This outstanding graphic novel series continues the story of the little family of Marko, Alana, and their baby (now toddler) Hazel, who are struggling to stay together in spite of a war between their two peoples.
Alana is from the planet Landfall, where inhabitants have wings on their backs, and Marko is from its moon, Wreath, where all people have horns on their heads. The two defied all convention (and propaganda, viz: those people have horns on their heads!) and fell in love. Hazel was born with both horns and wings, and it is Hazel who narrates the story.
There are many other memorable species and characters in this series, such as the people (and even animals) of the Robot Kingdom, who have CRTs for heads. Prince Robot III is leading the intergalactic hunt for Marko and Alana, because their love story gives lie to the party line that the people from these two species can’t, and never will, get along.
One of the members of the Robot Kingdom, Dengo, believes that the Robot Kingdom cares more about the war between the wings and the horns than about its own people. Dengo is also devastated because his own son died, and in a desperate measure to force the Robot Kingdom to pay attention to its people, he kidnapped the robot princeling and now is holding Alana, Marko’s mom, and Hazel as hostages.
In one scene both hilarious and poignant, Alana tries to talk sense into Dengo, trying to convince him of the truth, insisting he knows the truth, saying to him “It’s written all over your face.”
Meanwhile, Marko has a temporary alliance with the robot princeling’s father, Prince IV. Both are trying to get to Dengo and Alana to get their children back.
In fact, the love of children is central to this story. And the aspects of child-rearing – with its stress, frustrations, exhausting challenges, and joy – and family – are incredibly moving and endearing.
A side story concerns a mercenary named “The Will” who was chasing Marko and his family but was mortally injured, and needs dragon sperm to save him. Working on that particular project are Marko’s horned ex-girlfriend Gwendolyn, a wild cat who can distinguish lies from truth (L.C. or Lying Cat), The Will’s brother Brand and his hilariously normal-looking dog, and the little girl Sophie.
With all of this wild weirdness, most of the characters seem like “regular” people [sic] with the same insecurities, hopes, fears, and passions that most “people” have. Alana wears fuzzy bedroom slippers around the house, Sophie and Brand roast marshmallows around a fire while out on their quest for dragon sperm, and many of the characters constantly question their own values and commitments and try to be better and do the right thing, especially with respect to one another. They go grocery shopping…
As Hazel says at one point:
“Every relationship is an education. Each new person we welcome into our hearts is a chance to evolve into something radically different than we used to be.”
In this volume, there are heartbreaking developments as the characters try to help those they love. But we know at least that Hazel will endure; her story isn’t over, and she promises, at the end of this volume, that her “education” is only beginning.
It seems inaccurate to say Fiona Staples is “just” the illustrator rather than a full co-author. In fact, Staples gets top billing in Volume 5, apparently having contributed to the storyline as well as the artwork. Her pictures are incredible – creative, expressive, and full of meaning, adding layers and implications far beyond the words. Vaughan’s dialogue is clever, satirical, and engaging, but Staples adds pure genius to the finished product.
I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Evaluation: This is an outstanding “saga” whether you like graphic novels or not. In fact, usually I prefer pure text. But in this series, the artwork adds immeasurably to the story, and brings it alive in a way I’m not sure pure text could accomplish. This is not by any means a series for kids – you will see graphic (in both senses) depictions of childbirth, oral sex, anal sex, masturbation – just about anything you can think of (or more accurately, might have never thought of!).
Another great aspect of this series is that no one gender or race has claim to any particular qualities, whether courage or compassion. But overall, the females tend to be more formidable, powerful and tough, and the guys more nurturing. The political commentary is as powerful as it is subtle. This series is hilarious, moving, exciting, romantic, action-packed, and crazily mentally stimulating, all at once.
Published by Image Comics, Inc., 2015