Continuing directly after the carnage of the previous issue, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples wrap up Alana, Marko, and Hazel’s stay in Quietus with a heavy helping of action and some quieter character moments. Staples especially shines in this issue with her reaction shots of the momentous events of Saga #18. From Marko’s mother Klara grappling with Lying Cat over the body of her dead lover to the inevitable confrontation between Marko’s ex-girlfriend Gwen and Alana, Staples uses her pencils and colors to explore the details of each character’s anger and love. Vaughan’s plot is filled with tension, but he wraps up the main story with enough time to reflect on the events of the story arc from Hazel’ perspectives and give side characters satisfying ends to their subplots. Saga #18 has all the elements that make the comic great from lush futuristic backdrops to plot twists and ultimately a focus on its character’s personal lives and aspirations in the midst of an intergalactic war/manhunt.
Vaughan’s emotionally charged dialogue and Staples’ vivid facial expressions complement each perfectly in Saga #18. Staples utilizes close-up shots of the characters during particularly tense scenes, like Alana’s meeting with Gwen. Guns are pointed, the word “bitch” is uttered several times, and readers can see the fear and anger in both characters’ eyes. Staples excels at the little details of art, and she does subtle things with the character’s eyes to show how they are feeling in a particular scene. She also draws wavy, watercolor backgrounds which contrast with the harder lines of her figures. This technique shows that the characters’ interpersonal conflicts are more important than who wins the war between Wreath and Landfall.
Apart from the main story featuring Alana and Marko, Vaughan spends some time wrapping up the supporting character’s arcs and giving fitting ends to dead characters, like Oswald. The two silent panels that show Oswald’s funeral encapsulate his character’s essence while tying his small story to the greater narrative of Saga. Lying Cat, Izabel, and Klara are the stars of the first half with Lying Cat earning her character’s cover billing. Vaughan and Staples give a character that can only speak a single word real depth and vulnerability. Lying Cat gets to show her prowess and usefulness in battle, but Saga #18 reveals her weaknesses and limitations. Along with being the most visually striking character, Izabel plays a pivotal role in the plot as well as providing moments of levity. Her status as a ghost also bridges the magical world of Wreath and science of Landfall. And everyone’s favorite reporter couple Upsher and Doff continue to drive home the theme that love is more important than winning a war.
With its detailed art, robust character arcs, and thrilling plot, Saga #18 is a powerful conclusion to Saga‘s bleakest story arc yet. It strengthens Alana, Marko, and Hazel’s bond while also fleshing out characters, like Lying Cat and Izabel. Vaughan spurns the heightened diction of most space operas and makes his characters sound like normal people albeit with lots of emotional pain. And Staples’ pencils and colors create imagery that allow readers to connect with the characters as well as bringing Vaughan’s world to life. Saga #18 succeeds as a comic because it tells a very personal story in an expansive, unique fictional universe.