I know, it’s been a minute, but here’s the second half of Chapter Two of Saga. It begins with a continued voiceover from Hazel.
Hazel: From far and wide they come to inspect the hapless new parents.
Taken completely out of context, this means nothing to you. But, if you look at the last post on this comic book, Hazel was talking about how the first week after a baby is born is like the opposite of a honeymoon. Everything goes wrong and gawkers show up . . .
We get a closeup of a female soldier, wearing a visored helmet and full combat uniform. She appears to have a freckled face. We see the little nubbins of wings on her back, so we know she’s one of Alana’s people. She smiles widely as she salutes someone we don’t see yet, and she says, “Welcome to Cleave, Your Majesty.”
Of course, she’s welcoming Prince Robot IV, who is wearing his fancy uniform with the knee boots and ruffled epaulets, broad belt and purple sash. He has an overnight bag slung over his left shoulder.
Hazel: The nice ones bring food.
The soldier introduces herself. “Lance Corporal McHenry, 372nd Company, at your disposal. How was the trip in from Landfall, sir?”
“Dreadful. I’d rather fly commercial than another one of those godforsaken things.”
“Well, ah, Central said you needed a lift to our main detention facility?”
“Will that be a problem?”
“Not at all, we ‘acquisitioned‘ the moonies’ railway system last week. It’s just, we don’t get many princes down in lockup. Some of the other MPs were wondering if this is, like, an inspection or . . . ?”
“I’m on a classified investigation involving a high-value target,” Prince Robot IV says.
“So you’re just interrogating prisoners? No guards?”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but my mission concerns your escapee.”
“The moony that took Alana?”
“You knew Private First Class Alana?”
“Um, not well. Saw her in the mess and stuff. She mostly kept to herself. Read books.”
The screen of Prince Robot IV’s TV-head becomes an angry red image of an angry-looking face bearing its teeth. “What kind of books?” he asks.
“Sir, are you . . . ?”
“I’m fine. These books. Were they religious texts? Propaganda?”
“Nah, nothing like that. Just stupid romances, the kind housewives buy at the supermarket. Half-naked dudes on the cover, you know? She lent me one right after she got transferred here, said it was her favorite. I probably still have it somewhere, if you want.”
“What was it about?”
“No idea. Who has time to read anymore?”
The moony train, looking like a sinuous Chinese dragon, pulls up to the boarding platform. This seems like a good time to change scenes.
And our next image is a closeup of the wailing Hazel.
First, she wakes her father, Marko, who has drooled on himself in sleep. “Whuzzuh?” he says, still bleary-eyed. “Oh. Oh, no.”
“Mn . . . ?” Alana grunts, questioningly, as Hazel continues to cry as babies are wont to do.
“Alana, we have to go. Now.”
“What . . .” Alana begins, “what’s wrong with Hazel? I’ve never heard her cry like this.”
“We’ve been asleep for hours, she’s probably starving.”
“No. She sounds scared.”
Both hear an audible Klick.
“Something’s here,” Marko says.
“Then we run.”
“Too late for that. We have to count on our rings to make whatever’s out there understand.” Marko then addresses whatever unseen entity is out there. “If you can hear my voice, we mean you no harm, and . . . and we apologize if we have trespassed on your land or done anything to offend you. My wife and I may look like the armies that have invaded your world, but we are not like them. We have renounced violence in every form.”
“Most forms,” Alana says quietly.
Marko puts his sword, in its scabbard, on the ground. “I lay down my weapon as a gesture of good faith. Please, may my family pass in peace?”
When Marko looks up he sees this strange, fantastical image: She is, in appearance, much like a beautiful blond woman with long tresses, wearing a full, voluminous black skirt—only, she’s naked from the waist up, rather full breasted, although the breasts are artfully concealed by the long hair, mermaid-fashion, in most of the images, and she has stumps at her shoulders instead of arms and eight red eyes lined up in symmetrical pairs above her cute nose. She’s also wearing a black tiara of some sort that matches the skirt. She cuts a striking image, darkly beautiful.
Alana says, “Is it . . . ?”
“I don’t know,” Marko responds. “But we’re all friends here. My name is Marko. I’m just trying to take care of my girls.”
This new character speaks for the first time. “And I’m just trying to do my job,” she says. “They call me The Stalk.”
The Stalk leans forward so that her face is very close to Marko’s. He says, “’The . . .?’”
