Whatever it Takes to Get 15 Minutes of Reading Time...

Whatever it Takes to Get 15 Minutes of Reading Time...

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

New Book Review: Saga # 38

Saga  # 38
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Image Comics

I've always said if Salvador Dali were alive, he would probably be Saga's  champion ahead of the rest of us.  Being a fan of surrealism and having trekked to numerous art galleries in the U.S. based on them having any original Dalis or Magrittes, I was instantly drawn to Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' Saga, at least once I discovered Issue # 17 and began the laborious quest to complete the run.

We live in a desensitized society where it takes something of an over-the-top, horrific scale to gain the public's attention beyond the senseless murder of an elderly person in the local crime blotter, that person's extinguished life warranting little more than a mere paragraph.  It takes a mass shooting, a suicide bombing, a plane crash, something of an epic nature, before society cares, and frankly, that sucks.  A pitiful excuse, but the it's reality we're stuck with, attributable to a fast-paced, 24-7 society where we're all on the move at-large and it's enough to keep up with sports scores and the weather.

So too have we as comics readers become desensitized to death.  In this case, the older you are, the more times you've seen critical superheroes killed off by their publishers in sensational fashion, only to rise from the dead later.  It was truly a powerful thing when Barry Allen and Kara Zor-El died in DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths  back in 1985 and '86.  At the time, such proposals as killing off established heroes wasn't attempted very often, Yellowjacket and Jean Grey notwithstanding in the Marvel U.

These days, Superman's bit it a couple times and Rebirth has taken a leery turn by bringing him back, this time as an alternate Earth's version come down to ours.  So many of the capes have departed and found their way back it's always dubious now when they depart.  After Jason Todd, we'll never trust comics again when death comes allegedly knocking.

And yet we have Saga  # 38.

By now, I'm out of the spoiler zone since I've heard and seen this issue being discussed--and with great reason.  The ending to this issue is genuinely shocking.  Much as it is genuinely moving.  Brian K. Vaughan's expressionistic macrocosm of a galaxy is far weirder than Lucas or Roddenberry's.  It's a fantastical realm where monarchs are crowned with tube televisions, trans-dimensional trees sweep you away faster than a wormhole, aliens either titillate or look like atrophy is their daily norm, sexual taboos are gibed as close to the limit as can be tolerated (after you've read Sex  and Sex Criminals,  you're ripe for anything Vaughan throws at you) and you're susceptible to violently-contested clashes among fuzzy wubbies.

This is a world featuring a mocking, pink adolescent apparition, Izabel, who has settled into the story and become more than a recollected babysitter figure to Vaughan's narrator, Hazel.  Izabel, in her odd, transparent way, became the voice of reason to Saga,  the only being to keep Hazel (who is quickly growing up through this recent arc after the series took a short hiatus) from exploding, considering her bi-species parents Marko and Alana are constantly on the lam and at each other's throats, much less Hazel's.

Vaughan captures the foibles of parenthood so well, sagely coming from the clashing points-of-view of parents and their offspring.  When Hazel gnashes "If there's one thing parents suck at it, it's estimating how long any activity is going to take," there's such bloody and accurate honesty to it. Yes, we do  suck at it, me, especially.  Yeah, Nolan, I'll be done this album review in ten minutes.  An hour later, Yeah, Nolan, I'm almost done, five more minutes, kiddo.   As a father, I've had my gut checked twice within a weeks' time by Saga  # 38 and DC's Trinity  # 1.  Both Vaughan and Francis Manapul have tugged at my daddy strings with their spot-on insight into the parenting process it's prompted me to write a few private pages that look to be morphing into a short story.  Thank you, gentlemen.

It's this angst Hazel dishes out while we follow her and our motley band on their current locale of Phang, a planet "Mom and Dad thought we'd be on for a few hours at most," that leaves the reader vulnerable for the horror show to come.  We see Hazel beginning to open ties with new friends and doing what any young, barely-checked child would do:  she gets into minor mischief, this case killing alien-form lightning bugs.  As Izabel admonishes her, Hazel's recollected chuck becomes "What, like you were never a vicious little asshole when you were that age?"

Masterful writing, when you come to realize Hazel's blase, nubile attitude toward death becomes a dark prophecy leading to Izabel's final stand in this series.  I'll leave you to discover her stunning fate, but truly, Brian K. Vaughan has managed to do the impossible in this genre, and that's to deliver a death sequence that stings in the worst yet most poignant way.

Rating:  9 

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