Marko dives deeply into his own past in Saga #37, exploring violent moments, and actions that drove away his wife Alana, and daughter Hazel. Saga #37 offers:
- Adult artwork, depicting emotionally intense scenes unflinchingly
- Exploration and insight into Marko
- Questions about pacifism and violence
Strong artwork elicits an emotional response – some of the more violent scenes are difficult to read through as Marko remembers violent and sad moments from his past. Artwork builds tension, and shows off some frightening creatures.
Early artwork in the comic justifies the mature rating – the comic contains nudity and violence. These early scenes establish Marko is hallucinating, and that the events shown are not part of a storyline that happened, but a misremembered moment that Marko is reliving while tripping on the drug Fadeaway.
In a shocking moment, a red devil-like creatures appears before him. Possibly, this thing is a personification of his deeply repressed violence. Another interpretation is that Marko is just giving a shape to the guilt he feels about different, but specific violent moments.
Revealing Marko’s childhood memories, the comic brings back a scene where Marko is punished by his father Baar for attacking and injuring a girl in his neighbourhood. She was guilty of torturing his pet dog, practicing her fire magic on a defenceless animal. Marko’s violence did not fit the crime, however.
The panels where Baar lashes young Marko with his belt are emotionally strong. The panels move closer into Marko’s face. The intense pain and shock is clear. It’s effective artwork in that these scenes are not easy to read.
While most of the pages are given to Marko’s exploration, Yuma, Ghus, and Prince Robot IV have some strong moments, providing a sense of humour and support.
Probably as a result of his current emotional state, Marko recalls only violent memories – receiving a sword as a child as a birthday gift, reading violent comics, fighting on the street, and fighting in the great Wreath versus Landfall War that has consumed the Saga universe.
It’s interesting to see the fallibility of memory playing out with Marko. The way he describes incidents
in the past do not line up with the way the memory is presented later. Memories of his wife Alana, and daughter Hazel, help to counterbalance the stream of violent moments. These kinder moments ease Marko back into reality.
Prince Robot IV expresses his disgust at Marko and Yuma’s drug use with hard language. This batch of
fadeaway was a bad batch, causing deep introspection and potentially trapping the user in
their own misremembered past. This distressing experience takes the place of a soft, glowing high that Yuma has become addicted to.
Ghus is particularly useful in recruiting Prince Robot IV to rescue Yuma and Marko from their memory trap. Despite appearing like a cute mascot for Saga, Ghus shows a deeply pragmatic acumen and honesty: appearances can be deceiving.
Marko’s experience plays out into questions of violence and pacificsm: when is violence an appropriate response? In dire circumstances? Marko’s character shows layers of complexity as he grapples with conflicting ethical ideas.
As Marko returns to reality, he lives through the harsh lashing from his Father again. He begins saying thank you repeatedly. It’s unclear whether Marko is thanking his father for giving him punishment as atonement for what he has done; thanking his allies Ghus and Prince Robot for helping him escape from the memory trap; or thanking Yuma for giving him a chance to find insight into who he is, and what motivates him to reject violence.
His final resolve, however, is to attack the man who has kidnapped Alan and Hazel.
What revelation has Marko learned here? His memory exploration shows the difficulty of going against a behaviour or trait that is ingrained into family groups and culture – violence has always been in his life, from a young age, and is clearly a large part of Wreath culture since Marko’s neighbour decided to attack their dog as practice. Has he come to the conclusion that his resolve for pacifism was limited and flimsy, falling over when Alana made mistakes that put his daughter at risk? It’s a complex question raised here, on when violence is a measured and appropriate response, or when pacifism is the stronger path.
Marko may be returning to his culture’s use of violence as a solution to dire problems.
Another possibility is that his pacifist path is reinforced. Understanding what he is capable of, Marko has the will to fight against the violent drive. Marko could have choses parts of these possibilities, or two at once. The comic succeeds in introducing a truly complex and layered character, who shows the difficulty of handling multiple conflicting ethical ideas at once.
Saga #27 is published by Image Comics ($2.99 USD). Brian K. Vaughan (W.) Fiona Staples (A.) Fonografiks (L. D.) Cover artwork by Fiona Staples.