After three long years, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’s popular space opera, Saga, has finally returned. And if what Vaughan and Staples delivered in Saga #55 is any indication of what they have in store for eager fans, readers can take a huge sigh of relief knowing the duo hasn’t lost their magical touch yet.
Mirroring the real-world gap between Saga #54 and #55, the story is set three years after the death of Marko and Prince Robot IV at the hands of The Will. The universe is still engulfed in the galactic-wide conflict between Landfall and Wreath, which is as violent, pointless, and destructive as ever.
Despite how little has changed in terms of the war, the main characters of Saga couldn’t be more different, especially its current protagonist, Hazel.
Now nine years old, Hazel is now more adult than ever, having grown up emotionally, mentally, and physically (she’s able to fly now!) in the three years since her father’s death. Her maturation into the young girl at the center of this issue illustrates the significant changes she’s undergone, having abandoned her role of helpless toddler behind.
Now, she’s a more mischievous child who secretly disobeys her parents and does what she wants—including stealing an album and almost getting killed by Landfallian soldiers in the opening pages of this issue.
It’s Hazel’s growth as a character that takes center stage. Never before has a character other than Alana or Marko been featured so prominently before, signaling perhaps a changing of the guard for the comic. Is Hazel the new main protagonist now? From #55, it seems like that might be the case, but fans will have to check back with future issues to see for certain. (Although it would make the most sense that, since this is the beginning of Saga’s “Act II” on the planned 108 issue run, that Vaughan and Staples make the switch now and have Hazel become the feature star of the comic.)
However, Hazel isn’t the only character who has significantly evolved, either. Her now widowed mother Alana seems to have grown up a good deal since Marko’s death as well, shouldering the economic hardships of raising a family on her own.
To make ends meet, she is now selling baby formula, while also moonlighting as a drug smuggler with her partner, Bombazine (a new character).
After Prince Robot IV’s death, she’s also adopted his son, Squire (catatonic after losing both parents to the war) as her own child. It’s this willingness to take Squire in along with her occupation as a drug dealer that makes Alana just as fascinating a character she was in the first 50 issues of Saga. Vaughan and Staples show Alana’s growth and arrested development—she’s simultaneously trying to be the safe, responsible mother, yet taking on dangerous jobs in order to feed her kids. It’s this nuance that makes Alana someone who is so relatable and likable, someone who readers can smile at and go, “Same old Alana,” while also sympathizing with her single motherhood (a tough, realistic situation for any parent, and one that makes Saga so grounded, despite its space opera setting).
Change itself seems to be the big theme established in Saga #55. Throughout, Vaughan throws in a few clever meta-references to how far Saga has come, not only in the three years since the last issue, but in general. Vaughan seems also to be heavily hinting that Hazel will step up into the role as the main character, signified by Hazel’s narration saying, “And in this moment, you begin to understand that the universe no longer belonged to the generation who raised you.”
Vaughan has certainly proven himself capable of handling younger protagonists before (Paper Girls and Runaways), so it’ll be very interesting to see how he continues to handle Hazel and Squire as they each get older. But as Hazel says in the narration, it seems the universe we once knew—occupied by long-time favorite characters like Maro, Prince Robot, and so many more—is no longer there.
For how much our main protagonists have changed, some others seem to have remained more or less exactly the same as we last them. The Will, for example, is still his same old self, having returned to Wreath with Marko’s skull, seemingly free of any guilt over the matter.
There, he meets with Gwendolyn, his old flame and former partner in the Freelance mercenary industry, who has since become a higher-up in Wreath’s government. Together, the two gleefully discuss Marko’s death over graphic sex, with Gwendolyn telling him that, for the time being, she needs him to go to the Robot Kingdom on “a job.”
Out of all the old regular faces, readers have last seen in Saga, these two have probably changed the least. If anything, Gwendolyn seems to have gotten only more ruthless and cold-hearted since taking office, her main concern being simply to win the war for her side as quickly as possible (to guarantee that she remains in power).
There are still plenty of cliffhangers left in the air for Vaughan and Staples to answer. How did Alana meet Bombazine? How did they get into the drug smuggling racket and—for that matter—the baby formula racket? Where was The Will for those three years before he brought Marko’s skull to Wreath? And where the heck is Ghüs?!
All of these questions, we’re sure, will be answered in good time, and given how amazing Saga #55 has been, it’s easy to see that Vaughan and Staples haven’t lost in step in that three-year intermission between issues.
All we can say is: Welcome back, and we look forward to the wild ride ahead of us with Saga’s second act.
Saga #56 will be hitting comic book stands on February 23, 2022.
Richard Chachowski is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He loves reading, his dog Tootsie, and pretty much every movie to ever exist (especially Star Wars).