The Saga re-read continues. I’m still in love with this series. It’s rare to have humor, sorrow, wit, action, adventure, and beautiful drawings married in one text, but this is that text. Volume Four would be my sole four star rated volume, but I am refusing to grade these against themselves, they are collectively some of the best storytelling I have read and will all be given five stars, regardless of swings in execution from volume to volume.
That said, while I’m sure that the plot Volume Four covers was necessary for the narrative it was both hard to read on an emotional level, and frankly a bit uneven. In order to watch people come back together, they have to be separated first and that is not enjoyable for the characters or the readers. We’ve got toddler Hazel, Alanna and Marko struggling with the reality of life in hiding and the stresses of family. My emotions are fragile and I love Marko and Alanna as a team figuring it out together, not sparring with one another, no matter how true it rings so this Volume is always going to be tough for me. The secondary plot dealing with the Robot monarchy and rebellion was still not well placed for me but without it we don’t get the great final panel so I can’t be too upset with it.
Volume Five picks up with Gwendolyn, Sophie, Lying Cat and The Brand looking for the ingredients for a cure for The Will. Marko’s uneasy alliance with Prince Robot IV to find their missing children is underway. The children, Alanna, and Marko’s mom are with their kidnapper and other terrifying new enemies who bring an entire new area of danger to light. While there are arguably only a couple of main characters in Saga the “supporting” characters are just as well-developed, sympathetic, and alive as Alanna and Marko. Gwendolyn has grown on me as she moves away from being solely focused on revenge and I do still think encapsulates a lot of what is great in how Vaughan and Staples have built their story. In this volume we see that part of her strength is built from rage, the rage she feels at the entire situation she is in, but that she tamps down. I understand her rage, that harnessing of emotion for the strength to push on. A highly emotional woman can be portrayed in lots of ways, and in lesser hands Gwendolyn would be broken, or simply the bitch but she isn’t portrayed that way here. The focus of this part of the story is deeply rooted in the personal stakes each character brings to the table (and will continue to be) and Gwendolyn is a great example of the complexity of the characters Vaughan and Staples are creating.
After a properly devastating time jump (which, I know worse is coming for me), in Volume Six we join Hazel and her grandmother in detention. Hazel is in kindergarten, no longer a cute chubby bundle, and we are treated to both the verbal Hazel on the page and the Hazel in the narration. She’s now an active part of the story. Four years after my first read I am even more appreciative of Petrichor, and how her relationship with Hazel prompts the little girl to tell her teacher about being “half-wings, half-horns”. Meanwhile, her parents have been non-stop searching for her, and as we rejoin them they are finally close to finding Hazel. Unfortunately for me the tabloid journalists reappear (maybe the only characters I don’t actually look forward to having on page? I’ll have to think more about it). They are freed from the embargo put on them by The Brand and off looking for their scoop. Volume Six is a bit slower, a bit quieter, but it pays off so much that started earlier, specifically in Volume Four that it continues to work aces for me.