Review: ‘Saga #56’ Introduces a Mirror Image of Alana and Family

Things are never what they initially seem to be in Saga. Seemingly likable characters are introduced, establish some kind of friendly rapport with the main characters, and then are later revealed to be evil (or vice versa).

It’s a formula we’ve seen time and time again in Saga, but the genius of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ series is how well they pull it off every time. Reading it, you never expect the characters to go from outwardly hospitable to cold-hearted, near sociopathic ruthlessness within the span of a page.

But they do, and of course, you never expect it, leaving you shocked, bewildered, and anxiously waiting for the next issue to see how it all turns out.

The characters in question here are Saga #56’s band of space pirates/drug dealers/music bootleggers/self-professed crappy rock band who bring Alana and crew aboard their skull-shaped ship.

Initially, they appear hostile—mainly to Alana’s new right-hand man, Bombazine—but when Alana appears with Hazel and Squire in tow, they put on a new face, welcoming them aboard and offering the little tots ice cream and a chance to look around their ship.

Initially, this group appears not completely dissimilar to Alana’s group. They are a random collection of refugees from both sides of the war who found companionship in one another, and even espouse a fierce hatred towards the conflict, blaming both factions involved.

Separately, the two groups share a friendly dialogue about their personal interests and their pasts, with Hazel even being introduced to a guitar for the first time (it’s hinted through Hazel’s narration that this will become a hobby of hers later on).

However, in true Saga fashion, the plot twist comes at the end of the issue that the ship’s Skipper—while appearing to be a jovial, easy-going, Robin Hood-like criminal leading a ragtag band of misfits—is actually just a regular criminal thug who will do anything to make sure a job gets done.

The red flags begin piling up when he subtly pressures Alana to smuggle drugs for him at a planet with a high police presence, eventually offering to keep Hazel and Squire onboard while she performs the job. When he tells Alana to lift up her shirt to show proof that she doesn’t have wings (he hates Landfallians), that’s when the real Skipper comes out, blasting Alana with a magical lightning and threatening Hazel and Squire.

One of the most entertaining aspects of Saga is just how a realistic spin Vaughan and Staples’ give established genre stereotypes, subverting readers’ expectations and delivering something wholly different.

Take, for example, Saga’s inclusion of “the Revolution,” a parody of sorts of Star Wars’ Rebellion. In Saga, the Revolution isn’t some organized group of freedom-fighters battling tyranny for a noble cause. Instead, they’re a hyper-violent terrorist organization willing to kidnap kids, murder unarmed civilians, and do any number of unspeakable acts for the sake of their goals. It’s a brilliant juxtaposition between what readers know (the Rebellion) versus what that same group would look like in a more realistic setting (the Revolution).

Saga has done this time and time again in numerous ways, and here, Vaughan and Staples do it again.

Contrary to what readers are expected to believe in his introduction, the Skipper is not some romanticized outlaw pirate living on the fringes of society, stealing from the rich to feed the poor. He’s a desperate criminal pirate who threatens to perform unspeakable acts on children. (Because in Saga, unlike Star Wars, there are no good guys or bad guys. It’s a world populated by conflicted, morally gray characters who can feed you ice cream one minute and threaten to kill you in the next.)

While the issue primarily revolves around the introduction of Skipper and his pirate crew, there are a few additional aspects to the comic that show two characters’ massive growth. Alana, in particular, demonstrates a much more wearied, pragmatic side to her personality nowadays.

She’s willing to take risks, sure, but she’s not willing to put her kids in danger, preferring to perform the smuggling operation the Skipper offers her on her own, with Bombazine watching Hazel and Squire.

She’s still the hard-edged Alana of old, but she’s also someone who’s learned from her mistakes and is wiser because of it. Unfortunately, she may have bitten off a bit more than she can chew trusting the Skipper and his crew so early, but if there’s one thing Alana has always been, it’s resourceful.

The other signs of growth in terms of character comes from a very unlikely source. Mourning his son’s death, King Robot reflects on the life of his “baby boy,” ordering his subordinate, the Countess (likely Countess Robot X, Alana’s first commanding officer), to bring whoever killed Prince Robot IV to justice.

The last time readers saw King Robot, he was busy verbally dressing IV down, coming across as little more than a two-dimensional caricature of the all-powerful, emotionally distant sovereign father figure. Later, readers also learn that—because of IV’s repeated failures to capture Hazel and her family—the King has revoked IV’s royal title, brandishing him with the minor moniker of Sir Robot IV, and essentially banishing him from the Robot Kingdom.

Now that IV is dead, the King appears to finally get some much-needed nuance and complexity, openly admitting his regret at losing his son and the poor relationship they had. As a result, he posthumously reinstates IV’s royal title and is ready to punish whoever killed him, before being calmed down by Countess X.

Before the King can reach a definitive decision,  their private meeting is interrupted by a visitor who claims to know something about IV’s death. (It’s almost certainly The Will, given his meeting with Gwendolyn in Saga #55.)

For fans of Vaughan’s epilogue at the back of the book, Saga returns with its signature “Reader Survey,” full of some fun, interesting questions posed by Vaughan for anyone interested in answering via print mail. At the end of this epilogue, Vaughan also hints that readers may see the reunion of The Will and Lying Cat, although what exactly they're doing together again is unknown. We’ll just have to read Saga #57 to find out.

Saga #57 will be hitting comic book stands on March 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).