Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples deliver yet another impressive and emotionally engaging issue as they wrap up their third arc with "Saga" #18. The biggest flaw Vaughan and Staples have with "Saga" is that they've created so many characters in which readers are invested; it's become almost impossible to believe we will get enough of each of them.
In "Saga"#18, Vaughan finally brings things to a head as the entire cast collide with violent -- but not entirely expected -- results. I'm not sure readers have seen all of these characters together in the same issue since the oversized first issue review (and some of them weren't even around then), so it's a surprise to realize that everyone gets page time. Marko, Alana and Hazel understandably make appearances, but storylines converge with panel time for Gwendolyn, Klara, Lying Cat, Izabel, Heist and Prince Robot IV.
It's an action packed issue -- satisfying in terms of panel time for characters that were previously relegated to the sidelines (Izabel and Lying Cat), but unsatisfying due to the lack of space to get around to everyone. The confrontation between Gwendolyn and Marko feels real, but somehow isn't as satisfying as I'd hoped -- but perhaps that's deliberate as those knock-down, drag-outs with an ex are never as satisfying as imagined. Perhaps most unexpectedly, this issue ends on a pseudo cliffhanger with jump forward in time, evident by the fact that baby Hazel is now walking. It's impossible as a reader not to wonder (and be excited by) what's next for all of these characters, but at the same time, the savvy reader might feel anxious that Vaughan managed to fit everyone in to this issue, suggesting readers might not see some of them again for a very long time. In fact, he's rather explicit about that idea in the text. As a fan it's worrisome, but it's a good problem to have -- one of so many great characters that there's not adequate time to get to them all.
Staples' visuals continue to be nothing short of spectacular. Her approach to backgrounds is hypnotic, utilizing a muted -- almost blurred -- style, not unlike soft animation cel backgrounds, which she then lays her heavily inked characters onto with expert precision. Her characters feel alive and vibrant on these backgrounds, seething with life and emotion, demanding attention, even when the backgrounds are particularly interesting or beautiful. I thought I would miss Staples take on adorable Hazel as baby, but she's a pretty adorable toddler too, and I'm a fool for being surprised about that.
When a comic book is as exceptionally consistent as "Saga," it's hard not to get unreasonably attached to the characters. As a result, it will be hard to wait for the next installment, but like every time prior, I'm sure I'll not be disappointed in the next arc. Vaughan and Staples have got this down to a science.