Warning: Saga #17 contains mature and explicit content, which this review mentions and discusses.
Some character spoilers also appear.
What Saga #17 Offers
A key discussion of sexuality – saga maintains a mature rating, and continues it’s bold anti-war arguments. The comics has deep themes about war and conflict, and features a key argument by one of its characters.
D. Oswald Heist tries to make sense of human nature, and advocates freedom of sexuality as the opposite of war. Themes of discrimination and censorship of journalism are also included.
The art is excellent, and captures emotions and body language. Characters raise a variety of ethical questions and discussions with their actions. The comic’s key ethics on war and sexuality would be suitable for students at colleges, and older readers. Also of relevance is ideas on the phrase “kill your darlings”, which makes the comic relevant for writing students.
Violent attacks on several characters in this issue move the story forward, and highlight real world discrimination. Two newer characters – the journalist Upsher and his partner Doff – are attacked by a character called “The Brand”.
Heist himself is assaulted by Prince Robot IV. Discrimination plays a key part in building the Saga universe: despite the fact that they are targeted not for their preferences, but for their war reporting, the idea of an discrimination is unavoidable since Upsher and Doff are gay characters under attack. Heist is an elderly character also attacked.
Evidently, LGBTIQ characters and elderly characters face discrimination in the Saga universe, which captures a relevant point from the real world.
How this advances the story is more is at stake for Upsher and Doff if they want to continue writing and reporting any news on the main characters of the comic: military deserters Alana and Marko. Heist in danger gives several characters the motivation to take action and escalate conflict.
Alana and Marko, in a moment of desperation, talk about a very dark solution to their problems as fugitives on the run from two powerful consortiums (The forces of Landfall and Wreath).
The art could not be better: it shows off cute but dangerous animals, and captures expressions of delight, anger, and panic in its characters. Glowing and neon colours are used sparingly to add a type of futuristic flash to some character’s weapons. There are powerful moments of sequential art, and great perspective choices.
What is sequential art? Comics and Graphic novels tell visual stories with sequential art – images placed in a sequence that tell a story. Sequential art is also described as juxtaposed panels.
Themes, Ethics, Values for Readers
While discrimination and censorship of journalism are key themes that are unearthed by Saga #17, The key ethic that appear in the comic is a strong anti-war argument. Because the comic values freedom of sexuality, the anti-war argument is not simply about pacifism or peace.
Anit-war movements in America during 1960’s certainly advocated for peace. Heist argues that the opposite of war, however, is sex and sexuality. The comic makes an explicit comment with Heist’s argument. Further, peace is explicitly stated as less valuable as an opposite to war by Heist himself.
It’s the image of a flower, though, that changes the argument, which lines Heist’s argument up more with peace. Heist’s argument plays out as he debates war with Prince Robot the IV. The robot is a regal character, who displays images of what he is thinking on his television set head (that’s him in the cover artwork for issue 17# below without his shirt).
The flower is a potent anti-war symbol commonly associated with the minority movements of the 1960’s in America, which featured culture changing sexual freedom. The flower lines up Heist himself with another prominent, anti-war writer. Allen Ginsberg was closely associated with anti-war movements in the mid-1960’s. According to the Poetry Foundation, He is credited with creating and advocating “flower power” – A strategy where anti-war demonstrators would promote positive values like peace and love to dramatise their opposition to the death and destruction of the vietnam war.
An interesting link between Ginsberg and Heist across pop-culture is the recent movie chronicling the life of Ginsberg: Kill Your Darlings. The last moments of the comic include a narration about how the phrase “kill your darlings” is employed to teaching writing to students. The narrator of Saga – a character named Hazel – develops and expands on Heists personality by talking about his perspective on the phrase.
Allen Ginsberg: 1926 – 1997 (2013). The Poetry Foundation. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/allen-ginsberg
Flower Power. (2013) USHistory.org. http://www.ushistory.org/us/57h.asp