by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples, 2016
I know I’ve been fairly harsh on the Saga series. I haven’t been nearly as impressed by it as everyone else seems to be and, truly, I don’t understand what others see in it. I’ve started to wonder why I’m continuing to read it, but having finished Volume 6, I’m reminded that even if the story seems a bit directionless and unnecessarily hypersexual, it does contain some moments of profound truth and it’s those moments that keep me reading.
Most notably, this volume introduces Petrichor, a transgender character in the detention-type camp where Hazel is staying with her grandmother Klara. Vaughan uses this character to explore identification and empathy is an interesting way. When Petrichor sees Hazel’s wings she says that she (mistakenly) understands that Hazel’s father must have been Landfall soldier who forced himself on her mother, calling it a, “crime that made you be very sick. But that not mean you sick, yes?” Even though Petrichor finds Alana and Marko’s union disgusting, she doesn’t find Hazel herself to blame for her parents’ actions. And while that may not be the most generous way of the looking at the situation, we can certainly see how this can be extrapolated to those who erroneously claim to understand the event that “made” a person gay or transgender is a bad thing, simultaneously understands that the person themselves is not bad. You’d think that Petrichor, being transgender, would have a little more empathy with Hazel’s difference, but it’s often the case that being one minority does not automatically make you understanding of other minorities. I find Petrichor’s reaction to Hazel’s true self to be not just ironic, but very real in its inherent hypocrisy.
In another moment, Hazel asks her teacher what she thinks of “the wings,” meaning the winged people of the enemy planet Landfall. The teacher responds, “They’re just people, I suppose. Like any group, most of them are pretty okay.” On the other side of the coin, when Alana tries to convince Prince Robot to disguise himself as a Count, he protests, saying he doesn’t even remotely resemble the Count and that “you people are filthy racists who think every robot looks the same!” So, on the one hand we have the proclamation that we are all more similar than we are different, and the other hand an outcry against those who lump “others” as all the same. These may seem to be at odds with each other, but they work in tandem: Appreciate everyone for their differences, but acknowledge many of our common goals. It’s as applicable to our society as it is to those of Landfall and Wreath.
An additional quote worth mentioning: Hazel’s teacher’s assertion, upon receiving Hazel’s gift of D. Oswald Heist’s book, that “anyone who thinks one book has all the answers hasn’t read enough books.” Truest words this series has ever spoken.
The other plots in the series keep moving forward: Alana and Marko are back together, partners in literal crime; we meet up again with our gay tabloid reporters; a character once thought to be lost makes a surprising return; and cutest-seal-pup-ever Ghüs finally gets his hands in the action. I’m still skeptical that all of this will come together in the end, but I’m happy to see the story diverge from tiresome romance to relevant social criticism, even if it’s only in the smallest way. I may not be Saga’s biggest fan, but I’m certain I’ll keep on reading.