Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples know how to open a volume with a bang. You’re off running right from the first page with a close-up of an alien birth in action. They’re excellent at having little shocks in their books in an age where it’s difficult to shock anyone. I love that I just don’t know what I’m going to get when I open these pages.
The story jumps ahead a bit here. The crew is somewhat settled now, and it turns into an odd slice of life comic with the other storylines picking up steam in the background. It feels a bit like a setup arc, catching everything up and setting the groundwork for a big next volume, but the writing still holds up and makes it a great read. My only real complaint is that it started to get a little Degrassi High. Every sitcom in the 80s and 90s had to have their ‘Drugs are Bad’ episode, in which a character gets too easily roped into drugs and it turns too easily into a major problem, and this felt eerily similar to one of those. It’s probably the first complaint I’ve had in the whole series, though, so that’s a pretty good track record.
The panel layout and art is deceptively simple, but it has the effect of being very cinematic. I love the little touches of detail they add. There’s an alien cyborg race with televisions for heads, and up until this volume I think they’ve all looked the same, but here we see a commoner of this race with a black and white CRT for a head and a king with a giant LCD screen for a head. They’re great at taking these bizarre ideas and gradually giving them more flesh as the story progresses.
This was probably my least favourite of the four volumes, but I still really loved it. Saga has easily become one of my favourite comic series.