I'm addicted to the serialized comic series Saga, even though it is starting to scare me.
Saga is an epic space drama, written by Brian K. Vaughn and illustrated by Fiona Staples. Since 2012, fans have explored the stories of Alana, Marko, and Hazel as they've battled other factions and each other in an contentious war that spans across the galaxy.
Over the last year, I've immersed myself in the feud between Landfall and Wreath, engaged in the complex story of love and sacrifice, eagerly awaiting each new paperback.
But now, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks earlier this month that killed 43 people in Lebanon, and ended 129 lives too early in Paris, reading Saga is taking on a completely different tone. While Staples and Vaughn are exploring the fallout of wars past, their commentary eerily feels like a discussion of events yet to come.
In Chapters 2 and 3 of the series, readers are introduced to "the horrors" a mythical ghost crew of maimed children. While their purpose is to continue serving as guardians of the planet, the breadth of their injuries (and the outsized fear of the residents when faced with the horrors) belies the point Vaughn and Staples want to get across.
We already have our own horrors.
Over 6, 828 soldiers died in the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. It is established that the military relies on people from low income backgrounds to fill the ranks of their fighters, selecting most from rural zip codes and areas with higher than average levels of poverty. In 2016, the army faces an uphill battle to recruit 62,500 soldiers - and that's if we don't officially declare war.
No matter how we think about it, war is hell on women. Rape is a weapon of war and one that is used to sow fear and dominance in almost every global conflict. The self-styled Islamic State not only enforces an oppressive environment that bars women from participating in public life, but many of the fighters believe their use of rape is sanctioned by Islam. Even while fleeing ISIS, women face a unique set of problems. Women Under Siege, a project of the Women's Media Center that examines the impact of war on women and girls, found a trail of "sexualized violence against women" among migration routes involving everyone from the smugglers to the men running the detention centers.
The future is looking grim.
In Saga, as the war continues it just becomes a fact of life for residents of Landfall, as it has for us. It's been fourteen years since 9/11, the day a coordinated attack by Al-Qaeda brought down the Twin Towers, crashed 4 planes, and murdered a total of 2,977 people. Since then, the United States has spent anywhere from $1.6 trillion dollars to $6 trillion dollars fighting the wars and managing the fallout.
But while it feels like the war is never ending, most people are not directly involved with the battles or the war effort. As our loved ones die (and return to uncertain futures), the war may as well be playing out on another planet.
Marko and Alana become the target of an intergalactic manhunt because they committed the sin of falling in love and having a child. Hazel, the baby so prominently featured various covers, is a symbol of interracial love and a different future - one so controversial that various teams of people attempt to kill the young family before people learn of Hazel's parentage.
The language used by the warring factions in Saga mirrors the real life testimonies of those who were tempted to be radicalized, either through alienation or isolation from their homes and peers:
The things that make life worth living—love, family, good books—are all under attack in the war between Landfall and Wreath. The sustained conflict leads many people to suspend their own personal beliefs of right and wrong and instead fuel the horrors of war without truly understanding why.
In the world of Saga, this leads to long moments of reflection by each of the main characters.
In our world, the outcome remains to be seen.
Saga #31 drops November 25th.
And I'm honestly a little afraid to peer into the looking glass.