. Castle is a trans femme writing about comics. All things considered, it’s going surprisingly well. Ask her about the unproduced Superman films of 1990 - 2006. She can be found on various corners of the internet, but most frequently on Twitter: @alicewcastle