Session Eight: Back in the Saddle

11/22/09 – 1/15/10
pages 886 – 1152

Oh man, the updates. I admit, every time I’ve got to MSPaintadventures.com I’ve automatically been clicking on the forum link to see what people are saying in the comics discussion instead of focusing on reading my allotted pages. Enough time has passed that I’ve absorbed it and can re-focus. I’m back in the saddle again, ready for adventure.

Our scene opens in a kingdom entrenched in darkness.

I mentioned before about slow builds and how they give the audience awhile to adjust to new ideas, especially in early Homestuck. Whenever we see some new feature we’re intrigued and interested, but not baffled. Everything’s been foreshadowed so we’re expecting something, even if we’re not entirely sure what. This is a clever approach when you consider how strange the setting we’re dealing with is and how much we’re capable of taking in stride.

Dad is not taking to captivity. If part of Hussie’s goal was to see how likable he could make a character with no eyes and no voice, this was a good way to go about it. You can’t help but feel for Dad. He didn’t ask for this. He was humbly going about his business celebrating his son’s birthday and suddenly his house is ransacked and he’s dragged off by monsters to some mysterious fortress. This reminds me of the Bugs Bunny principle, Bugs can be as mean as he wants so long as he doesn’t start the fight. Notice that during his strife with John he never used his fists, just a cake. We don’t see all of what Dad is capable of until a moment when we can feel justified in cheering him on.

Of course he’s not above using cake on imps, any trick that works.

We are now…

the Peregrine Mendicant on her journey through the skies.

We establish two things about her quickly, one that she has a bar code on her wrist like WV, and second that mail is serious business. Like many things in Homestuck  this is a joke, and yet not a joke. PM is a defender of the light of knowledge, free communication and the exchange of ideas, all themes that are at the heart of this story.

Considering what she’s already sacrificed and how much more she has to go through, that tear makes a lot of sense.

PM has a look at the monitor device in her little pod and we finally see the fourth screen.

PM recognizes the girl and tries to contact her. Interestingly, in spite of the time bending powers we’ve witnessed, trying to access this monitor before the audience has seen Jade enter The Medium causes it to malfunction. This seems, once again, to link these devices to the people reading the comic, to us.

Computer explosions have a fairly large role to play in this story.

Meanwhile, Rose is still wandering around Skaianet Laboratory even though it’s due to be unestablished in mere minutes. She finds a child’s tea set, scarf and bedroom, with wizard and cat dolls. The theory is that this is Mom’s room since later we will establish that her bedroom in the house has nothing but booze and a transportalizer in it. You do have to wonder about the woman.

I grudgingly admit that the wizard dolls are cute.

We also see more examples of Rose’s prominent silly side (as brought to us by reader commands I do not doubt) as she decides to “Wear the Scarf. Be the Rider.”

Moments from fiery death, that’s all I’m saying.

But isn’t it always the way when you do something goofy, someone always turns up to see it.

John in the interim is going about collecting that grist the crude ogres dropped, which means descending down into his father’s bedroom.

Does he dare the clowns?

Jade has made it to the foyer where Grandpa Harley awaits. I notice that he has more trophies that could only come from an Sburb session, not to mention a rather curious fireplace.

Jade runs into a globe while trying to dart through the foyer. She decides to sneak past instead but is foiled once again by her narcolepsy.

Jade’s introduction has been less about breaking the established pattern so much as throwing a chink in it. Her strife(?) with Grandpa Harley calls back to the flute mini game, so we know it isn’t for real. Just as the bass turned out to be Jade’s true instrument, someone else will be her true Guardian.

I find Jade’s argument with her dead grandfather to be cute, understandable and tragic all at once. The line “He was so much easier to deal with when he was alive” says a lot. We do tend to build up versions of people in our heads, especially people like parents and grandparents. You just know what your grandmother is going to say about you spending so much time reading webcomics when you’re supposed to be working, right?

PM survived the explosion by the way. She and the metal sentries are friends now.

