Review: Saga: Book Three hardcover (Image Comics)

Breaking the fourth wall a moment, I'm delighted to be all caught up on Saga. Given that I read the first two collections six years ago and all that time the book's been continuing apace, that I never did manage to spoil it for myself and that there are no more spoilers now — that with the conclusion of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' Saga: Book Three, I'm just as caught up with the series as anyone else — gives me a good feeling of accomplishment.

I have a pretty bad track record of finishing these long-form-but-finite Vertigo-esque series (of which I started but never finished Sandman, Y, The Last Man, Fables, and Mind MGMT, plus others). In part that's because I have to be in the right mood to pick such a series up. Also in part that's because, given all the ones I listed have ended, it's hard to find the time amidst the unceasing drumbeat of the DC superhero comics that I read to step out of that river and into another for the length it would take to read the series as a whole — because at this point if I'm going to read one of those series, I might as well binge.

Which is why Saga going on hiatus is a boon, as well as these three-trades-in-one hardcovers, which even if the number of issues to read is the same, the number of volumes to review is lesser (also Saga is eminently readable and three or six issues hardly takes as long to read as others). And it helps to know that Saga now has a set end-issue; I'm inclined even to pick it up in monthly single issues when it comes back, continuing to keep myself up to date and knowing it's a finite commitment.

So, the final three six-issue arcs, issues #37-54 ...

[Review contains spoilers]

Hazel's words from the first issue have haunted the series throughout, and it was only a question of when (and how) they'd come true: "Thanks to my parents, at least I get to grow old. Not everybody does." At the end of issue #54, they come around again, and Marko has died. At least, it seems Marko has died — characters have been grievously injured before, and snow and dragon semen and robot blood have all been able to bring them back; given we've yet to see his body buried (and even then), I'm not sure this cliffhanger is what it seems.

At the same time, if we take it as truth, Saga will return with an interesting dynamic: three adults on the run now — Alana, Upsher, and Petrichor — each of whom have just lost their partners (Marko, Doff, and Sir Robot). Whether they will follow Marko's example of nonviolence (which, as I'm sure the story will address, got him killed) or act at least initially out of revenge remains to be seen; it's an interesting family dynamic that everyone's now lost someone. And in their care, of course, are Hazel and the young robot Squire, both of whom have just lost their fathers, and who (future-Hazel has told us) are destined to be siblings.

If not already, Saga's structure seems clear now, if even too short given its stated end-issue. Each volume (every nine issues or so) has seen Hazel age up, from a baby now to a pre-teen and that's sure to continue, especially with Marko's death and Vaughan's comments that this will increasingly become Hazel's story. I suspected this and wondered if it might not lead up to Alana's death (of natural causes, presumably), Hazel finding a partner and starting a family (if she so chooses), even perhaps Hazel's own death. But given that we've only gone about seven years in 54 issues, the next 54 hardly seems enough room to get Hazel all the way to old age or even really to adulthood. I hope Vaughan doesn't abandon the mostly real-time aesthetic of Saga and jump with issue #55 all the way to, say, Hazel's middle age. Another possibility might be that Saga will span from Hazel's birth until she's the age her parents were when she was born, roughly early twenties; that's more reachable and would be a way in which Saga could come full circle.

Saga's heavy Star Wars influences, however, do tip the scales slightly in favor of a big time jump upcoming. If we tilt our heads and squint a little and see these three hardcover Saga volumes each as pillars of the "first trilogy" — the prequels, if you will — then Saga's "second trilogy" would be well within its rights to jump to Hazel's adulthood or even Hazel herself giving birth, echoing Saga's first beginning (and taking young Hazel's decision not to have children ironically, as is possible). For me, a direct continuation would be optimal, but it remains to be seen whether Saga is "the life of Hazel" or something more akin to "the Skywalker saga."

Saga's defining attribute has often been combining sci-fi with modernity. In the third book (and perhaps reflecting the extent to which the world has changed since 2012 when Saga began), Saga begins to feel more politically or socially topical, not in the least when Alana faces difficulty finding someone to remove the baby she's miscarried even on a planet sporting an old West-styled "Abortion Town." That characters here face persecution for being gay or transgender is also notable given this reader's experience, at least, with the mostly egalitarian future societies of Star Trek and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Vaughan's world of Saga is futuristic but not enlightened, and all the more compelling in that way as a view of what our society is and not what it could be.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Saga: Book Three

Another thought occurs to me, noting that in the whole of Saga: Book Three the characters of Gwendolyn and Sophie are the most removed, only tangentially interacting with the rest of the cast whereas most everyone else comes together in the conclusion. That suggests not that the pair are less important, but more, and perhaps what we're in for is a meeting (at least) between Hazel and Sophie, if not friendship, enemy-ship, or relationship. Sophie's "family" is a cracked mirror of Hazel's own, and now Sophie's "father" has killed Hazel's — I'm sure they'd have a lot to talk about.

I wish we had a more definitive date when Saga will be back. I'm afraid I'm going to miss it.

[Includes original covers, 19-page look at the "birth" of Saga]

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


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