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Saga #15 Review: Now Means Now

Although Saga has extensively explored character interactions through its first 14 issues, it has also been filled with a very good story and a moving plot. Things have slowed down lately, though, in the series. For the past few issues, the narrative seems to have eased up, with character moments being the centerpieces of the stories. That has mostly worked well, but it works less well in issue #15 than in previous installments. However, the issue ends with a big twist (of the knife!), signaling that perhaps the plot elements are going to ramp up.

The couple at the heart of Saga is Alana and Marko, and they've been stationed for a few issues on Quietus, the current home of writer D. Oswald Heist, along with their baby, Hazel; their babysitter, Izabel; and Marko's mother, Klara. At the same time, bounty hunter The Will has been chilling out with Marko's ex, Gwendolyn, and a former slave girl that he recently named Sophie. He's been contemplating retirement, but he makes the decision to resume his hunt for Alana and Marko while his ship is being repaired. We also check in on the tabloid journalists.

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On both of the main fronts, key characters have been stationary (literally and figuratively) while they contemplated events or sought out guidance about their future actions. That both Alana/Marko and The Will/Gwendolyn have also had problems with their ships shows how they've been grounded. Depending on your perspective, the ship troubles could metaphoric or just a convenient excuse to have characters be less active. There's nothing wrong with slowing the pace of the story down to give more focus on character interaction or backstory. At some point, though, it becomes necessary to rev up the story engine again. To me, it felt like Saga was idling a little too long during issue #15.

Perhaps the issue is that character moments only work if we are interested in what is happening with the characters. The Will's decision to retire and his visions of the Stalk were initially startling and intriguing but they have not really progressed so much. There's only so long a person can waver on a decision before it starts to become frustrating. With Alana and Marko, their issue in this issue was the discussion of how they are going to continue their fleeing when they do not have money coming in.

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This discussion grounds Saga in reality and it seemed like a good angle to take Alana and Marko, but Alana seems against the notion of working, as if it were beneath her. This makes her come across as idealistic and naïve. And Marko's statements that they can be good parents, interesting people and still make money is kind of precious (and a little boring, honestly). Plus, they don't even really focus on the central problem of making money that Klara brings up: they're fugitives.

Verisimilitude in a space drama is a tricky balance. Too little in the way of character moments and you're in summer blockbuster territory. However, if you get caught up too much in the ordinary, the focus of the story starts to feel a little less fantastic. Saga has nearly always treaded on the right side of that line, but issue #15 felt a little uninspiring to me until its shocking ending.

It's difficult to discuss this ending without spoiling it, but I will say that a main character gets stabbed (in the neck, no less) by someone close to him/her. While I sincerely hope that this character doesn't die – and I don't expect that said character will – it does leave the issue with quite the cliffhanger. This twist raises the issue overall from a pretty ordinary read into something rather exciting. It also would seem to indicate that the series may be shifting from a character-based number of issues back towards a story that is suspenseful and fun (while still keeping its strong characterization).

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Whatever my (relative) qualms are with Saga #15, there's no issues with the art of Fiona Staples whatsoever. In addition to the inventive interiors, character designs, and facial expressions she's supplied to the series, she's also supplied a number of incredible covers to issues. Cover illustrations are a very tough thing, but she's managed to make art that stands out from other comics, looks gorgeous and also has a direct connection to the story inside (so many comic book covers fail especially on that last one). For issue #15, Staples adapted the cover of Heist's novel, A Nighttime Smoke, to include Marko and Alana. It's both hilarious as a parody of romance covers and also shows why there is something appealing about them.

Saga #15 drags at points and isn't quite the exemplary issue that we've come to expect from Brian K. Vaughan. The shocking end to the issue puts the series in an exciting place come the next issue, though. There seems to be some big things in store.



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