Note: This article contains spoilers for Saga #1 – Saga #23.
Ahh, romance. There’s nothing quite like the glee one feels at the beginning stages of a relationship. That euphoria, that high – it’s hard to top. It’s also hard to maintain. I don’t mean to say happiness doesn’t continue and that such feelings twinkle out of existence after a certain period of time, but there are peaks and valleys. In comic books published by the big two, couples don’t typically get to stay together long enough for us to the valleys. We don’t often see them wrestle with problems. Reboots or executive decisions mean couples break up long before they can get into domestic discussions. And even if two people are in a relationship for that long, witnessing an argument about who is responsible for taking out the trash isn’t necessarily a compelling subject. Watching a different , maybe more realistic side of love unfold is one of many reasons why I enjoy Saga.
Realistic has a different definition here. The world of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staple’s Saga is obviously not like our own, and Marko and Alana are far from an ordinary couple. When we meet them, Alana and Marko are on the run. They’re rocking a Romeo and Juliet-esque, forbidden love partnership, and the background adds power and weight to their relationship. When society says no to a relationship, it immediately gives such relationships an intensity that makes them as strong as rocks. The righteousness people in illicit relationship feel amps up their emotions and carries them through hardships and struggles. At least, it has that effect in the short term.
Alana and Marko are from different worlds. Literally. Alana is from the Landfall Coalition, and Marko is from Wreath. Those two worlds happen to be at war with one another. Alana met Marko because he was a prisoner of war and she was his guard. They connected immediately, and Alana helped Marko escape and ran away with him. The beginning of Saga sees the birth of their daughter Hazel.
The couple was already on the radars of their respective communities what with Alana being a deserter and Marko being a fugitive of sorts, but the birth of Hazel pushes Landfall and Wreath over the edge. Both worlds consider the fact that Alana and Hazel mated an atrocity and a betrayal, and all they want to do is shove the matter under a rug. Each world sends hunters after the couple. The escapes become more narrow, the situations become more dire, and life becomes more dangerous. But Alana and Marko love each other and their child, and they’re devoted to keeping the family together. They’re swept up, and you get swept up with them.
But over time, things change. In-laws come into the picture. So do exes. And with a jump into the future, Hazel’s a toddler and life has settled down. Sort of. Alana and Marko are still wanted, but they’ve carved out a home for their family. Alana performs on the Open Circuit in soap opera sort of stories (in a mask of course) to support the family, and Marko is a stay at home dad who is over it. He’s bored. He dons bandages to cover his face just so he can take Hazel outdoors (worst disguise ever). Living in exile is wearing on them and wearing on their marriage.
You can see the edges are fraying. The dysfunctionality of trying to pretend their reality is normal wears them down. Alana develops drug problems. Marko’s faithfulness wavers. They argue. The honeymoon phase of the relationship is most definitely over, and it seems like they’re on the way towards splitting.
But maybe not. Ups and downs are part of a marriage. Sure, these are the lowest of low points and Marko and Alana are hitting them relatively early on. They might hit them again. It doesn’t mean they can’t overcome what’s ahead and given the layers of complexity we’ve seen peeled back for both characters as Saga has unfolded, I believe they can accomplish whatever their hearts want.