After greatly enjoying the first volume of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staple’s space-fantasy comic book epic Saga (read my thoughts on the first volume here), it was only a matter of time before I came back to give my opinion on the second volume of the hit series by Image Comics. Volume 2 collects issues seven through twelve of Saga and includes a couple of rescues, a surprise team-up, and a fair amount of sewing.
Volume 1 left off with Marko coming face to face with his parents for the first time in years, Alana meeting the in-laws, and the infant Hazel meeting her grandparents. Oh, and the spectral Izabel was banished from the ship because Marko’s mother, Klara, is a bit hasty in her actions. Marko equally hastily takes action by chasing after Izabel with his mother in tow, while Alana and her new father-in-law, Barr, are left to make small-talk.
Meanwhile, freelancer The Will comes into contact with a new ally, Marko’s ex-fiance Gwendolyn, who is out for the blood of the man who spurned her, but may end up being either a help or a hindrance when it comes to rescuing a child-prostitute from slavers. And Prince Robot IV follows up on a lead based on a book that had made an impression on the newlyweds early on in their relationship.
The interactions between Marko and his over-bearing mother are quite telling, as are the scenes of him in his childhood. It is easy to see how Marko wound up such a formidable combatant and also able to burn out so quickly on that violent style of living. Klara’s needling of Marko about his choice of bride quickly enrages him, but the hints of timidity shine through when he is around his warrior-mom. Their search for Hazel’s baby-sitter takes a surprising twists when they realize the world they landed on isn’t exactly what it seems.
Barr is much more accepting and takes it upon himself to help the new members of his family, whether they want him to or not. His revelation that he is in the last stages of a terminal illness and his ability to make stylish clothing that are also able to stop bullets warm Alana’s initially icy reaction to him (he is an armorer, not a seamstress). But as is usually the case with life, tragedy lurks in shadows waiting to strike.
This volume focused primarily on Marko and how he became the damaged, dangerous, somewhat-pacifistic man on the run he is today. Early in his life, his parents brought him to the sight of a brutal battle in the war between Wreath and Landfall, and used magic to have him experience the carnage as if he was presence. This act, and presumably others like it, shaped Marko into a fearsome warrior, but did not manage to permanently poison his opinion on their winged enemies. It is also said many times by the narrating-from-the-future Hazel that he has a certain way with the ladies, excepting the ones who currently want to kill him, namely his ex-fiance and possibly his mother.
The Will and Gwendolyn clash early and often, but you don’t have to a be one of the creators of Saga to see where their relationship is going, and the dynamic is fun and connects his subplot more fully to Marko and Alana’s story. Also, the Lying Cat is still a very amusing presence in story and a nice source of levity in a subplot that has the potential to get very depressing very quickly (a grieving hit-man trying to save a young prostitute…).
The plot of this volume, while still very entertaining and tense, isn’t as gripping as the story in the first volume. I believe it is because most of the characters are still reacting from the events of the first volume, and only truly start to to move in new directions in the latter portion of the book. The cliffhanger ending, however, certainly promises some very interesting situations to come and a larger, more immediately threatening, role for the antagonistic Prince Robot IV.
The best part of the book is still Fiona Staples’ art, which has not missed a beat from the previous volume. The characters are attractive without being unrealistic (aside from the horns and the wings and the guy with one eye and you get my point) Every page is detailed and cinematic in the manner implying that a movie screen wouldn’t be able to do it justice: Staples definitely shines brightly here.
Brian K. Vaughan is one of the legends working in comics today, and Saga is certainly reaffirming that reputation. Intimate and epic, funny and tragic, Vaughan has hit just the right balance in his writing for an enduring series we will presumably be enjoying for years to come, and in tandem with Staples’ art, it becomes something really special, though maybe not for everyone.
Saga‘s second volume continues the same high level of quality as the first, with both Vaughan and Staples continuing to be exceptional. While the plot isn’t quite as exciting as that in the first volume, the deepening of the characters and the setting of the stage for things to come keeps Saga the must-read it already was. I am awaiting the third volume (in six months or so) with bated breath.