Jul 18, 2013

Homestuck: 7/3/13 – 7/16/13

By Ian Cory

In my coverage of the first week I put forth the idea that Homestuck is driven by its characters attempting to escape cycles of control that dictate their lives with or without their awareness. I don’t think this is a particularly outlandish interpretation of the story, as these kinds of restrictive and self-perpetuating cycles appear from nearly the beginning of the comic. The kids were inevitably going to play the game, because otherwise they would not exist, Bec Noir was always going to ruin the troll session because otherwise Bec would never have been prototyped, the list goes on. For the most part, these cycles are enacted through the creation of time travel paradoxes, which call attention to the slippery line between free will and predetermination. But there are other more subtle systems that drive the characters. Take, for example, the way that the kids’ relationships with their guardians shaped their personalities and worldviews. Even the structure of Homestuck is often built from systematic arcs that fit together into a larger narrative. After one month’s worth of updates, not counting a blackout week, Andrew Hussie has closed the loop on one such system; the three planet character select screen.

Before we get into the third and final arc on LOLAR, let’s look over where the other two arcs took us. The first segment, on LOHAC, gave us a look into Dave’s psyche, along with Jade’s dubious moral position. The second, on LOFAF, helped push the plot forward, planting seeds for the denizen quests along with a narrative tool in Jane’s revival powers. This third section splits the difference between the characters and the story. Focusing on the Rose and Terezi’s hangover induced rants, this brief but hilarious interaction reveals a lot about why the seers started drinking to begin with. Terezi, even now, is haunted by regret over killing Vriska, and as a result has lost faith in her ability to use her powers to help her friends. Much like the scene with Jade on LOHAC, we get a brief look into Terezi’s bitterness over her break up with Dave, who is more and more being defined by his lack of maturity and inability to relate to others. This emotional disconnect is just as big of an issue for Rose. She’s unable to think of what to say to Roxy until its too late, and she harbors feelings of inadequacy in her relationship with Kanaya. Even worse, she struggles to remember details about life on earth before SBURB. Even though the Rainbow Rumpus Rehab Town* is played for laughs, it speaks to a deeper undercurrent of loss and guilt that has hung over much of Act 6.

After catching brief glimpses of John in the other two paths, we finally get a full-fledged conversation with him for the first time since he became unstuck in time and space. While we don’t get too much of a look into how this development has affected him, as usually he seems chipper and carefree under incredibly stressful circumstances, John does speak candidly about the extent of his new reality warping powers. Now that the characters as well as the readers are all aware of how these retcons work outside of normal “rules” of Homestuck, Hussie is free to use this device to do something truly radical. As I said in my opening paragraph, Homestuck is about the struggle to break free from the control of the predetermined nature of the SBURB universe, and it looks like John finally has the power to do so. Hussie illustrates this brilliantly, by showing John’s wind powers sweeping in from outside of the panel, representing freedom from Hussie himself, and clearing the screen of glitches, representing freedom from Lord English’s manipulations. When this clever trick first appeared in the LOHAC arc I wrote it off as Hussie indulging in striking images for the sake of it [for its own sake?], but their continued use and ties to deeper thematic material prove that he has a much deeper command of visual metaphor than he is given credit for.

There is the lingering question of what exactly Hussie plans on using this retcon power for later in the act. While I’m in no position to speculate, I can imagine that the results will be incredibly divisive. Fan reaction to the first wave of retcon’s was mostly positive because it was played for laughs and is largely inconsequential to the plot. Using this same tool to dramatic effect is likely to cause the backlog of Homestuck to look extremely different, which is likely to infuriate anyone concerned with the integrity of the older acts. Personally, I’m torn. I’d love for Homestuck to get really weird, but not at the cost of the story that I read and fell in love with. Only time will tell.

*The newest variation on a long running joke used by Terezi and Karkat. 

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