The hiatus is over! After another successful run on the bestseller list with Saga Volume 3 Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples are back with the start of volume 4 with issue #19 of the epic sci-fi adventure Saga from Image Comics. With the story jumping ahead a few years this gives new readers a chance to jump aboard and loyal ones a chance to catch up with their favorite family on the run.
The royal Robot family welcomes a new addition to the kingdom and we get a glimpse of what life under the hierarchy is like for the inhabitants. Vaughan is nothing if not concise when providing some exposition through Hazel's eyes. It's a device that works so well because it's succinct and almost always adorably charming coming from Hazel.
Now a rambunctious toddler, Hazel is wearing out Marko as they try to assimilate to their new surroundings on Gardenia. Meanwhile, Alana is busy bringing home the bacon working on stage on a teleplay with some hilarious results. While the series has involved space travel and sometimes fighting creatures and avoiding bounty hunters the worst Alana has to face is a heckler during her performance.
The fresh start is not just for the weary family to settle in but also for new and old readers alike. There is a great amount of set-up and world building going on in issue #19 but part of what makes the series a colossal hit is that it excels in the small moments, the conversations are engaging, the supporting characters are interesting, the conflicts are relatable. This story is as much about Marko and Alana as it is about its readers. Raising a young child, juggling work and home life, providing a happy childhood are all things that are tangible concepts except they're viewed through the prism of beings from other galaxies. The action is always great but it's the chemistry of these characters and their hopes become the audiences hopes that keeps people coming back.
Staples' art is as responsible for Saga's success, if not more, as Vaughan's words and plotting. Her careful staging of scenes and angles are used to project more than just actions but emotions and empathy. A bleary-eyed child rubbing her eyes asking her mom if she's mad in a single panel, a scowl on Alana's face addressing her critic, a look of shock on Marko's face realizing he misspoke are all examples of scenes and images that resonate and endure and burn on the reader's mind. It's so well executed that such art truly speaks volumes even in the absence of printed words. The colors only enhance the pencils as even the smallest of characters are distinctive and vibrant. The sparse backgrounds give off a deceptively expansive appearance that defy the limits of its panels. The opening scene especially overwhelms the eyes with blue but only draws them into that room.
Vaughan and Staples represent one of the best collaborations in sequential art the medium has ever seen. It's no wonder their work is consistently singled out for its excellence. Their symbiotic relationship has given comic book fans a cast of characters that are complex and different but endearing and relatable. No crossovers or "epic" events are needed to draw paying customers just good old fashioned magical storytelling. Tell a friend and join the ride as another chapter opens up.