Aug 9, 2013

Homestuck: 7/30/13 – 8/5/13

By Ian Cory

Before I started covering Homestuck I worried a great deal about whether or not the weekly coverage format would work. Other than the larger distinctions between Acts, Homestuck rarely delineates between its story arcs*. The freedom of Homestuck’s update schedule allows it stretch out and explore individual stories and themes for however long it wants to, instead of being confined to a set number of pages, like physical comics, or a running time. And to be sure there have been a few weeks where not everything lined up in a way that was conducive to analysis. But then there are weeks like these, which make me wonder if Hussie actually plans his arcs in terms of 7-day increments. Like a good episode of television, or a single issue of a comic book, this week’s updates have a tight focus leading to a climax that ties together the themes of everything preceding it.

By no means does the tightness of this short arc mean that it stands alone in the whole of the story. Besides the fact that there is literally no point to start Homestuck from except the beginning if you want to make heads or tails of the story, this week’s content also directly relates to ongoing internal struggles and larger guiding themes. The week starts by zooming out to the full map, which works a reminder of how fast time is running out for our heroes and also a spotlight on Dirk’s attempts to get in contact with Dave, which itself serves as a dovetail into the majority of the week’s time spent with Dave and Jade. The wheels-within-wheels framing device would feel pretty heavy handed in a standalone story, but fits perfectly with Homestuck’s preoccupation with cycles and fractal like structure. Dirk’s return at the end of the week also keeps this from feeling out of place in what is essentially a magnifying glass on Dave’s fears and insecurities.

As Hussie quickly points out, Dave’s reluctant hero has long been a huge element of his characterization, but we really get a glimpse beneath the shades to find out why. Given the chance to vent to Jade, Dave reveals that his awareness of the inevitability of his death has led him to abandon any hopes of using his powers to help his friends. There’s an immense sense of guilt in the way Dave rejects Jade’s assertions of his predestined heroism; guilt that Jade is just as quickly to intensify when the conversation turns to her failed relationship with Davesprite. Incredibly, Hussie is able to make Dave, a naturally sympathetic character, and Jade, an increasingly heartless villain, equally relatable in this situation. Both come across as what they really are, kids working through complicated emotions heightened by the severity of their surroundings. All of this comes to a head when Jade throws the Mayor to certain deaths. Here, we finally see Dave’s true compassionate and heroic nature come to the surface, disproving both his own claims of apathy and Jade’s claims of his self-absorption.

There’s plenty more to break apart in this week, like the incredible use of expanded panels to show multiple perspectives and events simultaneously, or the hilariously off kilter “Back To The Future” analogy, but at its core what makes this segment so strong is that it moves in a single logical direction with no wasted time or space. When confronted with the massive and ever expanding entirety of Homestuck it’s sometimes hard to remember that what really makes it tic is small moments of conflict and resolution, essentially the same elements that make any good story work. And like any good serial story, there are still plenty of questions to be answered and threats to address. It’s only three hours till all hell breaks loose in The Medium, here’s hoping Dave is up to the challenge.

*There are some exceptions of course, most notably Doc Scratch’s lengthy takeover during Act 5 Act 2