It would be easy to groan at a brief description of "Saga" #27, where Marko goes through a drug trip and we learn more about the formative events that made him the man he is today. The semi-conscious flashback sequence storytelling device is an old hat, one that ends up being tired most of the time. In the case of "Saga" #27, though, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples remind us why people would resort to this old chestnut: in the right hands, it's actually very effective.
A lot of the issue focuses around the fact that Marko struck Alana a few issues prior. It's here more than ever that we see not only the guilt that's stemming from it, but prior incidents in Marko's past that contribute to his emotional reaction to the event. Mixed in with the other time Marko hit a girl (when he was 7 years old) are flashes to his time in the military and how an innocent mistake transformed his life as a soldier.
What's refreshing here is that Vaughan doesn't offer up an easy out for Marko's action or any sort of instant absolution. This is reinforced fairly early on; this is a character who is still torn up over striking a fellow child that was torturing an innocent animal. As an early hallucination warns Marko (and the readership), a "tortured pacifist routine" isn't going to go over well. A simple "I'm sorry" isn't enough and, as a result, we watch Marko figuratively go to hell and back. It's a brutal sequence of memories, one that not only shows us regret and horror but also how it caused Marko's soul to harden by way of response. As GhÃ¼s points out, he's not frightened of Prince Robot, but Marko "scares the life outta [him]." There's a reason for that, and that dangerous side of Marko is coming to the foreground in "Saga" #27.
Speaking of GhÃ¼s, it's nice to see him and Prince Robot interact in this issue. GhÃ¼s has been a bit of a background dweller lately, so it's a real pleasure seeing him as someone that not only stands up to Prince Robot (and push him into whatever needs to be done) but also even shows off a bit of a dangerous side. Prince Robot may still be driven to rescue his son, but it's also nice to see his character have a little bit more give in his system. When push comes to shove (and to be fair, those shoves are courtesy GhÃ¼s), Prince Robot can -- on occasion -- actually do the right thing.
Staples' art hits each scene with its usual ease. GhÃ¼s manages to be ridiculously adorable one moment and dangerous-looking the next, all without changing his appearance. The best moment, though, is the look of both horror and soul-crushing defeat when we see a defining moment in Marko's time as a soldier. Focused tightly on his face, you see such a horrible emptiness in them that, even with a montage of other events from his life below, it's hard to keep from circling back around up to the uppermost image. Staples brings each issue of "Saga" to life, and this one is no exception.
With Marko on a renewed path to try and save his family, "Saga" #27 has the story continuing to charge forward with energy and interest. Where do we go from here? Knowing Vaughan and Staples, your guess is as good as any. What we do know is shown to us once more, though; this is a creative team that works fantastically together. In other hands, this could have been a series of tired cliches, but Vaughan and Staples make it work and look effortless in the process.