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Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples


Page 45 Review by Stephen

Almost everything worthwhile in life requires some sort of sacrifice.

“Then I offer up this.”
“Marko, no. You just took out a whole platoon with that thing.”
“Exactly. When a man carries an instrument of violence, he’ll always find the justification for using it. If we really want to escape this war, we have to stop bringing it with us.”
“But I thought that sword’s been in your family for a thousand generations!”
"It’s still just a thing, Alana. Besides…”

Marko cracks the sword in two.

“… you’re my family now.”

Alana and Izabel watch Marko move off.

“So noble.”
“You’re not ditching that raygun, are you?”
“Not a fucking chance.”

Welcome to the most joyous, startling and mischievous science fiction epic I have ever encountered in comics. There be willies and boobage – are you bothered?

It’s about the revelation that is love overcoming ideologically driven hatred; it’s about procreation versus extermination; it’s about the insanity of war and the price to be paid.

From the writer of EX MACHINA, Y – THE LAST MAN and PRIDE OF BAGHDAD, half the draw here comes in the form of Fiona Staple’s Alana and Marko, two of the most beautiful individuals I’ve ever encountered. Their expressions are infectious, whether it be Alana’s eyes smiling up between her flop of green hair or Marko’s tearful joy at the birth of their child. Her name is Hazel and she bears the embryonic stumps of her father’s curled ram-horns and her mother’s green wings. It’s the last moment’s peace they’ll know for some time.

Marko and Alana’s peoples have been at war with each other for as long as anyone can remember. Alana comes from the planet Landfall, Marko from its moon called Wreath. But both races realised that either world’s destruction would cause the other to spin out of orbit. Instead of coming to an accord, however, they took their fight elsewhere, right across the galaxy, using other planets as their playground and even contracting out.

Caught in that crossfire is the planet called Cleave. Alana and Marko are trapped there, each wanted by their relative factions for desertion: she specifically for abandoning her post and aiding the enemy to the escape; he for fraternizing with the enemy and “betraying The Narrative”. Worse still, they have mated, producing a beautiful baby called Hazel. This unholy union is despised by all sides and, for morale’s sake – to ensure no one else gets the wretched idea that love might be better than hatred – all traces of it must be eradicated.

Prince Robot IV, from a race of walking, talking TV sets who’ve sold themselves out to the highest bidder, is dispatched to Cleave, forbidden by his kingly dad to return home until his new mission is accomplished. The “moonies” of Wreath, on the other hand, have opted to employ individual assassins: The Will and The Stalk. Both are lethal, and potentially to each other for they are ex-lovers and it’s only the first past the punitive post that gets to grab the lovely lolly.

Now, I did say it was startling, and I’ve left you to be startled: by The Stalk (she is… unusual), the Lying Cat (very, very funny), the pleasures of Sextillion (sumptuously coloured), let alone the fate of the indigenous population of Cleave.

But the best thing by far is the relationship between Marko and Alana which will be sorely tested by their struggle to negotiate a terrain they barely know whilst protecting their child, all in search of a way off-world within the Rocketship Forest. Which may just be a myth. It’s on those sorts of expeditions, under those sorts of pressures, that you really get to know the other person. Especially when one’s feverish and blurts something out. Like the name of his childhood sweetheart… whom he was engaged to!

“Alana, I was delusional! I was dying! But now I’m alive, and that’s thanks to the last woman I ever want to be with.”
“You sure? You don’t have any “unfinished business” I should know about?”
“Not on my end… though I suppose Gwendolyn might like her rings back someday.”
“You gave me another woman’s wedding ring?!”
“Actually, they belonged to Gwen’s grandparents. They spoke two different dialects of Wreath’s native tongue, so they had their rings enchanted with a translator spell. I thought you and I might be able to put them to better use.”
“Great, so we can add “scorned woman with missing jewels” to the long list of people who want us dead?”
“Alana, I’m sorry. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?”
“Maybe. Just tell me your weren’t lying when you said I’m the hottest chick you’ve ever slept with.”
“I swear! Gwendolyn may have been tall, but her hips were boyish, not womanly like yours.”
“You know, for a pacifist, you sure beg to get stabbed a lot.”

He really does.