Review: Saga: Book Two hardcover (Image Comics)


The end of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' Saga: Book Two does not as such mark the midpoint of the series; the last chapter of this volume, issue #36, is neither the halfway point of the first 54 issues of Saga (that would be #27) nor of the planned 108-issues as a whole (that'd be #54 itself). So to see Book Two as a sort of Empire Strikes Back-esque second chapter in the "first Saga trilogy" is patently incorrect.

[Review contains spoilers]

And yet, viewing Book Two as the penultimate piece of a trilogy interests me because, as in the Star Wars model, the second part of a trilogy (and especially its conclusion) ought be the part where things go terribly, terribly wrong. Indeed, given the particularly violent first arc of Book Two, which also suggests Alana and Marko potentially splitting up, and an ending in which it seems quite certain someone is going to die, things going terribly, terribly wrong seems inevitable.

It's another of Saga's clevernesses, then, that Book Two ends in joy (inasmuch as the end of Book Two is narratively significant given it's not actually the halfway point of anything). There's no death per se, nor Han Solo frozen in carbonite, but rather Hazel, Alana, and Marko reunited after Book Two's first arc's kidnapping, and the revelation of Alana's new pregnancy. Cliffhangers abound, not to be mistaken, and there's a lot around the family that's different from this book's outset, but in some respects Vaughan and Staples have hit the reset button; we go into Book Three not with Alana and Marko still warring or still needing to find Hazel, but rather with the future unforeshadowed and wide open.

Much of the aforementioned violence of Book Two's first arc comes from Dengo, a crazed subject of the Robot Kingdom who goes on a killing spree. It is strikingly no-holds-barred in a way that sets up the threat of death in the end; no major characters die during Dengo's rampage, but from Dengo killing a new mother to the familiar madame of Sextillion to Alana's co-workers at the Circuit, the creators make the point even more strongly this time around that no one is safe.

I do as a matter of fact still believe Hazel will end up growing up without either Alana or Marko, taking as gospel Hazel's first-issue claim that "... at least I get to grow old. Not everybody does" over an image of Alana and Marko. Again, this contributes to my surprise that Book Two ends as happily as it does, both with Hazel reunited with her parents and Marko making it out of the Landfall prison alive. It is a book of deceased or absent parents — Marko's father died, Alana's parents divorced, the child robot Squire's mother was murdered and Sophie the slave girl's mother gave her away — and in that respect Hazel's anomalous in way I think unlikely to last. Another of my theories, given the time jumps in the book so far, is that the latter half of the book may see a teenage or adult Hazel on adventures with Squire and Sophie; as these children with intertwined families grow, it seems increasingly possible that they're the real direction of the story.

I did, as I expected, find the Circuit scenes tedious; superheroes in costumes is too much what I don't want from Saga to make their inclusion, even ironically, enjoyable, and all the more so when those sequences are purposefully melodramatic. (We're told more than shown what Alana finds so wondrous about working in the Circuit.) Even, I'm sad to say, I think Staples' artwork suffers a little in the Circuit sequences (maybe this is intentional, I don't know); as deftly rendered as the characters' faces usually are, in the Circuit sequences they get too bubbly, reminding me more of Angel and the Ape than Saga. Fortunately, Circuit doesn't follow far beyond Book Two's first arc, and I did appreciate how, among the Revolution, another group of superhero analogues, Vaughan and Staples subtly introduce Lexis, who grows from seeming throwaway character to an actually prominent cast member.

The end matter here is a series of Saga pin-ups drawn by invited artists, followed by Vaughan or Staples' commentary on the art. Though my personal interests lean toward more meta-discussion of the story — they might've enlisted some cultural critique of Saga or a discussion of the story's influences — the art gallery too is interesting in its own right, if only to see how many artists seem enamored with the Stalk's, ahem, "concept" and "design," and which artists did and didn't understand the tone of the tongue-in-cheek interview questions. Among my favorites are Marcos Martin's depictions of everyone killed off in Saga so far (first row left is a riot), Sean Gordon Murphy's the Will and Lying Cat, and Steve Skroce's smart mash-up of some of Saga's disparate elements.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Saga: Book Two

So at the end of Saga: Book Two, unexpectedly we find everyone reunited and in one piece (discounting Klara, whom I also put in the category of "doing fine" since she's willfully imprisoned). Might be Book Three the one then that rips out my heart and stomps all over it, or is this itself the way Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' story will most defy my expectations? If I may take a moment to boast, I'm rather impressed with myself that in one more book, I'll be as all caught up on Saga as the rest of you; since I managed neither to finish Sandman, nor Fables, nor Y, the Last Man, nor Mind MGMT, that I'll finally be up-to-date on something outside mainstream superheroes feels like an accomplishment (to come).

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Saga: Book Two
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 2 )

  1. When you say not finished Sandman etc do you mean AT ALL or on time as it were?
    I'd just be surprised if the former!

    1. Yeah, at all. At some point when each I just crapped out. And now Fables has like 100 issues and crossovers and so on -- picking that one back up, for instance, feels really daunting. Some of the others, I'll probably get back around to a little sooner.


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