By Hayden Mears

Saga #55

Artist: Fiona Staples
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Lettering & Design: Fonografiks
Image Comics

What can anyone really say about Saga that hasn’t already been said? The series boasts broad, universally valued explorations of family, parenthood, childhood, and how all three help us grow up. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples have crafted a story that transcends the limitations of traditional space operas and evolves into something much more potent. Now, after an almost three-year hiatus, the blockbuster comic returns in all its violent, profound, sex-filled glory.

Saga #55 finds its characters at fun new junctures. Thanks to a three-year time jump, Vaughan affords his narrative some much-needed breathing room. The Will, fresh off murdering two beloved characters, meets with Gwendolyn about the status of his search for Alana and Hazel. Hazel has become every street market vendor’s most persistent headache. Alana moonlights as a drug dealer to keep the lights on and her family fed, all while remembering that she’s still a fugitive. It’s all so fun and vibrant and pregnant with potential that you can forgive Vaughan and Staples for the hiatus.

Vaughan’s storytelling is so organic, so tender, so effortlessly poised to carry us from moment to moment without us minding familiar beats, that table-setting doesn’t feel like table-setting. Case in point: Hazel leaps away from her pursuers, wings unfurling mid-air as she takes to the sky and lets us all marvel at how grown up she is. This is a scene that wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful had we (and the characters) not been to hell and back just to get here in one piece. Look into this moment a bit harder and her next challenge (the one where she has to be responsible with her relative autonomy) becomes painfully apparent. But that’s what Saga is: payoff and promise, with the occasional tragedy thrown in to keep us grateful.

Vaughan and Staples have always structured Saga so that every reader feels like Hazel’s parent. Or at least a member of her immediate family. We love her.  We learn with her.We grow with her. We are watching her navigate life’s trials and triumphs with the rapt interest of engaged spectators and the emotional investment of active participants. Saga #55 throws us right back in as if no time passed at all.

Many of Saga‘s most effective conceits build upon time-honored tropes: forbidden love, cat-and-mouse chases through strange and exotic locales…the list goes on. But plot is never really what sold Saga as one of the best, most ambitious modern comics on the shelves. Heck, setting isn’t the magic ingredient, either. It was, and still is, the characters.

Vaughan and Staples populate the story with vibrant, emotive characters immediately worthy of expansion or, in some cases, explanation. Staples continues to get weird with her designs, and at this point we’d be disappointed if she didn’t. Part of the book’s appeal has become just how “out there” it can all feel. And with that handy time jump in play, she has an opportunity to crowd these new pages with fresh faces and wild concepts.

Saga is one of the only stories where more of the same is an incredibly good thing, and if what #55 sets up is as good as what came before, we’re all in for a treat.

Published by Image Comics, Saga #55 is available in stores and digitally now.