Seriously, when is “Saga” going to have a misstep?
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ “Saga” #16 continues the series’ winning streak with another brilliantly written, beautifully drawn chapter. Though things still move at a pleasant, leisurely pace, all the different threads converge quickly and terribly over the last two pages. It’ll be an explosive next few issues.
There is little I can offer about Fiona Staples’ art that hasn’t already been said. Her inventiveness is extraordinary, her facial expressions are phenomenal and her details are just spot-on. This issue is no exception. Even the smallest touches are fully thought-out. For instance, The Will’s emergency contact info isn’t just messily handwritten; it’s also written on graph paper, as if he didn’t have any other material lying around. When Staples lays out a page from one of Hazel’s storybooks, it’s set in a unique, self-contained world of bee-people that the reader will probably never see again. Yet it’s still rendered attentively and fully, with its own look and feel.
Almost everything in “Saga” feels like it was created with this same level of care. As he’s done before, Vaughan drops in a variety of details that make this world infinitely explorable. While he isn’t interested in making his readers ask political questions (at least not yet), he does show the political questions that his characters and their contemporaries grapple with. Even though many of these points — that there are flightless members of Alana’s society, that the planet Jetsam is homophobic — don’t seem like they’ll have any impact on the plot, they add much-appreciated texture to the universe.
Not that this universe lacks for texture otherwise. Vaughan manages to cram scenes on 5 different planets featuring 17 different characters into a single issue and still make it feel as if he were taking his sweet time with each. It’s a real credit to his pacing that I still got important moments with every character, even though they had to share page space with so many other players. Admittedly, the plot device that gets everyone on the same planet is a little bit contrived. (Could Gwendolyn seriously not think of anyone else in the universe with healing skills but Marko?) However, I’ve been waiting so long for this head-to-head meeting that I honestly didn’t mind.
Those last two pages also highlighted how much Hazel’s narration contributes to Saga’s strength. Voice-over narrators like Hazel can often be distracting, but Vaughn uses her voice so sparingly that every instance makes an impact. She’s especially effective here as events finally come to a head. Her words feel abrupt and jarring, and coupled with Fonografiks’ still-brilliant choice of font, they create an atmosphere of tangible dread.
In short, although this began as “just another issue” in what is anything but just another series, it ended on a crescendo that left me craving “Saga” #17. This is a series that has had the confidence to take its time, so the payoff should be proportional when things hit the proverbial fan. Is it December 11 yet?