So I’m trying to space out my reading of Saga because I think it would be all too easy to binge the nine currently published volumes of this awesome series and then pout, sulk and bemoan the lack of new chapters. Still, reading this has just gone and reawakened all my enthusiasm for this story and the family at its heart. At the very end of volume one Alana, Marko, baby Hazel and Izabel had just received a surprise visit from Marko’s parents, and this volume picks right up where it left off.
What struck me most reading this second volume was how beautifully Vaughan and Staples have juxtaposed the various characters’ experiences of war and of love, family and belonging. Marko’s parents Klara and Barr made sure to educate their son at a young age about the war between Wreath and Landfall; Alana and Barr’s first conversation is nothing more than a spat over how the war has impacted their respective lives and families; Hazel talks about how broken relationships are like battles; and the author D Oswald Heist lost his son because of the war. Not to mention Prince Robot IV’s visceral memories/dreams of fighting and his unpredictable and violent nature. The war touches and has touched each and every character. But despite this Alana and Barr take the first tentative steps towards a relationship because of their shared love for Marko and for Hazel; we are shown more of Alana and Marko’s backstory, how they came to fall in love and the role that Heist’s book played in that; Marko has a brief flashback of his father’s encouragement and support for him when he was child; and even bounty hunter The Will continues in his efforts to release the Slave Girl (please please can she choose a name in the next volume?) from Sextillion. Love and connections are interwoven with the violence.
Hazel’s narration from her presumed adulthood continues to be a delight too. Her voice isn’t used too much or too little and always puts a slightly different spin on what we’re seeing on the page. I loved her description of her parents’ “meet-cute” as we see Alana smash her gun butt into Marko’s face, just as much as I loved her talking about the collateral damage of break-ups as we see The Will’s ship take severe damage. And of course, I loved her sarcastic little aside “some dreams really do come true” at the end of a scene in which I can only assume we’ve just witnessed her *ahem* conception. She often balances out scenes that could otherwise be a bit mushy, just as she gives the reader pause during moments of action.
That we finally get to meet Gwendolyn – Marko’s fiancé before he went to war – is also incredibly cool and I’m looking forward to getting to know her and to what she’ll bring to the larger story. I’m intrigued that the author D Oswald Heist has become a part of the tale too. His confrontation with Prince Robot IV was the tensest part of this volume for me (I find the Prince terrifying) and I really hope we’ll get to find out more about him, his son and what inspired him to write Alana’s favourite book, A Night-time Smoke. I also think Slave Girl’s going to be pretty interesting (it’s an interesting superpower she’s got there), so I hope she’ll stick around (and get a new name!).
Staples’ artwork continues to give shape to this incredible and expanding universe and I love her vibrant colourful style. Her skill in capturing characters’ expressions and personalities is perfect, her ability to realise battlefields and planet-sized births, creepy midwives, trolls and local Quietus fishermen equally so. It makes me beyond happy that a series like this exists and I look forward to continuing the journey soon (ish).