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Saga #17 Review: Famous Last Words

After a few issues of relaxed pace, Saga began to accelerate again at the end of issue #15 when freelancer (bounty hunter) The Will was gravely stabbed in the neck by his adopted ward, Sophie. Since then, the tension has been consistently ratcheted up. Issue #17 is the best issue in a while – no small feat considering the generally strong bar set by the series. It features the death of one character and possibly two others. It also gives each a vastly different last speech. When we last left Saga, there was a showdown brewing at D. Oswald Heist’s place on Quietus. Prince Robot IV has been interrogating him on the location of outlaws Marko and Alana, who are hiding in his house (along with their daughter, Hazel, their ghost babysitter, Izabel, and Marko’s mother, Klara). At the same time, Gwendolyn and Lying Cat are staking out Heist’s place in search of Marko, hoping that he can put a healing spell on the mortally wounded The Will.  

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  In issue #17, Alana and Marko debate with Klara how to handle the situation. Klara wants to rescue Heist while Alana and Marko are filtering the question through how to best protect the family. When Klara ultimately goes to rescue Heist by herself, she gets wounded, causing Heist to shoot Prince Robot. Initially, he seems to be dead. The sound of shots causes Gwendolyn to bust in the place. When Heist, surprised, pulls a gun on her, she panics and uses The Will’s retracting sword on Heist, fatally cutting him through the head. The issue ends with her shocked, Klara furious, and Prince Robot apparently booting up again. The last conversation between Heist and Prince Robot concerns his new manuscript, The Opposite of War. Thinking it is a pacifism tract, Prince Robot teases Heist, who gets frustrated that no one understands that peace is not the opposite of war (it’s simply the absence of it). Prince Robot and Heist have an intense conversation that makes the robot realize that Heist’s vision of the opposite of war is not peace, but rather sex (or “fucking,” as the issue puts it). It’s a novel spin on the old 60’s phrase “Make Love, Not War” but with less protest and more psychology.  

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  Meanwhile, The Will seems to be in very bad shape. He forgives Sophie, realizing that she was having hallucinations when she stabbed him. He also gives her a last piece of advice. “…Conversion tax… always remember… you can spread your payments… over two years.” It’s a hilariously random piece of death-bed (or death-floor, in this case) advice but the humor is undercut when The Will stops speaking. It’s not conclusive that he’s died, but it’s certainly possible given how unpredictable Saga can be. This jam-packed issue also features the revelation that tabloid reporters Upsher and Doff are lovers, Brian K. Vaughan’s thoughts on the “Kill Your Darlings” writing theory, and the appearance of a new freelancer, The Brand and his St. Bernard-like-sidekick, Sweet Boy. It’s really a great example of how inventive this series can be while also telling a compelling and emotional story.  

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  One of the elements of Fiona Staples’ outstanding style that I don’t think I’ve mentioned is her use of perspective. This is clearly shown in confrontations. She always seems to show the right vantage point to let us identify with all of the characters in a confrontation. In the type of confrontations that turn into action scenes, she also demonstrates a keen sense of pacing that makes each panel hit its appropriate beat(s) while also propelling the action at the right timing. There have been many excellent issues of Saga before this one, but I don’t think I can recall an issue with quite so stunning of a blockbuster ending that still manages to be a cliffhanger. Killing characters can be a cheap ploy, but Saga has not deluged readers with deaths, so each one – especially with characters so well established – is really felt. Offing one character and putting two others very close while also telling so much story and hitting so many interesting notes is why Saga continues to be a great series.  
  • Issue is full of great moments
  • Three characters are facing death
  • Introduction of new freelancer
  • It's a little unclear what's happening to Prince Robot IV on last page


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