Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ epic “Saga” may have crossed its 38th issue on Wednesday, but it certainly keeps up its momentum. In “Saga” #38, Vaughan and Staples continue to explore the characters’ evolving relationships and, as their dramatic circumstances unfold, the ways in which the protagonists relate to one another are inevitably altered — again.
Naturally, Alana and Marko’s relationship has changed quite a bit over time. When they first met, Marko was held captive by Alana’s people. They became friends, fell in love, experienced a couple of rocky patches, then reunited stronger than ever — only to discover Alana’s second pregnancy. With any family, the arrival of a new child affects the dynamic between the parents, but what is especially significant in this case is Alana and Marko’s willingness to have a second child despite all of the hardship they’ve undergone as a result of Hazel’s birth. This demonstrates not only their commitment to one another, but their commitment to what has become their cause, as well.
Alana and Marko never intended to be activists or rebels, but that’s what they became when the government began to hunt them relentlessly. Their willingness to have a second child demonstrates that not only are they unwilling to back down, they’ve actually decided to embrace this identity. In addition to their loyalty to one another, their resolve highlights their philosophies and beliefs. When Alana became pregnant with Hazel, they found themselves in a dangerous situation they hadn’t anticipated; this time, they’ve made a choice to disobey the authorities. Together, they’re growing from reluctant fugitives to more active rebels, from romantic partners to partners in crime.
Due his falling out with the Robot Kingdom, Prince Robot IV has been absent for much of his son’s young life, but — in this issue — he has a plan: to visit Squire in time for his birthday. For a character who tends to be a bit of a smart alec, it’s nice when we see these heartfelt moments with him — and it’s also interesting that he cares about being a present father for his son, given that his relationship with his own father was quite strained. Here, Prince Robot IV attempts to give his son something he never had and, like Alana and Marko, he intends to go to extreme lengths to provide for his child. Prince Robot IV has more in common with Alana and Marko than he may be willing to admit, and that’s especially clear here.
Meanwhile, the Will has also been separated from all his relationships. The Stalk, the woman he loved, and his sister the Brand are dead; though he developed a bond with Sophie after freeing her from Sextillion and built a beneficial partnership with Gwendolyn, he does not see them on a regular basis. In fact, he has been so disconnected from Gwendolyn that — as we see in this issue — he didn’t know she had a wife. Despite his rough edges, the Will becomes sympathetic here because it’s clear he wants to connect with others, even though it never seems to work out for him.
Izabel’s relationships with Alana, Marko and Hazel have also evolved over the course of the story; she has become a part of the family in a very real way. However, shortly after she credits them with showing her the universe, she is utterly destroyed — and it is absolutely devastating. Izabel’s upbeat attitude has always been a welcome reprieve from the intense challenges our protagonists constantly face, and losing her will likely set quite a different tone for the next issue. Fiona Staples’ artwork beautifully gives Izabel the recognition she deserves; the issue starts with a splash page in which Izabel jokes around, as she is prone to doing, and ends with another splash page of Hazel, devastated to realize that Izabel has been lost. It is difficult to lose such an endearing character, but — in these splash pages — Staples gives her the send-off she deserves.
As always, our heroes are standing on unstable ground, and “Saga” #38 does an excellent job of showing how the instability of the lives they lead affects their relationships. While the underpinnings of some of these relationships — the love between Marko, Alana and Hazel, as well as that between Prince Robot IV and Squire — stay the same in some ways, they also develop and evolve as the characters’ stories unfold. The extreme situations they find themselves in continue to strip away any pretense and allow the characters to discover who they truly are — as well as what that means for their relationships.