Rose and her new friend go back to examining gadgetry. She’s found an appearifier. This one is locked on to Jaspers from nine years ago, back when Rose would have been about four. She and her cat are undergoing one of their therapy sessions, which says everything we need to know about her childhood. Rose attempts to create a time paradox and ends up creating more slime, but this time we start to see ways in which that slime might be useful.

If this is Mom’s real bedroom then it was probably her who was messing around with the appearifier. Appearifying and alchemizing seem to be tied in directly to the sort of void powers Roxy has now. So can we attribute her lack of success to excessive drinking?

Anyway, on screen Jaspers tells Rose a secret and then vanishes from even the sight of these strange reality distorting devices.

His body washed up in the river about a week later. I’m really happy that this mystery wasn’t dropped as the comic evolved, it would have driven me nuts. The “Chorale for Jaspers” sounds like a slowed down “Showtime” with cat noises edited in but I’m not a music person so I might be mixing up the tunes involved.

Hey, remember Trickster Mode?

Homestuck wear the scarf be the rider
Wear the scarf. Be the rider.

Rose realizes what happened to Jaspers body; she fulfills her temporal obligations and formulates an escape plan.

Ten seconds to spare.

Bec, it turns out, is immune to Jade’s special sight which must mean he is somehow invisible to Skaia itself, hmm… He doesn’t turn up, quite, so Jade goes looking for the package that dropped from the sky while she was playing her bass.

John meanwhile is in his father’s room, which turns out to be… disappointingly ordinary.

Homestuck Dad's room

Turns out John never bothered to actually ask his dad what he did for a living, he just assumed he was a clown, but now it seems like he was an ordinary business man.

Though that may depend on your definition of “ordinary”.

Who’s this guy?

In an interesting twist on the kids’ introductions, it’s Andrew Hussie who tries and fails to enter a name for our new character.

Though that has a nice ring to it.

When that doesn’t work he “takes another stab at it” (how appropriate) and commands the fellow to state his name and rank. This it seems is Archagent Jack Noir who oversees things in the Dark Kingdom. He watches events through his Fenestrated Walls, of which he only has three because the fourth was stolen.

Psst, it’s in Jade’s room.

Jack harbors a deep hatred for his mandatory attire, especially the hat. This is a crucial plot point. We see him summon someone who looks awfully familiar to deal with the prisoner.

The bar codes once again establishing the sort of being we’re dealing with.

The black queen makes her first appearance, taking issue with Jack’s wardrobe.

Pictured: Dad, taking care of business.

Dad is the image of an impeccable father figure, he had better birthday presents for John stashed in the back. I bet that stupid harlequin doll was meant as a gag gift. I can remember when I had a strict policy about saving the biggest present for last. Anyway, John starts with the smallest.

I remember being disappointed when the Array fetch modus was introduced because it was too useful. John soon fixed that of course, though now I wonder if Array is what he’s using all the time. Next, he unwraps some gushers, and then finally some spiffy new threads. Remember when the characters in this comic used to change their clothes?

John plays around with his new inventory system and goes for the Gushers, but…

IS NOTHING SACRED?!?

Jade attempts to retrieve her package but first she has to face down her devilbeast. The first time I ran into this strife I found it boring. Now I realize how important it is, it establishes Bec’s powers. If I’d paid closer attention, Aradia’s later use of Bec Noir as a transportalizer might have made sense to me.

Homestuck Bec the first guardian

I’m not a huge fan of “Dissension” though I do like “Carefree Victory” as a contrast. The former feels over dramatic, though I suppose this is an important moment, one that I overlooked initially.

Jade is all tuckered out after that. Bec tucks her into bed, awww.

Rose has made it back to her mother’s bedroom, which as I mentioned has no bed.

Mom’s alcoholism has been downplayed in light of recent events, but I do think it’s terrible. Rose might have been overstating the differences between herself and her Guardian, their passive aggressive struggle, but she has a legitimate complaint to make. This is some weird bullshit even for a comic.

Also, it’s a hell of a fire hazard.

While Rose’s house goes up like a Molotov Cocktail, John messes about creating more punch cards to alchemize, and Jade is all snuggled up in bed and having sweet dreams when this thing appears.

