We're four issues into Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' new series "Saga" and it's a pleasure to have it feel consistently strong from month to month. Instead of rushing into one huge moment after another, though, what we're getting here is a measured and deliberate pace; one that ultimately feels like we're moving at just the right speed.
After the previous issue's "to be continued" moment with the revelation that Marko had a previous wife named Gwendolyn, Vaughan picks up with the fallout from that information. What's nice is that in getting the additional information, Vaughan not only relays it in a non-expository manner, but it also feels like we're learning more about the world of "Saga" in general. Information on all sorts of things -- other races, technology, Marko and Alana themselves -- are embedded in Marko's story, and that's just how we should learn more about this strange universe.
More importantly, "Saga" has a lot of elements built into it, but it's feeling ultimately like a character drama. Marko and Alana's relationship is still front and center, and while we've now got Izabel as an additional member of the main cast (plus baby Hazel's future narration), it's ultimately their story. I like their interactions; they feel real and recognizable, and they're both likable in a way that keeps you interested in their travails. When bad stuff comes down here, you don't just want to see the fight that's going to ensue (although that is quite promising), you want to see them win.
Staples' art in "Saga" continues to help sell the book for me, too. Something as simple as snow coming down on the mountain range that our heroes are sheltering on looks beautiful; a mixture of flat flakes and colors in the sky that remind me of the northern lights. Izabel's seamless addition to the cast works well in part because it already feels natural to have a neon pink ghost missing everything from the waist down hovering next to Alana. Staples draws her in a non-flashy manner and if you focus on her facial expressions as she tries to reason with Alana, those looks are telling as much of the story as Vaughan's words. It's only when you look closely and are reminded of her guts slightly hanging out of her body that you're given that extra visual nudge reminding you that she's dead; it's an effective character design and it works much better than you might otherwise think.
Vaughan also takes part of "Saga" #4 to flesh out The Will, one of the bounty hunters going after Marko and Alana. It's not quite as successful here, perhaps because the culmination of his scenes this month feels a bit of a cliché. I get that Vaughan is trying to show us that he's not just a 100% bad guy but rather a person in his own right, but it feels like there was a better way to show that instead of going into such a predictable moment as The Will makes his way through Sextillion. That sequence in general is ultimately more interesting thanks to Staples' "anything goes" drawings to try and make Sextillion's hedonism come to life; the deliberately-gaudy colors that she uses a great contrast to the muted, muddy-looking planet that Marko and Alana are crossing.
"Saga" is a lot of fun, and with each new issue I find myself growing more interested in the title as a long-term, well, saga. This is one of those comics where the only real danger is realizing just how quietly the series has utterly hooked you. Four issues in, we've had four winners from Vaughan and Staples.