By Ian Cory
One of the most powerful elements of video games is that they teach you how to play them as you play them. In a well-designed game, you are in a constant state of learning. The same is true for Homestuck. Although it has gained a reputation for being a challenging read due to its unconventional media mixing and ever-expanding kudzu plot. What people neglect to mention is how each of the new elements are introduced slowly and softly, so that by the time they are built into the very fabric of the plot we already know how to deal with them. Take for example, the way that time travel was introduced for humor in the Intermission before becoming a major vehicle for the plot in Act 5, or the way that the trolls were slowly introduced over the first arc of the story before we got to see their back-story, which was in turn a way of giving their increased importance in Act 5 Act 2 more dramatic weight. In this first week of post-hiatus updates, Hussie continues to lay down the ground rules before running wild with them, giving us a look at Act 6 Act 6’s bizarre structure as well as the central conflicts for its first arc.
These conflicts are numerous and range from internal struggles within the cast to struggles over control over the very narrative itself. Let’s try and break those down from the largest to the smallest. First, Caliborn’s somewhat failed take over of the comic. Picking up directly from where we left off before the hiatus, we are treated/forced to endure a hideous perversion of some of Homestuck’s most beloved traditions. As always, Caliborn is used to mock and belittle people who go out of their way to complain about Homestuck at every possible occasion, but here the target for satire is much wider. By creating an intentionally shitty version of Homestuck’s opening act, Andrew Hussie is not only making fun of his own writing and art (Caliborn’s drawings are remarkably similar to some of the early MSPA work) but also his own penchant for self-deprecation and self-reference. But most importantly Caliborn’s narrative hijacking is used to point out just how little control the characters (and by proxy, the readers) of Homestuck have over the course of the story and subsequently, their lives. It’s no mistake that when Hussie does regain control of the narrative, he immediately presents us with the illusion of choice as to how the story will be told. We are watching as Caliborn learns how to inflict his will upon the characters, foreshadowing the way that all of the story thus far has been a result of Lord English’s machinations. In order for our heroes to ever truly be free, they’ll have to break out of the cycles of control, both English’s tyrannical rule and Hussie’s lenient one.
But before they do that, they have plenty of bigger fish to fry, the biggest of all being The Condesce and her good girls gone bad, Jade and Jane. Although we don’t see much of Jane due to the glitch interference, (which fits quiet well with her new cybernetic digs) we spend a good deal of time with Jade and the recently godtiered, and even more recently imprisoned Roxy. We’ve gotten to know a lot different variations on Jade’s character, from her cryptic and bubbly dreamself to her quietly confidant Witch of Space persona, but this evil Jade is already one of my favorites. The same confidence and optimism that has always made her such a joy to read has turned into full blown Kanye sized arrogance* and gleeful sadism. She has an excellent sparing partner in Roxy though, who continues to be one of the most charismatic characters in this story. The magnitude of the task assigned to her, as well as the untapped potential of her powers, ensures that we’ll be seeing a lot of her in this act. Not only will this be a good thing for laughs, but also for thematic resonance. Roxy’s new ability to translate thoughts into reality is an incredible metaphor for the artistic process and will undoubtedly become a valuable part of the comic’s end game.
But Roxy’s mission is only half of the equation. The rest of the cast, formerly trapped on the Meteor now find themselves split up across the Beta planets. It’s easy to see this as Hussie teasing the fans, and the same could be said about abruptly cutting the opening flash short and deliberately hiding how the characters got where they are. However this is really par for course in Homestuck. While literally giving the characters amnesia is a fairly heavy-handed way of hiding information, it does establish The Condesce as a serious threat and the pairings of the isolated cast members are by no means arbitrary either. Karkat and Kanaya, besides both being former frog breeders, are dealing with past failures and being unable to help the people they care about. Rose and Terezi are another great pairing as they both have made major life altering decisions and will have to come to terms with the stress they put on their friends and loved ones. Dave and The Mayor aren’t as rife for dramatic catharsis, but it should give us plenty of time to hear Hussie flex his comedic muscles.
Only one week in and Hussie has proved that he’s not holding back. The stakes are just as high as they were when the hiatus started, and the combination of an incredibly daring opening animation and the multiple “choose your character” branches show that Homestuck will never sacrifice its flashier elements even in the face of heightened drama. The groundwork has been laid, now let’s see where he takes us.
*In a derse-ass restaurant/hurry up with my matriorb/I am a dog
**As I promised, I’ll try and point out some of this week’s callbacks. The biggest is Caliborn drawing the “Boggle Vacantly At These Shenanigans” page. Here’s the original (http://www.mspaintadventures.com/?s=6&p=002731) and here’s the new one (http://www.mspaintadventures.com/ACT6ACT6.php?s=6&p=008161). Kanaya’s conversation also calls back to a joke she had with Jade here: (http://mspaintadventures.com/?s=6&p=005205)