As promised, here is part 2 of my Comic Close-up for Saga. The simple description of Saga would be race war in outerspace… + some magic. But for a more nuanced description: Saga is about the futility, but perhaps inevitability, of war. As much as Marko and Alana want to live a peaceful and quiet life, raising their daughter Hazel, their pursuit of that life has led to the death of many.
Never have I been so moved and mentally engaged by a comic. Hazel’s wise narration, which I mention in my previous blog post, literally shifts my perspectives on life.
Here’s one of many quotations that I’ll be carrying with me (from Saga Volume 5):
“Every relationship is an education. Each new person we welcome into our hearts is a chance to evolve into something radically different than we used to be. But what happens when those people disappear from our lives? […] There’s no graduating from this kind of education, couples just keep growing and changing until they either break up or die.” –Hazel
But all of you already know I love Saga and why I love Saga. So to make this post a little different I’m going to do a quick look at Saga Book One and then examine the motifs of the series.
SAGA BOOK ONE
Published on November 19th, 2014, Saga Book One is a deluxe hardcover edition of the first 18 issues of the series. I already had all the volumes but thought this would be a cool addition to my collection. Definitely a good decision. All I can say is get it. It’s an excuse to reread the series and it’s a beautiful book full of great additional content (such as interviews with BKV and Fiona staples and some great sketches).
The futility of war
Saga is brilliantly weaved together as the characters’s interconnectedness is perfectly executed. This interconnectedness lends itself to the subject matter: which is most blatantly “war” but more accurately “the human condition.” The futility of war motif appears because we get multiple story lines and perspectives–allowing us, as readers, to feel empathy for the antagonists; this forces us cringe at bloodshed (regardless of what side the deceased was on). In this way, we are left looking at a battlefield and asking, “why?”
Family & construction of Self
This motif runs rampant as we watch Alana struggle with the “we have a family now” mentality. Originally Alana is opposed to this mindset but as things escalate she begins to concede. She claimed she “wants to show [their] girl the universe” yet she is insistent on Marko keeping Hazel indoors for their safety as outlaws.
On the other side of things, Marko identifies as a pacifist and wants to leave his violent past in the past. Yet, circumstances force his hand to physically defend his family. And family pressures cause him to revert to his old ways (ex. throwing the groceries at Alana the same way he hit his female neighbor, as a child).
Double-standards for children
The Will has no problem with the excessively depraved environment of Sextellion until Sophie (formerly known as Slave Girl) is presented to him. “She’s a child!,” he exclaims. Yet he is completely unfazed by the use of sex slaves once they reach “adulthood.”
And it’s not just with sex. Throughout the series, everyone wants Hazel, and other children, to be kept alive. It’s the one major unifying factor between all the characters.
Kids as pawns
Hazel and Prince Robot IV’s son are both bargaining chips. And, though I wouldn’t call Sophie a bargaining chip, she had to be bought/snuck out of Sextellion–with Mama sun working hard to keep her “property.”
Sex as the opposite of war
Oswald tells Prince Robot IV, and all of us, “The opposite of war is fucking.” At first, this just seem like an interesting tidbit but it becomes one of the central motifs for the entire series. It also explains why there is so much sex in Saga. The catalyst of the story is Marko and Alana’s relationship and, most of all, their child. Their child is concrete proof that sex took place. This galaxy is committed to being at war, meaning they must be against “the opposite of war” between these two planets (i.e sex).
This motif appears even before we are given the line from Oswald. For example, we are introduced to a Prince Robot IV and his wife when they are having sex. The panels read as follows (Hazel’s narration in italics) “Some of the locals never stopped thinking about the battles being waged in their names on distant soil” / “Most didn’t really give a shit” “Deeper!” –Prince Robot IV’s wife. There we have it within the first few pages: the opposite of war.
My favorite thing about this motif is how prevalent it is in other mediums (which I never realized before). For instance, on How I Met Your Mother Barney Stinson’s world peace theory is that every conflict is a result of sexual tension. And to go even farther back that, just look at Louis Jean François Lagrenée’s Mars and Venus, Allegory of Peace  (pictured left). Perhaps this could be a whole blog post itself:
The power of literature
Oswald’s book, A Night Time Smoke, is what Marko and Alana bond over. The power of literature runs throughout Saga as antagonists track down Marko and Alana by looking into this book.
The book is initially equated to a trashy filler romance novel, which of course would have sex in it (once again, the opposite of war). And the title of the novel may be a reference to a post-sex cigarette.
Alana–however–describes the book as being slow paced, stating:
“the monster and girl meet, but instead of trying to kill each other, they mostly just hang out and play board games, except sometimes they leave their apartment to eat sandwiches at the movies[…] It is [a little boring]! That’s kind of the point I think.”
The lack of action in the Oswald’s novel parallels the lack of action in “peace time” because if nothing is happening that means there’s no conflict. And–as pointed out to journalists Upsher and Doff–this story [of Marko and Alana] is dangerous because it has no sides. There’s no conflict initially, it’s just two people existing together (it’s the galaxy’s desire to destroy that togetherness that creates the primary conflict).
Saga changes my perception of the world and makes me geek out the same way Alana changes/geeks over A Night Time Smoke. The power of literature doesn’t just run through this story, but our own lives as we read the series.