Yes. Yes it can. Saga retains the position it has held since the release of its first issue as simply one of the best books on the stand. One might expect that giving us a chance to learn more about Alana and Marko’s past would indicate a slowing in the story’s pacing, but if anything Brian K. Vaughn is moving faster and throwing more and more at his readers. And it’s all the better for it.
This issue opens with a flashback to Alana and Marko’s first meeting, when Marko was a prisoner of war and Alana one of his guards. However, instead of lingering on the past, Vaughan snaps us back to the present, following Marko and his mother’s search for Izabel the ghost babysitter, as well as Alana and Hazel with Marko’s father on the rocketship. Every panel here is dedicated to moving the story forward. Every image, every layout, every word presses on. Even the flashback sequence incorporates elements that are relevant to present events, such as Alana’s former colleague McHenry and the book she later gives to Prince Robot IV back in #2.
What continually impresses me about this series is the sheer speed that Vaughan and Staples throw new concepts at the audience. It feels like they trust us as an audience to keep up with them, and there’s so much fabulous stuff going on in each panel that it is richly rewarding when we do.
There’s not much to be said about the incredible art of Fiona Staples that hasn’t already been said, so I apologise if any of this is a repetition: This book looks beautiful, the imagination on display is wondrous, the storytelling masterful… The layouts are superb, somehow managing to tell more story in fewer panels than most other books on the stand. Staples is not afraid of splash pages, and nor should she be; the more of her work we see, the luckier we are. Her faces are beautiful, constantly expressive (even when not human), and I’m sure that if this issue had no dialogue I’d at least be able to glean the mood of a conversation. This is the craft of mainstream comics art at it’s finest. The way in which Staples renders bold characters against detailed, yet soft-focused backgrounds just makes everything read so easily at a glance, yet unlocks hidden details as your eye lingers. Staples is incredible, and she is helped in no small part by Vaughan’s scripting.
I don’t know where Brian K. Vaughan is going with this series, and I love that. Every issue so far has ended with a jaw-dropping cliffhanger, and this is no exception. There’s wit and verve and tension and mystery on every page. Every line feels authentic, the characters feel like real people despite their fantastical natures, and they resonate in a way that some of my beloved superhero icons haven’t been able to for years. I feel a genuine excitement at having the privilege to see this original and breathtaking epic unfold a little bit a time month after month.
If you have even the most peripheral of interest in comics, you simply need to be reading Saga. It is truly raising the bar for storytelling in comic books, and I cannot construct praise high enough to sufficiently express how much I adore this book. Read Saga, and lose yourself in it’s majesty. And then cry as you remember that it only comes out once a month.