It's easy to fall for Saga. The celebrated space opera comic series penned by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples takes readers into an awe-inspiring array of peculiar planets filled with raging wars, colorful characters, and story threads that snarl in romance, humor, and tragedy. Since March of 2012, Saga has had us in a swoon. But, like love, Saga can be spiked by heartbreak. And in this ambitious and emotionally fraught series that heartbreak often comes from a devastating demise.
Saga is set in a universe divided by a ravenous war, which began as a conflict between the planet Landfall and its moon Wreath. But amid bloody battles, a Romeo and Juliet tale of forbidden romance blossomed between a soldier from each side. Alana and Marko broke ranks, fell in love, and in the book's first pages gave birth to their daughter Hazel, who is the cause for the whole universe to hunt them down as well as the book's sage and snarky narrator. Looking back on her childhood on the run, Hazel's family comes across misunderstood phantoms, merciless mercenaries, uneasy allies, trigger-happy cowboys, and death in many, many forms.
With Vaughan and Staples taking at least a year-long sabbatical from Saga, SYFY FANGRRLS reread the story so far to revisit its most important deaths, ranked from those most deserving to most heartbreaking.
SERIOUS SPOILER WARNING! If you haven't read Saga Volumes 1 through 9 (Chapters 1 through 54), turn back now! MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
Over the course of the series, we hear again and again how freelancers (bounty hunters hired by both sides of the war) are "monsters." But with The Will, The Stalk and The Brand, Vaughn and Staples gave us softer sides to these hardened killers. That wasn't the case for The March, a two-headed terror who no sooner entered Saga than they killed the one character we thought could never be killed (again). But more on that heartbreak in a bit. The March's death came fast and furious. When they threatened Alana, Marko shot this brother-sister duo full of holes, breaking his anti-killing vow while lighting up the night's ominously dark sky. But this was a day fated for death on Phang. And The March's was one death we were rooting for.
Sextillion is basically a bordello planet where every sexual fantasy can come to life, no matter how depraved or criminal. In volume 1, we learn that—though hard-hearted—The Will has a soft spot for defenseless little girls when he tried to rescue Sophie from the Sextillion Pimp's clutches. For his sins, this child-trafficking creep with the shit-eating grin had his head crushed by between The Will's two meaty hands. He will not be missed.
Hektor, Ianthe's Fiance
Remember him? Probably not. In Volume 2, he was one of three goons from Sextillion's Loss Prevention unit who were swiftly dispatched by The Will's motley crew. Hektor is not the one ripped in two with The Will's lance. He's not the husky guy that Gwendolyn struck down with a lightning bolt spell. He's the fool that had his face ripped from his skull by a rampaging Lying Cat. At the time, Hektor seemed collateral damage whose prime role was showing what a good team the freelancer and the horned politician could be. But then his furious fiancée came calling for revenge, starting a whole new path of carnage and death.
It began to feel like it was just a matter of time before this sex-trafficking terror met her maker. She’d become one of the many who’d die for crossing Prince Robot IV. When his army had him listed as MIA, he was drowning his PTSD in waves of sex. And the money-minded madam was happy to keep it that way, even keeping mum when IV's wife gave birth to his firstborn son. She only roused him from his daze when the princess was murdered. And for that, Mama Sun's was gifted with a cannon blast through the chest. Good Riddance.
The Will's Dad
We got a window into how The Will and The Brand came to be with a harrowing flashback to the day their dad died. It's a brief scene that swiftly paints their childhoods as thoroughly horrific, thanks in no small part to their father being an atrociously abusive son of a bitch. That is until the day of their rescue and his comeuppance when Uncle Steve (A.K.A. The Letter) showed up for righteous revenge and an unforgiving ax.
Plenty of soldiers and civilians have died over the course of this war-torn comic series. But this "grease monkey" was the first to help then betray Alana and Marko. He gave them a safe space to birth baby Hazel, then he immediately sold them out to the authorities. But—starting a trend of deathbed redemption—this monkey-butted bastard used his dying breath to give the unlikely lovers the map that led to The Rocketship Forest and by extension their escape from the death trap of planet Cleave.
