Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' "Saga" #24 heads into its next hiatus with a powerfully emotional issue that draws together enemies to common causes as Prince Robot IV and Marko team up to find their missing kidnapped families; and The Brand teams up with Gwendolyn, Sophie and Lying Cat to save The Will. Then (because this is "Saga" and we are all very lucky), there's also a fascinating flashback sex scene between The Will and The Stalk.
Vaughan brings back some characters we haven't seen in some time --especially The Will and The Stalk in flashback; but also The Will in his coma state; and Gwendolyn, Sophie and Lying Cat as they continue their efforts to save him. There's nothing of Alana and Hazel following their abduction and only one (magnificent) panel of Marko, but this is the problem with a book that has this many fantastic characters: something's got to give. Since Vaughan is a storytelling master, he knows just how long he can string readers along and when it's imperative that he bring some characters back into the fold, both for plotting reasons and emotional impact. The suggested "team up" of Prince Robot IV and Marko is more than enough to keep imaginations humming as readers wait anxiously for the next chapter.
This last round of issues has felt darker and perhaps more real than previous chapters, as readers learned that Marko and Alana are not going to "make it" as a married couple and began to see the beginnings of the dissolution of their relationship. But that slow dissolution is nothing fancy -- it's just life; plain old life, wearing you down. The story feels all the more tragic for that simple truth.
What can one say about Staples' work on this series that has not already been said? It's undoubtedly masterful. Her character designs continue to delight and amaze. Just when you think you have seen her cutest (or most disturbing) work, she takes it up a notch. The creativity on display is absolutely hypnotic and it's a nearly seamless collaboration between writer and artist, which is always a treat.
From inception, Staples' approach to this book has felt almost like animation cels more than traditional comics. She keeps the focus on the characters -- their execution detailed and sharp, but still fluid and full of energy -- and allows her backgrounds to take on a looser, more painterly quality, sometimes falling back into shapes and colors that are almost abstract. This approach gives the book a dreamlike quality and ensures it looks like no other comic on the stands. However, this approach would not work without Staples' magnificent expression work. Her characters come absolutely alive on the page, and feel effortlessly like living, breathing folks. It's no small feat considering that some of the design and world-building is totally out there and could easily break a reader's suspension of disbelief. But executed so precisely, confidently and with such consistency, there's no choice but to buy every single thing Staples is selling -- and revel in it.
Though "Saga" #24 marks the next break for the book as it heads into its planned hiatus, it's a strategy that does not seemed to have hurt the enthusiasm people have for the series in the least, and more importantly it has ensured a flawless and consistent vision. "Saga" remains, more than two years in, a fascinating, innovative book that constantly surprises. It went from "great" to "important" long ago and shows no signs of stopping.