Fiona Staples is easily one of the best artists currently working in the comicbook medium. Every single issue of Saga has been not only beautiful but original. Because Staples is building this whole damn universe from the ground up, she has ample opportunities to show us some new creature or location or technology, and never wastes a one. In Saga #4, we visit Sextillion, essentially a planet-sized fetish club, and we’re treated to angels, demons, and all manner of beast in between rolling around in their own kink. Staples finds a splendid mix of the lovely and the creepy on Sextillion, all while following The Will as he walks through the endless debauchery with his typical detached calm.
That calm maintains until he is offered a six-year-old as a sex slave, and it is in that scene where Staples truly pulls out all the stops. All of The Will’s barely-contained rage seeps out of the pages, and of course we have the stunning and gruesome panel where he crushes the child’s pimp’s head with his bare hands. But before any of that there is the full page splash of the girl herself, a staggeringly heartbreaking image if ever there was one. It makes the reader cheer when the man responsible is killed, not because we’ve now warmed up to The Will, necessarily, but because we’re so overwhelmed with sadness and empathy for the girl, anything that makes her life even incrementally better is cause for joy.
Sadly, in spite of this remarkable artwork, Brian K. Vaughn’s writing is less impressive in Saga #4 than it was in the first three issues. Not a lot of forward progress, which is good in some ways because it gives Staples’ art more room to breath, but also makes for a duller chapter. Marko and Alana’s conversation about his ex-fiancé is too by-the-numbers for me. I suppose in theory it holds some insight into Marko’s character, but since he claims to have been a different person when he got engaged because it was before he became a soldier, I’m not sure how much we really learn about him from the simple fact that he once considered marrying another woman. My guess is that in the future Marko’s ex will play a semi-major role in the narrative so that, looking back, the importance of this discussion will be clearer, but on its own it feels like a subject given too much attention with too little payoff.
But seriously, the story is secondary to the art in this book, and as long as Staples stays on board I’m betting that will always be the case. Even if you hate science fiction, Brian K. Vaughn, and love, I suggest you pick up an issue of Saga and just stare at the pictures.