By Fiona Staples, Brian K. Vaughan, Fonografiks
Saga is back, which means it’s time again to have our emotions played with by masterful creators, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. This issue deals heavily with the relationships between the ever-growing band of rogues aboard Alana and Marko’s trademark Rocketship Tree. Those who have kept up with the series’ releases won’t need anymore refreshing than what’s already given. When a few characters show up in a scene, there’s an instant recollection of who they are and what they’re doing together, which makes sense give how memorable each Saga persona is. This issue also does a good job of giving a sense of time having passed since last we saw these characters, evident by the growth of a relationship and Petrichor’s implied impression on Hazel. Of course, Staples’ artwork is dramatic and telling.
The scene that carries the most weight happens not between adults, but children. Staples draws out each action purposefully and with momentum, so that in the moment when Hazel’s anger appears over a backdrop of red, it hits. The panel is an unexpected, but interesting callback to Marko’s own struggle with anger and violence, much earlier in the series. In the page following her outburst, Staples puts an absolutely heartbreaking scene together; the specter of a regretful tear about to drop and a young child’s shameful retreat. Staples enhances these narrative beats exponentially. Her knowledge of expression in minute details reveals more emotion than could fit in a single anniversary-sized comic. She coerces readers into taking that extra pause for a panel, examining it that much more, appreciating the nuance. Vaughan would not have Saga without Staples.
That being said, the man has a way with words. There’s one, beautiful line in this issue that sums up what seems to be this arc’s theme: “Anyone can kill you, but it takes someone you know to really HURT you”. There are large-scale implications about universal events, but even those are only revealed in order to help someone already aboard the ship. Every character action in this issue is done in the name of family or lack thereof and each one echoes across the pages. Vaughan’s dialogue is emotional and real; from children’s sharp tongues to lovers’ deflective conversations. His knowledge of when to end a conversation is impressive as well. A character’s change of mind is implied in their next scene in the issue rather than immediately thereafter. It’s not only efficient, but this style makes the new perspective that much more rewarding.
If you aren’t reading Saga, or never have, stop punishing yourself. This arc is as good as any to pick up and dive into, and will, most likely, inspire curiosity about the series and the inevitable, insatiable desire for those sweet, sweet hardcover omnibuses. In all seriousness, this series is largely agreed to be a landmark in comics, and for good reason. Saga #49 continues the series trend of having some of the most resonant character moments in comics.