Noting that I liked Saga #1 is something of an understatement. I wrote a review of that first issue that was long and gushing even by my long and gushy standards, even suggesting that Saga had potential to be the successor to Scalped as my comics obsession – and that’s fighting talk for me! Saga #1 was pretty much a note-perfect debut, with Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples giving a masterclass on how to do an issue #1. Clocking in at 40 pages (and still at a bargain $2.99 price), that comic was an immersive introduction to this intriguing new world, and was a full, satisfying reading experience. But now that the hype and excitement over that first issue has died down, the question becomes whether “a great first issue” can translate into “a great series”. With issue #2, we’re back to a regular page count, and we start to get a sense of the regular format that Saga will be slipping into going forward. Does Saga still manage to succeed past that triumphant glow of issue #1? Time for another understatement: yes.
One of the standout characters for me in the first issue was intergalactic bounty hunter The Will, so I was pleased to see that Saga #2 begins by expanding his world. I’ve long loved the idea of a blue-collar assassin who treats killing people as a job like any other – it’s why Kill List was one of my favourite films of last year – and The Will seems to fit that description, as he checks into an office with a friendly, encouraging agent/secretary who sets him up with work. A secretary that happens to look like a giant, talking sea-horse. We also learn that The Will is one of a whole network of mercenaries, all with “The” names. Most feared of all of these is The Stalk, who we get to meet later in the highlight of the second issue.
Fiona Staples does more stellar work throughout the issue, but her star contribution here is certainly the design of The Stalk. It’s eerie and badass in equal measure, and I won’t give away the specifics, but I once again finding myself using the word “toyetic” – I’d like this character as an action figure on my shelf. Vaughan brings her to life effectively, with her monstrous appearance contrasting with a voice that ranges from arrogant and snide to quite pragmatic and human. Definitely an interesting, scene-stealing character that I hope we get to see more of in future.
Not that this means our leads get overlooked. Alana and Marko find themselves in dire straits here, and both get a chance to show their skill and bravery in a tight spot. But there’s also a suggestoin of darker undertones in both of their characters. The Stalk alludes to Marko having a shady past, though there’s always the possibility of this being anti-Wreath propaganda. Alana too shows something of a ruthless streak, so much so that even The Stalk is taken aback. The interesting thing about getting thrown in the deep-end with these characters and launching right into the action is that there are unanswered questions and a history there for us to explore in upcoming issues. Prince Robot IV’s investigation into Alana’s time as a prison guard could lead us to some answers, but for this issue it gives us some insight into this unusual, haunted character.
The cliffhanger we end with on this issue isn’t all that different from last issue’s, with the difference being that we see a lot more than we did last time round. I don’t know what I was expecting with “The Horrors”, but it certainly wasn’t what we get. I definitely want to see where this goes next.
So really, it’s a case of more of the same with Saga #2, and that’s a good thing. After introducing us to this expansive world last issue, here Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples get more intimite, fleshing out the details and the characters, and keeping the story continuing apace. That first issue wasn’t a one-off. It seems Saga is set to become a comics highlight of every month.