By Jarrod Jones. The most frustrating thing you’ll read in any given issue of Saga are the words, “to be continued.” They’re found on the masthead above the book’s letters column, and are the first words you read immediately after the issue has ended. It’s a ceaseless tease, something that writer Brian K. Vaughan feels is necessary to dangle in front of his readers, forcing us all to accept that, yes, we must sit patiently and wait for more Saga.

And when a book moves as swiftly as Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples’ incredible Saga, “to be continued” is that last thing a devoted reader wants to accept, especially – at the end of this latest issue, #24 – there will be no more Saga until the beginning of 2015. This is nothing new, of course; these publication pauses are inherently necessary to keep Saga shipping with any semblance of regularity, to say nothing of maintaining the quality of Vaughan’s compelling narrative, and Staples’ spectacular visuals. Saga is so very much worth the wait. That doesn’t mean we have to like it.

And like the most addictive television, where binge-watching previous episodes leading to the latest premiere is almost a given, Saga flows at an episodic clip, making binge-reading as compulsive and natural as an evening in with Netflix. Vaughan and Staples have crafted a story so engrossing that it causes its readers to salivate upon purchasing every successive issue (or is that just me?), with all the wistful hope and compounding dread that comes with absorbing such a tale. It’s easily the funniest, sexiest, hard-ass, and beautiful comic book since Preacher. From this writer, that comes as the highest of praise.

Issue #24 operates much like every previous issue that has come before, only now Saga‘s ever- expanding space-opera demands its growing cast of characters receive Vaughan and Staples’ immediate attention: The Brand’s search for who attacked her brother The Will pulls the issue into her inevitable reckoning with Gwendolyn and Sophie, taking Marko and Alana’s deteriorated relationship and placing it beyond the issue’s periphery. Though the book’s main characters are mostly absent – also absent is their daughter Hazel’s poignant narration – Vaughan never allows characters like The Brand or Sophie feel secondary. Even with this reliably terse attention to detail the book reads smoothly, and manages to (incrementally, maddeningly) further the story to a twist-tease ending that forces the reader to choke on its implications for the duration of the book’s hiatus.

And though most of the events of issue #24 are used to set Vaughan’s chess pieces in opposition to each other, there is still plenty to enjoy: Fiona Staples remains one of comics’ greatest artistic voices, and her imagery is as slick and expertly realized as anything the Big Two could ever hope to offer. Everything from the issue’s first page – where the impossibly adorable Ghüs welcomes The Brand to Quietus – to its final-page reveal boasts Staples’ consistently incredible work. Her art brings a sophistication to everything Vaughan can conjure, which makes Saga such a spectacular book to consume. (When one can clearly depict the functions of coitus between a man and a giant female spider-woman, that’s talent.) Vaughan and Staples’ last page reveal won’t be spoiled here, but if the end reveal of issue #23 (and now #24) is any indication of things to come, Saga‘s 2015 return promises to be a righteously cathartic affair. All we have to do is wait.

Image Comics/$2.99

Written by Brian K. Vaughan.

Art by Fiona Staples.

9.5 out of 10

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