“This is the story of how my parents split up.”
Reading Hazel’s narration at the end of the first issue in this collection is a great way to put a damper on your enthusiasm for the rest of it. After all, wasn’t this series billed as a family struggling against a galaxy that wants them dead? How are we supposed to care if Marko and Alanna finally decide to call it quits? Brian K. Vaughan is well aware of this and the place the couple ends up in at the volume’s finale… is somewhere I didn’t see coming at all. It’s a great bit of misdirection: Here’s a textbook example of threatening to break the series while eventually coming around to something completely different. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples do an excellent job of making the threat credible, with their protagonist’s early passion settling down into routine as Alanna works for a living (in spandex) and Marko becomes “Mr. Mom” to Hazel. It’s clear that they still love each other, but seeing their bitterness at their current lot in life break through on occasion is eminently credible as well.
Things don’t go much better for the supporting cast either. Prince Robot IV is millions of miles away (mentally as well as physically) as his son is born, and subsequently kidnapped. Meanwhile, Gwen and Sophie try to find a way to restore The Will to health and wind up running straight into his sister, The Brand. The Prince Robot story is a subplot that runs throughout the volume and really drives home just how damaged the character is while also hinting at how he’ll redeem himself. It’s good stuff, yet his story feels like it skipped a plot beat in explaining how he wound up on Sextillion after suffering what looked like brain damage in the previous volume. The Gwen/Sophie/Brand stuff is only tucked in at the end and it’s immensely entertaining to see these characters do their things, while also featuring one of Lying Cat’s best moments. It all ends on a moment that promises a reckoning as families strive to reunite, and an agonizing wait for the next volume in the process.