Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan, Saga, Volume10 (Image 2022)
It would be overstating it to say I was devastated when Saga went on hiatus ‘for a year’ after volume 9 in 2018 and then stayed out for three years. But delighted is not too strong a word for my reaction when the Comics experts at Kinokuniya told me the hiatus had ended and monthly comics Nº 55–60 had been collected to make Volume 10.
I won’t try to summarise the Story So Far. This Romeo and Juliet space opera has been going for nearly ten years and you’re welcome to read my previous blog posts. (This link should give you a list.)
Sadly, it looks as if the story has run out of puff a bit. A Terrible Thing happened at the end of Volume 9, and though the characters have had three years to adjust, it feels as if they all have that much less spark. The villains have less venom. The good guys have less vitality. The gratuitous naked breasts are more perfunctory. Hazel, the child at the centre of it all, is three years older, and less interesting because of it. One major plot point just … happens, though maybe I missed some subtle foreshadowing.
There’s another Terrible Thing on the last pages of this volume, which gives me hope for a revitalised Volume 11.
My general policy, when blogging about books, to pay attention to a single page (usually page 76, chosen arbitrarily because that’s my age) probably makes even more sense when the book is a comic, given my lack of visual vocabulary. As far as I can tell, the pages aren’t numbered in this book, so here’s what might be page 76 to give you some inkling of the book’s style. Our young heroine Hazel and the remains of her family have been captured by space pirates, and are about to forced back into their former outlaw ways. The junior members of the pirate crew have just given a concert for Hazel and her adopted brother-from-another-species. Hazel is the small person in blue with cute horns:
This page doesn’t illustrate is the way Saga’s text and image often play off against each other in tantalising counterpoint. But it might give you some idea of Fiona Staples’s gloriously playful artwork, and Brian K Vaughan’s gift for dialogue.
It’s a classic Saga moment of light relief, when Hazel has more or less ordinary child-to-adult interactions and the other main players, for good, evil or ambivalence, are offscreen. The pirate band members are each of a different species: the first speaker is from one of the story’s main species, the ones with TV sets for heads, the others are less significant. The frog-like creature is representative of a whole strand of illustration that owes something to children’s comics: not quite as cute as some of the animals that befriend Hazel, but getting there. Hazel’s enthusiasm for the guitar reminds us that she is growing up, and introduces a minor plot strand.
To be continued when Volume 11 arrives.