This outstanding graphic novel series, often referred to as a “space opera,” continues the story of the little family of Marko and Alana – a mixed-race couple – and their daughter Hazel. The family is struggling to stay together in spite of a war between their two races.
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 is an ongoing 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.
The series features a number of species and characters involved in the hunt for them, such as the members of the Robot Kingdom, who have CRTs for heads. [A very funny ongoing joke in the series is how other people think these CRT-heads all look alike.]
There is also a killer for hire named “The Will” who, in this volume, has become addicted to the drug “Heroine” which, as one character explains, makes you see and hear your “first love,” even if that first love is no longer living. We also re-encounter a pair of journalists investigating the story for the tabloids.
Hazel’s observations often seem like sociological commentary, as when she notes:
“We’re all aliens to someone. Even among our own people, most of us still feel like complete foreigners from time to time.”
Hazel’s teacher also adds insights that transcend the story itself:
“ . . . anyone who thinks one book has all the answers hasn’t read enough books.”
This volume features some unlikely collaborations among former enemies, a jail break, and a surprise development at the end.
Discussion: Again, and in spite of ongoing violence and killing, it is love and loyalty that take center stage in this series. And there is never a dearth of nuance and pathos; in spite of the small space for picture and dialogue in the graphic novel, even the worst characters are miraculously made into beings eliciting our compassion and understanding. My heart went out to The Will, to Hazel, to the Robot Prince, and really, to them all.
And yet there is always a subtle sense of humor in this series as well, that tempers the gravity of what is happening and lets the reader feel delight as well as sadness and joy.
Illustrator Fiona Staples was voted the best female comics artist of all time in a major fan poll at ComicBookResources.com in 2015, which certainly doesn’t surprise me at all. Writer Brian Vaughan asked her to draw for the series as an equal co-creator. There just aren’t enough superlatives to describe the amazing imagination of this team.
Evaluation: This is an outstanding “saga” whether you like graphic novels or not. 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!).
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.
This series is really not to be missed, but should be read in order.
Published by Image Comics, 2016