With that nice round number on the cover, you might expect Saga #50 to break out the champagne and celebrate reaching such a major milestone. But Saga has never been a comic in the business of doing what you expect from it — and this is no exception.
Issue #50 isn’t a jumping-on point, being the second issue in the arc. Nor does it feature any big plot twists or developments. It’s just another installment of the long-running sci-fi drama comic. Which, Saga being Saga, means opening with a sex scene and closing with the bloody consequences of violence, finding time in between for an emotional conversation between a boy with a computer screen for a head and a seal in a Hawaiian shirt and a young girl kicking the head off a mechanical bigfoot.
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This isn’t to say that the occasion has completely passed Saga by. The concept of anniversaries gives this issue its thematic backbone. “The most important moments in our life rarely take place on some numerically significant date,” says Hazel, the book’s narrator and aforementioned sasquatch martial artist.
Instead, we get a rare moment of quiet in the lives of these characters, who have spent the past five and a half years running from one threat to another. Almost the entire issue takes place on Alana and Marko’s date night, jumping around to show what the supporting cast are up to back at home.
This could be nothing more a little wink at the audience –- we’re not going to celebrate our anniversary, nyah nyah — but it resonates with one of Saga’s long-running themes: our relationship with the past. Most of the cast are keen to put their pasts behind them, whether it’s a history of violence or the prejudices you were raised to believe.
It might claim to ignore the milestone, but this issue is quietly about everyone choosing, or being forced, to revisit their pasts. Alana and Marko have a rare moment of reflecting back on their marriage. Petrichor refuses to talk about her life before transitioning — a topic the series has been gradually figuring out how to handle. Sir Robot complains about having to pick over the sordid details of his previous life, and wear the courtly uniform of the royal family that exiled him, as he prepares to leave it all behind forever.
The other side of Saga’s theme is that hard as we might try, we can never fully bury the past. This has always been a comic about the long-term consequences of our actions, even — especially — the ones that seem insignificant at the time.
The issue ends with a promise that the past will catch up with all these characters, and a reveal that for one of them, it already has. It seems like things are about to get dangerous again, but before they do, it was nice to enjoy a moment of peace. Maybe that’s really the best way to celebrate a milestone.