The more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s true, at least of the quality of Saga, the award-winning phenomenon that has made its return after more than three years away. Chapter 55 has the same excitement, humor, carnage, and sex that those familiar with the series have come to expect. Fiona Staples’ art, if anything, has only improved, crafting specific facial expressions, breakneck chase scenes, and the vastness of space with equal amounts of care and flourish.
This comes as a huge relief for someone like myself that has been awaiting the return of the series with anticipation but some trepidation as well. Three years is a long time. I’ve changed, as I’m sure the creators of this comic have changed. And with the sudden deaths of major characters right before the hiatus, the world of Saga had fundamentally changed. I wasn’t sure what I would find when I opened this issue.
But Saga has always been about change, about the unexpected turns of life and how you try to hold on to what you live through them. I’m holding onto Saga tight, and after reading Chapter 55, I have no intentions of letting go anytime soon.
The biggest change after three canonical years in the world’s story is that little Hazel, the child born of two warring races and the constant target of both, is getting older and taking more of the spotlight. Just turned ten years old, the issue opens with her framed similarly to how her mother, Alana, was in the very first issue. She is on the run after stealing what we later find out is music from a shopkeeper, wearing a long coat to cover her Landfallian wings and a top hat concealing her Wreathian horns. It seems being chased all of her life has done nothing to curb the troublemaking streak she no doubts inherited from both of her parents and the group of other guardians she’s had over the years.
It is the absence of one such guardian, her father Marko, that haunts the issue. We even see his skull being presented to Gwendolyn by The Will, the man who murdered him. In the most chilling part of the issue, Gwen is moved to tears of joy at finding out Marko is dead and uses the moment to finally consummate her feelings for The Will right there in front of Marko’s remains. She also seems to have a plan to end the seemingly eternal war between Landfall and Wreath, but whether that’s actually where the second half of this series is headed remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, Alana is trying to make ends meet as a wanted single mother. We see her using her um, ”assets,” to sell baby formula alongside her employee, new character Bombazine. Though he takes the Marko role on the cover, we quickly learn that the two are not romantically involved. That business doesn’t seem to be enough to pay for their livelihoods or poor Squire’s therapy (still traumatized after the death of his father) as Alana reveals they have also been drug smuggling. So, of course, who happens to cross paths with the unluckiest wooden rocket ship in the galaxy, but a group of pirates in a giant skull and crossbones ship revealed in another one of Staples’ wonderful two-page spreads.
Saga is now officially closer to its end than its beginning, but there are no signs of losing steam. There’s action and sci-fi spectacle, but Brian K. Vaughan doesn’t forget to make time for two traumatized kids dancing to music in their bedroom, losing themselves in the moment. The key to this series’ success has always been the attention to character, and seeing Hazel discover who she is and wants to be could make this half of the series even more rewarding than the first.