"Saga" #25 begins the fifth volume of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' aptly named epic and, in many ways, it's exactly what you'd expect. The book has found a bit of a pattern, with each new volume re-establishing who the characters are, how they're dealing with the previous story arc's cliffhanger and how at least one dire prophecy is unleashed on the reader. Even in normalcy, though, there's always something to grab your attention and "Saga" #25 is no exception to that rule.
Vaughan certainly does a good job with the "where are they now" portion of "Saga" #25. In many ways, it's a pleasant if familiar experience, where we see that none of our characters are in a good situation, either held captive or trying to find said captives. Not much has really changed since the conclusion of "Saga" #24, even though some time has clearly passed. It's necessary to take the time to do this, but it's also not terribly exciting. Aside from Hazel's narration giving us a hint on how long it will take Marko to find her again, it's nothing out of the ordinary.
"Saga" #25 does seize your attention, though, in its exploration of the the Wreath/Landfall war. We start to see more of not only what life was like on those planets in the early days, but also how things changed once the war spread across the galaxy. It's this backstory that ultimately does the heavy lifting for the writing this month; one of the strengths of "Saga" is the feeling that this is a universe that's been fully realized, and flashbacks like the one we get in "Saga" #25 (as well as the introduction of a new faction connected to the war) keep it fresh and interesting.
Staples' art, as always, is strong. She has a lot to do this month -- the flashbacks to the early days of the war, ice planets, huge dragon monsters, planets sliced in half -- and she tackles it with her usual aplomb. The best part of this issue, though, is her character designs. I still giggle every time I see Ghus, the bipedal harp seal in yellow overalls. Seriously, how can you not just love that guy? With everything from living plants to massive Gila monsters, I'm not sure that there's a being in "Saga" that doesn't look fantastic.
"Saga" #25 is off to a solid start for its fifth volume, but there's also no doubt that there is a hell of a lot of setup going on here. It's necessary, but this won't be the sort of issue that wows a first time reader. Those who have read the previous twenty-four issues, though, will be content to sit back, relax and watch everything unspool. Those wow moments? They're just around the bend, no doubt.