“FREELANCER!” Alana yells.
A thin, barbed tongue-like appendage darts out of The Stalk’s open mouth and pierces the base of Marko’s throat.
“Marko!” Alana says, drawing her weapon even as she stands there holding Hazel.
The Stalk makes a “kk” sound as she turns towards Alana, her long barbed tongue dripping blood as it lolls from her mouth.
“Get away from him!” Alana commands. “I mean it! I’ll fucking kill you!” She aims her weapon at the freelancer.
“Not with a stun gun you won’t,” The Stalk says. “Sorry, sister. I know a thing or two about this game.”
The Stalk’s black skirt parts and reveals that, while she may have no arms in the customary locations, she has eight spider-like appendages that were, up to now, concealed by the skirt. And, she’s loaded for bear. I see a revolver, an axe, a shotgun, a knife, and what may be a bludgeoning weapon of some sort or the base of a lightsaber. The Stalk is genuinely a terrifying character. The stuff of nightmares.
“Then shut up and, and kill me already!” Alana says.
“I will,” says The Stalk. “But you’ll be relieved to know my employers have requested that I bring them your creepy mutt unharmed. Sorry about doing your baby daddy in front of you like that. For what it’s worth, sounds like he was quite the vicious piece of shit back in the day.”
“You’re lying,” Alana says, pointing the stun gun directly at The Stalk’s chest.
“I told you, if you want to scare me, you’ll have to do better than a Heartbreaker. That thing would barely break my skin.”
Alana presses the barrel of the stun gun against Hazel’s forehead.
“Maybe,” she says. “But it’d be more than enough to kill her.”
“You wouldn’t,” The Stalk says.
“You don’t think I’d do whatever it takes to save my only child from ending up with a cunt like you?”
“Easy, let’s all just take a deep breath and give this some—”
The Heartbreaker begins cycling up with an audible Vmmmm. It’s still against the baby’s forehead.
“Damn, bitch,” The Stalk says, seeming genuinely shocked at Alana’s resolve.
Suddenly a loud sound, like a howl or a ghostly wail, a huge OoooooOOooooOOooooooo noise, fills the forest.
“What is that?” Alana says. “Stop making that noise!”
“It’s not me. It’s Horrors.” The Stalk casts a nervous glance over her shoulder.
“What? They’re real?”
“I once saw a pack of them rip a man’s spine out through his urethra. That’s not an exaggeration. I saw that. Fuck it. If they take their time digesting you three, I might still have a shot.” The Stalk turns away from Alana and Hazel.
“You’re running away? What am I supposed to do?”
“If you really love your kid? Pull that trigger.” The Stalk scurries off as the wailing continues.
“Baby!” Alana says, her voice panicky. “Baby, baby, baby.” She hurries over to where Marko lies in a puddle of his own blood. “Baby, please. We need you. They’re coming and, and we need you. I need—”
“Hello?” A disembodied voice says.
“Ahhh!” Alana says in surprise. Then more voices. Many pairs of red eyes light up the darkness.
“Hello?” “Hello?” “Hello?”
“Hello, we’ve been watching you,” says the voice of one entity who seems to be in charge of the group. And what a group The Horrors are. They all appear to be children, glowing red, and mutilated in some fashion. One is missing an eye. One is riddled with what appear to be bullet holes. And the speaker, a young female wearing a cloth cap and a t-shirt with a heart on it, is missing the lower half of her body. Her intestines are protruding from the bottom of the t-shirt.
She says, “Looks like you could use a hand.”
End of Chapter Two.
Wow. Brian K. Vaughan knows how to keep up reader interest in a story. In Issue #2, or Chapter Two, we moved some pieces around on the board. We got to know the freelancer called The Will a little better. Prince Robot IV arrived on Cleave. Marko, Alana and Hazel continue their way towards the Rocketship Forest, and, along the way, have encounters with the freelancer known as The Stalk and also The Horrors, both of whom were expertly foreshadowed in earlier conversations. Oh, and Marko has apparently been killed (although I’m not buying that, yet).
I feel like I’m in good storyteller hands here and look forward to reading more of this comic book. What other obstacles will our protagonists experience as they continue to go forward? What allies and antagonists will they encounter? When does The Will cross paths with our heroes? Good stuff.
See you next time, for the beginning of Chapter Three.