Saga, Book Three (2019) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples


Which covers volumes 7-9, or issues 37–54.

Boy oh boy what a disappointment. I must be the only person on the planet who isn’t in love with this comic. The first volumes were great, but after that it has been a steady downward spiral of slight disappointment for me, and now its about to crash into the ground. Am I the one who is crazy? I’m getting tired of how this comic does things; of its constant need to be edgy, of its focus on sex and cringe teenage dialogue, of its lack of story and its blunt insertion of contemporary politics with all its current lingo. If there was a story it would take me out of it. 

In the first book I wondered if Vaughan would do anything with the fact that he puts two cultures against each other where one is modelled on a contemporary USA culture and one on fairy tale logic, and I wondered what he would do with the galactic war. The answer to both questions is nothing. 1400 pages in and it is all just background for the family drama. Ok, so I may have had the wrong expectations.

For the first parts of this book, Vaughan decided that he wanted to write a western instead. So Marko, Alana and the rest fly to the Planet of Westerns, which is full of stone arches and rednecks with thick accents, and they don cowboy hats for a heavy-handed abortion storyline. A galaxy far far away and a character talks about being “pro-life”. Using current political speak like that just completely destroys my immersion. A full third of this book is filled with hearing everyone’s opinion on abortion. The story isn’t even properly set up for a sci-fi treatment of this theme, as Alana’s case is about a medical emergency. In any case, the comic turned very preachy, locations were uninspired and all fun had disappeared. 

Besides that, one of the characters (Isabel) was unceremoniously killed off and nobody talks about her again, and she’s replaced by this annoying and confrontational character Petrichor. That’s how emotions are processed in this story: constant edgy quibbling between immature characters and nobody talks about people that die along the way, because shock is more important than psychological consequences. I still haven’t seen Alana being happy that they got their daughter back after all those years, because Petrichor was pushed to the front in those scenes. Petrichor’s only defining characteristics are that she’s transsexual and always angry. She is put into the story for that reason, and I see that Vaughan thought that that is more important than literally the emotional conclusion of a major storyline. The story seems in service of all these Important Issues, and random moments of sex and shock of course, and skips over emotional processing. 

I don’t think this is a good way to tell a story. It feels in love with certain trends in comics that are applied as if by rote, instead of understanding the emotional beats of a story.

Maybe one reason I’m not feeling all the feelings everyone else seems to be feeling is that there is a rhythm to Vaughan’s writing, where every time things seem to be going well, something bad will happen. No character is allowed an arc of self-actualisation. It becomes predictable and in time it grinds down all the storylines. And once you stop reacting emotionally to all that and the sex stuff starts to feel random and manipulative, then the characters begin to annoy and the preachiness and writing and pop culture references and the structure of the story too, and then there’s not much left to appreciate. 

Is there nothing good to be said about this? Well, if you enjoyed the previous volumes and found no problems with anything, then the odds are that you will love these volumes as well. The art is still great. The book has a pretty good ending, even if it is a downer, which I’m sure will be subverted again in the next volume. It was good in the sense that it brings a renewed focus to the story by bringing a number of plot lines together. But I think this comic might not be for me. I had the same problems with Brian K. Vaughan’s Paper Girls, so I think his writing just rubs me the wrong way.

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17 Responses to Saga, Book Three (2019) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

  1. Dawie says:

    Seems this series is starting to fizzle out for you…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. piotrek says:

    Oh, a pity, we both gave it 10/10 and I can’t wait to read the second half… I guess our tastes can’t always match 😉 But when I re-read, I’ll keep your points in mind, to pay more attention to the details that might be less than perfect…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Bookstooge says:

    When Messaging becomes more important than the Story, it has to crash n burn. Unless it fully moves into the philosophy n theology side of things…


    • It’s an interesting question when does messaging becomes too much messaging. Every work of fiction espouses certain political views. And I can watch old Star Trek shows without problem even though they were full of politics. It all depends how it’s done. If a story is shaped around the exploration of different sides of an argument, that is fine. But if a political issue starts to warp an existing series and brings everything in the jargon of current times, then the writer is sacrificing his own creation instead of adding to it.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. So sorry to hear how things have been going downhill for this series for you. I do like your brutal honesty regarding your thoughts on it though. Will this be the end of you and Saga or will you try volume 10+?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Lashaan. Whether I will continue will all depend on the reviews of others. I will wait until a couple of new volumes have been produced and maybe collected in a Book Four, and then I’ll have another look at it. Have you read it?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hopefully, by then, the story will find a new momentum. I’ve read up to the latest volume. The hiatus didn’t help too much but coming back to a familiar world was fun. I do think that it’s going to need to find a new spark to keep things going but only time will tell if Vaughan will get it right or lose his touch.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s interesting. I did get the impression that Vaughan had a plan in mind. At least to have Hazel grow up over the course of the series. But I’m not sure if the galactic war angle is going to be resolved in some way.


  5. Wakizashi33 says:

    It’s interesting to read your criticisms of the later issues. Like you, I enjoyed the first couple of volumes but I stopped reading around issue 16. I’m not even sure why I stopped. I think I just lost interest, so you are not the only one who “isn’t in love with” this series.

    I read the first couple of issues after it returned from hiatus but stopped again. I wasn’t feeling invested in the story or characters. I’ve never really been a fan of Brian Vaughan’s comic writing. It just doesn’t work for me, but I know he is very popular. Thanks for your review.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Paul Connelly says:

    An impression I get reading descriptions of recent television is that a very high percentage of TV dialogue is “constant edgy quibbling between immature characters” and straining for humor via cutting remarks. Could Saga just be deriving its model of character interactions from TV shows? Art imitating art, so to speak, rather than art imitating life?

    Liked by 1 person

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