Saga #13: Chapter Thirteen
(This review includes some spoilers for Issue #13 of Saga)
After a long gap – the last Saga comic book was published in April 2013 – the popular new series continues: the cast returns in a sequence that fills in the gaps between issues 11 and 12. The new family travel to the planet Quietus to meet with the author of a romantic novel. Alana hopes that meeting Oslwald D. Heist will be a formative experience for her daughter, and help bring some sense and direction into their lives.
Reading the comic book creates a sense of exploration and adventure as the story weaves through the cosmos. Clockwork suns with uniform, hexagon scales dotted throughout space are followed by a planet with mountains so tall their pierce the atmosphere and freeze into pointed monoliths jutting out into the black vacuum.
The boneyard surface of Queitus gives off a solid sense of darkness and sadness. It’s a lost planet wrapped in smoke, where fields of bones can spring to life. Parasites called Bone Bugs inhabit the dry marrow, and combine together to create monsters built from skulls, femurs, and discarded claws. Drunk writers also wander the surface of the planet in their underpants. The pages on Quietus are the strongest of the comic book.
The clear blue skies and spotless, white marble entrance to the Landfallian Army Hospital is marred by an unexpected sight – a homeless Landfallian man with bedraggled, feathered wings wanders around, looking desolated.
The sensation of exploration and adventure is interrupted by a battle as Alana proves her mettle in a fight to protect her daughter, Marko, and Klara from bone bugs. The Will has what might be one last moment with the Stalk in an hallucination or dream sequence.
Or the Stalk might have returned from death: her appearance could be more than a hallucination.
The moment, however, is written romantically when the Will comes close to admitting all he ever wanted was a relationship with the Stalk. Klara, Marko’s mother, wears a veil as she grieves following the death of her husband in earlier issues of Saga. Two new characters are introduced, but not named.
Themes, Ethics, Values.
Saga #13 takes a long, hard stare at grief. Everyone experiences grief and bereavement. Mental Health America (MHA) offers some insight on bereavement – unlike a feeling of loss, bereavement is the feeling that death has caused deprivation. Separation, permanently, from something vital. How the people living on worlds speckled throughout the Saga universe deal with the grief and loss of the ongoing war is revealed in this issue. The pristine army hospital with a homeless Landfallian man wandering in front of it shows that this society funds and endorses its military at the expense of the homeless, and the disenfranchised. A poster inside the hospital reads “Troops are our treasure”.
Since the Landfall and Wreath war is ancient and constant, grief must be common. James Madison in 1795 stated that:
“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual war” (from the Online Library of Liberty).
This issue refocuses the key themes of Saga – freedoms in the face of war, conflicts over differences, and families.
Living in the present, taking the time to accept the major loss and change, and seeking help from family, friends, and networks are all suggested as solutions for coping with grief by MHA. Some of the characters follow these steps – The Will reaches out to his crew, giving the slave girl he rescued from the lascivious, space station Sextillion a name – from now on, she’s Sophie.
Grief reaches a resolution in three to six months according to Richard A. Friedman, M.D in an article for the New England Journal of Medicine (May 17, 2012). Saga #13 shows it’s readers how each character grapples with their losses from the first twelve issues. This issue focuses on the “three to six months” – characters are struggling forward with their lives. For Marko, Alana, and Klara that means finding peace for their daughter.
A bit more on Saga #13
Hazel states in her narration that over the years, they met every kind of person imaginable. Again, some hints are written into the comic that Saga has a long future approaching. The high standard of art and story remains unchanged as Saga returns to regular, monthly releases.