The Last Revolution
We shed no tears for these resistance fighters. Though Dengo saw them as the path to a better world, Alana viewed them as ruthless terrorists who'd bombed a daycare center, beheaded civilian concert goers, and planned to hand over her darling daughter to Wreath High Command in a shady prisoner exchange. The Last Revolution's members were dangerous and deceitful. And once they double-crossed Dengo, their fate was sealed.
This would-be revolutionary kidnapped the princeling and murdered a slew of people in hopes of toppling the Robot aristocracy's cruel caste system, which he blamed for the death of his son. Dengo wanted the worlds to know his pain, understand his truth, and change. But when he came face-to-face with Prince Robot IV, his meaningful monologue was cut short by a blast from the vengeance-seeking royal's arm cannon. With the Prince's notoriously short-tempered, many have died at his hand. None were quite so deserving as the mass murderer who turned his pain into violence. (But Mama Sun is a close second.)
Aside for her fondness for sex and four-letter words, we never learned much about Prince Robot IV’s no-nonsense wife. As she was living in the lap of luxury from the blood money of war profiteering, it was difficult to feel too moved when one of her “lowly subject” slew her as part of his revolution. Still, she was a new mom who was fatally stabbed while awaiting news of her MIA husband and cradling her first born. That was pretty brutal, even by Saga standards.
This self-proclaimed "sensualist" liked to see herself as above of—or at least separate from—the war raging across the universe. But the thing about war is it’s all-consuming, and when it came crashing into the Open Circuit studio in the form of a gun-toting terrorist, Yuma proved herself a coward. To save herself, she offered up Alana's family to the unhinged Dengo. But this drug-peddling set designer later redeemed herself, by taking a suicide mission to save the family's ship. On a gorgeous and tragic splash page, she died as she lived, "high as f*ck."
Though one of the most notorious bounty hunters in the universe, this sexy she-spider was gunned down when she was outdrawn by a trigger-happy Prince Robot IV in Volume 1. Making matters all the more dramatic, Stalk was on a call with her ex-partner/lover The Will, who heard the whole damn thing. And hammering the horror home was Staple's brutal full-page display of the Stalk's corpse. Lying on her back, her legs curled in toward her torso, her eye red eyes vacant, her chest pitted with a deep red wound right between her bare breasts. And the sting of this death would just get worse as it weighs heavy on The Will while their doomed romance is explored through drug-induced delusions and steamy flashbacks.
Prince Robot IV
Snooty, self-righteous, selfish and violent, Prince Robot IV never ran the risk of being likable. Even when he stopped chasing Alana and Marko down and reluctantly joined their cause he was a royal asshole, harassing Alana, putting Izabel in harm's way, and getting so stoned out of his TV that he had to be knocked out. But then a miracle happened. He found love in a hopeless space with the lonely warrior, Petrichor. He dreamed of a future outside of his home planet's horrid caste system, where they could raise his princeling together. But personal growth doesn't wash blood from hands. And after years of searching, The Will finally found the man who'd killed his one true love. And he with his ruthless mitts, he ripped IV's head clean off his neck.
By his own admission, Barr wasn't the best dad. But he tried his best. And when his family needed him most, he was there. That counts for something. Soon after meeting his infant granddaughter, Marko's dad had to say goodbye. When their wooden rocket was on the brink of breaking, he used his magic stitches to hold it together. But the strain was too much for his heart. He sacrificed himself to save his family. Which proved to be unfortunate foreshadowing. Like father like son...
D. Oswald Heist
The unlikely love between Alana and Marko blossomed because of a romance novel that the seemingly impossible couple saw as a metaphor for how to achieve peace in a universe gone mad with war. So when they sought a sanctuary for their taboo-shattering love child, they flew to meet the novel's author. What they got was cantankerous caterwauling from a jaded old coot who feared his life's work had come to nothing. But you know how they say never meet your heroes? This wasn't a case of that. This cranky Cyclops was revitalized by Alana and Marko's love and family. And in the end did everything in his power not only to save their lives from the invading Prince Robot IV, but also to give them a fresh start in the Open Circuit. In the end, Heist was a martyr to the cause he felt had fallen fallow. And there's a tragic beauty to that.
