I know that a lot of people would say that Saga is an overpraised comic, given the number of people gushing over it. I understand where people are coming from, but don't look to me for the opposing view. After hearing all the praise, I started reading with the second trade, and it has turned out to be my favorite currently running comic series, jumping to the top of my list every week it comes out.
Starting with something I love, we know very little about how the story ends. We know from the framing device that Hazel lives to tell the story, and someone was around to tell her the story. We literally know nothing else about where the story ends up, and that creates tension in places where there otherwise might not be. That is shown here when Hazel seems to be in trouble; we know that she survives it, but what happens to anyone else around her? We don't really know at this point, so while putting her in danger might just be an empty threat, it can have other consequences we don't know about yet, which came through especially clearly when Marko and Alana split up, the point at which I realized they would do anything. The only exception is Lying Cat - there will be riots in the streets if Lying Cat dies, and we've already been faked out once.
Some of that tension is lost in the way the story is currently being told. The characters and story are spread out a little too thin, constantly jumping back and forth between two different groups, causing the story to slow down to fit in setup and development for both. When the story was split previously, there was an obvious A story with Marko, Hazel, and Alana, while the B story went with other, less central characters. With that group split apart, there are now two main character groups that are moving slowly, though it's not exactly clear towards what, which makes it feels slower, just waiting for things to boil over.
One element of prior issues that I always liked was the opening splash page, which was large and outrageous, setting the tone and drawing you in, even though there was no context for what was going on in the rest of the issue. In this issue, the splash page is not the opening, but the ending, and it is definitely on the outrageous. Instead of going for the serious in the death of a supporting character, it goes for humor, creating a fitting end for this character and leaving an image in your mind that will not go away anytime soon.
In short, Saga continues to be great, if occasionally bumpy. There is a reason it is my favorite series, no matter what else I keep picking up.
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