Book Review: Saga (Volume 5) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

TL;DR – roles change as Marko turns from hunted to hunter as he tries to track down his wife and daughter who have been kidnapped by Dengo, a commoner of the Robot kingdom looking to change the course of war.

Summary (warning: spoilers)

Go to my book reviews page to read reviews of previous volumes of this Eisner award winning series.

Dengo is on a mission. He now has Prince Robot IV’s baby son and Hazel in his possession along with control of the treehouse rocket ship. Alana and Klara are held prisoner inside and debate whether to make a move on Dengo. But before they can act, Dengo has contacted the Revolution, an organisation seeking to end the war between Landfall and Wreath by any means necessary, and they arrive to meet him.

For three months, Marko has been following Dengo’s trail. His tenuous alliance with Prince Robot IV is under constant strain as Marko refuses to kill to find his family. Prince Robot IV does not have such inhibitions, but the pair manage to continue their hunt with the help of Yuma and Ghus.

Events come to a head when Dengo realises the Revolution have their own agenda; they wish to trade Hazel to the Wreath high command in exchange for the release of revolutionary prisoners. Dengo and Alana manage to escape, but Klara and Hazel are re-captured and blast off inside the Revolution’s ship piloted by the remaining soldiers that are still alive.

This coincides with the arrival of Marko and Prince Robot IV. The prince confronts Dengo and kills him and is finally reunited with his baby son. Marko and Alana are also back together, but now they have to find their daughter.

Review

The opening pages of volume five reveals how the war between Landfall and Wreath damaged both spheres. On Landfall, people were chosen initially via lottery to defend the planet, but as the number of deaths mounted, it switched to a voluntary force. More importantly there was the underlying realisation that because Wreath was Landfall’s only moon, destroying either sphere would cause the other to spin out of orbit. As a result, the war spread outwards to new places in the galaxy considered of strategic value and meant other alien races had to choose sides and form alliances.

Fast forward to the lives of our intrepid fugitives, Marko and Alana, and a strange phenomenon has occurred. The war still rages on other planets but the majority of the population on Landfall and Wreath has ceased fighting.

The inference is that the political powers of Landfall and Wreath are continuing a galactic war for power and profit (as opposed to any sort of persecution between each side). This lends even more as to why the political powers don’t want Marko and Alana’s union to become public knowledge. For if a Landfallian and Wreather can fall in love and have a child, why are both sides still fighting? There are obviously puppet masters pulling the strings of war for their own gain and not the betterment of their people or the races of other civilisations.

Volume five continues to explore the impacts of war on individuals. Both the mental and emotional toll are revealed in varying forms. For example, Marko spirals into depression and nearly kills himself taking tainted drugs in an attempt to find peace. He is saved surprisingly by Prince Robot IV and in the process has a renewed focus on what is important in his life (i.e. his wife and daughter).

Then we have Yuma, the green spider-like alien who was once in a relationship with D. Oswald Heist. She has made a vow to live a life of sensuality, and achieves this by also taking the drug, Fadeaway. She admits to being a coward, but it is driven from a desire to live free from violence. Unfortunately, her choices lead to guilt, and she is driven to help Marko reunite with his family. In the end, she chooses to be brave and performs an act of sacrifice in order for Marko, Prince Robot IV and Ghus to stay alive.

While the volume examines other characters and the impacts of war on them, the last shout out goes to Dengo for his attempt to try and stop a war that has no interest in being stopped. As the reader, you know his part was always going to be short when he was willing to murder Princess Robot, kidnap the son and then also steal away Hazel from Marko and Alana. His intentions were to show the leaders of the Robot Kingdom that they cared more about working with the Landfallians than they did about the commoners who resided in the kingdom. When Dengo’s own son died of a treatable illness because all resources were focused on the war effort, he started on a path that would cost him his life.

It is the willingness to explore these rabbit holes and the post-traumatic stress of warfare that gives the story strength. I anticipate the exploration will continue by expanding on how children like Hazel and Prince Robot IV’s son will grow and what they are taught. Indeed, the end of volume five sees Hazel grown from toddler to child now learning in a classroom. The impression is that her parents have not found her and has somehow ended up an orphan. While it will be interesting to see if and when Hazel’s parents will find her again, the other story threads also ask questions of whether the war will ever end and even if it does, who will come out of it with their mental, physical and emotional well-being intact.

4 out of 5

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