After The Brand's death, her brother took in her shaggy sidekick. But The Will is a deadly guy to be around. Under his care, this poor dart-shooting doggo was murdered by Ianthe as part of the vicious diplomat's plot to torture the out-of-shape freelancer for killing her fiancé. (Remember Hektor?) And for some "super villain shit," she went from dark to downright deranged, turning the poor pup into a fur rug, from which she can comfortably monologue or play back The Will's most painful memories on a mind-violating VCR.
There are moments in this series where Vaughn's story and Staples' art is literally breathtaking. The death of The Will's sister (the original Sophie) is chief among them. In part because it came like a bolt out of the blue! Just as it seemed we were cozying into The Brand's backstory and complicated relationship with her brother, The Will, she was gone, cut in two by the merciless teeth of a masturbation-obsessed dragon. This one really stung. And adding extra salt to the wound, she died rescuing her namesake, who'd made a well-intentioned but very stupid mistake that no "I'm sorry" can undo.
Doff spent his life chasing after his ambitious journalist beau, Upsher. Together, the two had faced intimidating freelancers, deadly toxins, society-threatening conspiracies, and always while keeping their forbidden love under wraps. But in chasing down the shocking story of a Landfallian soldier, a Wreath P.O.W., and their love child, these two found their happy ending, or seemed to. Living with this found family, they lived out loud, proud and in love. But their story came to a tragic end when Doff chased the perfect shot and found The Will in chains and Ianthe armed. Knowing he was dead either way, Doff used his last moments to give his loved ones a fighting chance.
"No babysitter sticks around forever." But we weren't ready for this snarky, cool teen to leave, in part because we didn't know you could kill the Horrors of Cleave! Long ago, a landmine blew off everything below Izabel's waist. But dangling organs and death weren't enough to kill her sassy spirit, which made her a fan favorite. Whether she was saving the day with her shaping shifting illusions or farting universes to amuse her plucky soul-bond buddy, Izabel was a ray of hope and humor in a dark, dark world. When she was ruthlessly run through by The March, we felt it deep in our souls, just like poor heartbroken Hazel.
Hazel's Friend Kurti And The Good People of Phang
The planet of Phang had been good to the family. There Alana's second child thrived in her belly as they befriended some faithful locals. There Petrichor softened, especially toward the mischievous Hazel. And there Hazel had her first kiss with the fuzzy-faced and caring Kurti. But the planet was marked for destruction, and nothing Alana could say would convince Kurti's family to flee with them. So the same day that Izabel and The March died, so did every single person on the planet of Phang. And to drive home the enormity of this loss and its swallowing darkness, Vaughn and Staples ended Volume 7 with four pages of inky, unforgiving black.
Hazel's Brother Kurti
The rocky flight away from doomed Phang led to one more cruel casualty, Alana and Marko's unborn son. But as far along as she was in the pregnancy, the fetus wouldn't pass on his own. And as they sought a safe place to have an abortion performed without risking Alana's life, magic began to spark that made saying goodbye even harder. Their son appeared with horns of his father, the wings of his mother, and the age of sister. But it's not really their boy. It's Alana's wish for a son, manifested without the "messy, beautiful reality." And this could-have-been boy is threatening her life with every second. So, they lose him again. But first, at least Hazel—in some sense and however briefly—got to know the exquisite joy of being a big sister. That lullaby. Makes it real dusty in here.
He was a soldier who wanted to see an end of war and who vowed off violence but couldn't avoid it. At the end of Volume 9, realizing The Will could not be dealt with diplomatically, Marko charged to save his family. He fought. He head-butted and won. But then he showed mercy and did not kill the mercenary. And for that his reward was death. The Will ran him through a mangled metal hand, killing one of this book's most beloved heroes while simultaneously scoffing at his beliefs. And making the blow all the more harrowing was Staple's full-page final scene, Marko bleeding out, his eyes dull, his chest a black hole, followed by three taunting words "to be continued." So here is where we are left, heartbroken and waiting to see what happens next, knowing now that no one in this story is safe.