Saga #7 Review
By Zak Edwards
November 21, 2012 - 18:01
Writer(s): Brian K. Vaughan
Penciller(s): Fiona Staples
Letterer(s): Fonographiks & Fiona Staples
On Remembrance Day this year in Toronto, the time of year that Canada remembers the soldiers and citizens who have died in the wars Canada has been a part of, two women held up a banner that asked Canadians to remember the 512 Afghan citizens that died as a result of Canadian military action in Afghanistan this year. The reaction, from the citizens of the self-described most diverse city in the world, was ashamedly familiar: questioning if these people were “Taliban sympathizers” (Toronto Sun), shouting for them to go back home, physical violence, and generally racially-motivated hatred. Of course, the most predictable move happened too quickly: “The war dead gave them the right [to free speech]” (Toronto Sun, again) suggests a couple of things: that these women have the freedom to be exactly what we expect of you and that they are free to choose this singular option. Remember the war dead, these reactions instruct, the ones deemed worthy of remembering, because under the logic of these reactions, the war dead are not the people murdered in Canadian military action, those ones are to remain unregarded. Those Afghan citizens who are asking to be remembered are barred from consideration. This refusal to see the price by polarizing and ignoring has a long history. Think of the Statue of Liberty. Now think of the French painting “La Liberté guidant le peuple” ("Liberty Leading the People", pictured below). Isn’t it convenient that Liberty has now been divorced of the dead on whom she once stood?
It is interesting that Brian K. Vaughan begins this issue of Saga, a series that takes war very seriously, starts with an all too familiar scene. The opening pages describe a memorial ceremony where the earth itself forces protagonist Marko to remember the war and bloodshed. “Never Forget” is the lesson; but unlike Canada’s vague threat we see every year of “Lest We Forget”, the sentence here is finished: “Never forget the countless heroes who sacrificed so much; but, more importantly, never forget those evil f*cks” who did this (That is a direct quote from the book). The issue then cuts to the present. Marko hasn’t forgotten, he truly hasn’t, but he’s tried to do something beyond remembering. He married one of those f*cks and is doing something our current memorializing cannot do: peace.
Saga may just be the most important comic of the year, released when the memory of war is so fresh on our minds. The series, in every issue, asks us about war as a state of being: How does it affect our capacity to love? How does it impact our children? Can we ever not be at war? And now, how do we positively approach memorializing. Certainly the ritual is important, no one here is denying that, but how can we articulate the loss of countless (and they are countless) lives of the human race (we all are, after all, human)? Immanuel Kant once wondered if we should not, in times of victory, remember those who died because we resorted to the despicable action of war? That amongst the celebrations, we may pause to consider those who were murdered who weren’t on our side.
I went to school with a German exchange student a few years ago and I remember a story she told of her uncle in World War 2. Conscripted and then abandoned after the Allies retook France, he walked home, living in barns, scrounging for food the entire way. And when he finally arrived home, he knocked on the door. His father answered and shut the door in his son’s face. Now, can we still hate that man (if my memory serves, he was nineteen)? Must he stand in for the entirety of the war crimes of World War 2, both those we like to forget (Dresden, for example) and those we memorialize? I think Saga, not only an extremely enjoyable read, is asking many big questions of us here, which is really what all great literature should do.
And maybe I’m inviting a torrent of disgust on me here. I would certainly encourage you to use the comments section below to have a conversation about this. I would ask to keep things respectful.
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