If you nursed lingering doubts that Saga was a series to be taken seriously, the last scrap of that doubt should have been eradicated with chapter five. It isn't pretty, but it is by-god beautiful storytelling. (Spoilers ensue.)

We start with Prince Robot IV on the crapper, because of course we do. His Royal High-Def-Ness is clearly somewhat biological, if he's got waste to expel... and a wife to knock up. Yup! A face-to-face call reveals the good news. On the crapper.

IV's a father-to-be, now. Everything changes. How could it not?

Some miles away in the rough, half a dozen winged Landfallians have run Alana, Marko, and Hazel to ground. It's daytime, so Izabel's nowhere to be seen. Marko brandishes his ancestral weapon, while Alana pulls her Heartbreaker— a nonlethal pistol that hits the target "like the day my dog died". His sword can deflect blaster fire, but it's not enough to prevent his wife from taking a stray hit.

Marko sees red. Then he tears six men to pieces, illustrating why you should "Beware the fury of a patient man." John Dryden got that much right, before Alana (who barely got clipped on the bicep) stuns him with the Heartbreaker. "Dear. That's enough." Marko comes back to the world.

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Elsewhere, The Will and Slave Girl attempt a hasty exit from Sextillion, before seeing the darker side of a planetary sex trade. (Yes, that's as ridiculous as it sounds.) A purple-skinned gold-wearing dominatrix named Mama Sun puts a halt to that, but quick. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples waste no time making her hateful as possible.

One of the ongoing trends I'm seeing in the series— even among hateful jerkasses like Mama Sun— is a level of professional respect. Even if someone's trying to kill you, they admire you for your passion, your toughness, etc. As if that's some consolation for a painful extermination. But still! Respect.

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Another thing I love about this series is how exposition comes quickly and naturally, and feels in no way forced. Facts are shared as facts, from folks who know to folks who don't. Case in point: Slave Girl's got a potion in her bloodstream that will kill her in seconds if she tries to leave before her contract's up. According to Lying Cat (Hi, Lying Cat!), Sun's not lying. Damn.

Back on Cleave, Alana's flying the soldiers' airship, while Marko questions his actions. Any honest debate is interrupted by their baby girl's first laugh. Nothing else matters, past that. How could it?

Back at the maiming field, The Stalk finds six wounded-but-breathing soldiers trussed up in magic. She takes a call from The Will, who's now desperate for cash in order to buy out Slave Girl's contract. (Not that he tells The Stalk this. He's a guy, after all.)

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At which point Prince Robot IV shows up, in no mood for distractions. Two panels back-to-back illustrate something I love about this series. The first is that these Robots' face screens can perfectly show what's on their mind. It's fantastic. The other is the first death of a character we actually care about.

And just like that, The Stalk leaves us. Exterminated. She's had as little if not less exposure than any other secondary figure in the comic, but she left a distinct impression. She was resourceful, cunning, deadly, good at her job, playful yet professional, and knew when to ask for help.

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The fact that Vaughan and Staples would put that much dimension and life into someone who wouldn't last six issues... says a lot. I didn't even hate the fact that she was a massive spider from the waist down. (That's important.) And now she's dead.

Shit.

I love this series. (I love any series that unflinchingly kills developed characters with no intention of resurrecting them.) Saga is excellent. Go pick it up. Sooner or later we're gonna run out of back issues to recap. (But not too soon.)

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Casey Jones has killed characters and won't apologize for it. Learn more at www.caseyjonescaseyjones.com.