When a new issue of "Saga" releases, New Comics Wednesday is overshadowed by New Saga Day, and what a NSD it was.
After months of slow burn Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples finally begin the payoff to Hazel's family's time on Quietus in "Saga" #17. We catch up to the "Inglorious Basterds" climax of #12 and race forward with shocking deaths and tragic cliffhangers. Brian K. Vaughn - the K is for killer - and Fiona Staples - the Staples is for book binding - have ratcheted up the tension since that issue with a lot of chess playing amongst the other members of the cast, allowing Marko, Alana and company a bit of tranquility at Heist's lighthouse, a fitting convergence point for the multiple factions that are after Hazel.
There's a confrontation between Prince Robot IV and Heist that gives Heist his chance to tell the system to it's face to go screw -- literally -- and forces Robot to confront his own feelings about the duality of war and, UHN, what is it good for. Robot's conclusion on the opposite of war -- spoiler, it ain't love -- and the moment thereafter where he ponders this idea is both poignant and thought-provoking, and not just because Staples really knows how to draw people doin' it.
Unfortunately for all involved there is only war and not the opposite in this installment and Vaughn and Staples deliver moment after moment. The house of cards tumbles down around all involved with the action happening so fast even the cast is reacting on instinct and dealing with the horrible fallout after. This issue has it all: character-driven action, quotable lines from both sides, heartbreak, hope, Honest Cat, and another climax that leaves readers wondering how this crew is going to top themselves next issue.
Staples continues to earn her status as one of comics' best working artists. I'm noticing a sparse cartooning style on the rise across several series I enjoy, the linework becoming cleaner and used more sparingly as the artists grow more accustomed to their cast. Staples chooses her layouts carefully and uses every line for maximum visual impact. Her composition continues to deliver exactly what is needed for Vaughn's scripts, the shots composed perfectly to allow the art and dialogue to enhance one another, working to deliver a satisfying whole. If you're on the fence and don't care about spoilers, flip to the last page for a perfect example.
There's also an early scene where the journalist couple that has been chasing down Hazel's story are confronted in their bedroom by a Freelancer sent to silence them. The scene builds both visually and through dialogue giving the characters the intimate comfort of a private bedroom "Eureka!" moment, suddenly violated by the horror film reveal of The Brand's sidekick Sweet Boy, a Saint Bernard that shoots darts from its nose. It's surprising and fun and dangerous all at once and ramps up the drama for the fast-paced showdown on Quietus.
"Saga" continues to put comics' best traits on display month after month. 17 chapters deep, the story continues to be more engaging and exciting as each new issue is released. I'd say this may not be the best jumping on point for a new reader but with something this good throw them in for a taste. They'll assuredly go back and tear through the rest of the series immediately.