This is Jade’s dreambot, it’s synced up with her dreamself.  She uses it to obliquely foreshadow the distant future.

Dream Jade attempts to climb into bed but can’t sleep. She feels this heavy metallic presence pressing down on her. I realize, belatedly, that Jade’s narcolepsy might well spring from her dreamself’s chronic exhaustion.

Dreamselves can fly. This is one of those things we just accept.

This is the second time (I believe) that we see the GT initials. The first was during in-universe MSPA’s intermission.

There’s a gentle jab at the audience, teasing us about having to wait to find out what’s in this package. This brings us back into the past.

Things to note: the month on the calendar and the scribbles on the wall.

John and Jade discuss birthday presents. I think having all his friends birthdays fall close together probably makes them easier to remember. Anyway, it turns out that all the kids have been dealing with trolls. Jade in particular has had to cope with twelve of the motherfuckers for years. She’s actually come to be amused by some of them. John decides to change his chumhandle to throw them off. I remembered reading something Hussie wrote about this on formspring so I went and sifted through the old archives to find it.

There is further rationale for John’s defection from the pattern, from GT to EB, which possibly will never be explained in the story. What caused him to defect was the trolls, a group ostensibly lead by CG, whose name obviously implies cancerous disruption within a genetic system, or a DNA code. His cancerous influence causes a defect in the full string of genetic characters, from GT TT TG GG | CG GC GA AG AC CA TA AT TC CT AA CC to EB TT TG GG | CG GC GA AG AC CA TA AT TC CT AA CC. This is the nature of cancer, to corrupt genetic data. There may be additional relevance to the fact that John defected to ectoBiologist, the name of a pseudo-science sounding similar to carcinoGeneticist. In fact, I believe this will prove to be relevant later on.

We all know that Homestuck failed biology forever when it comes to how genes and cancer work, but I still find this interesting. It shows two things about Karkat. The first and foremost being his harmful influence on the universe he created. The second is the tendency of people to fall in line behind him, to do what he says and imitate him even when they don’t like him.

Back in the present, such as it is, John and Rose have made it back to their respective rooms. I find Rose’s dedication to continuing to play amazing, and yet what else is there to do? She does, rather pointedly, ask after Dave and her response to John’s statement that he’s probably off fighting his Bro is somewhat flat.

They discuss what to do next and John points out how the imps have trashed his room. Rose says that his room has always looked that way to her and provides pictures to prove it. John’s aghast and believes for a moment that she must have doctored the photos before realizing she’d have no reason to do so. We, being astute readers, noticed the scribbles on the wall back when he was talking to Jade in December. Did I say that John’s false epiphany about his father was useless? Not entirely so, it seems to have dropped the scales from John’s eyes, and thus ours as well. Or perhaps it was the Crocker Gusher revelation, one or the other. I wonder again how much the kids’ perspectives influence what we see. I also note that when confronted by Rose about his posters, John starts typing in ALL CAPS.

Back in the future…

WV has run into problems, mainly there’s no way down off his pod. Fortunately, someone left a bunch of cable hanging from some kind of harpoon up on the ruins. He dashes inside to appearify the cable but ends up with the blue package instead. There is a note.

The interesting thing about chess people is how incredibly faithful some of them are. They don’t really know Jade but they’ll do anything to deliver her package for her. This doesn’t have anything to do with alignment either. WV and PM both share this dedication to helping others. I find it endearing even if it’s part of their programming and not entirely born of altruism. Jack Noir and his gang certainly aren’t so trustworthy.

Considering the chess people are so black and white, we’re about to meet one who’s a little more grey.

Meet the Aimless Rebel. He only gets one introductory panel, and he’s preparing to take down WV and PM.

Rose not only manages to focus on the game while her house is burning down around her, she helps John through his mental break.

TT: I might have to adopt a different building strategy.
TT: Stick to more load-bearing walls, and blockier shapes, especially since grist has been easier to come by lately.
EB: ok, but you really must be running low on time by now, right?
TT: Right.
EB: STRIIIIIIDEEEERRRRRRRR!!!!!

Homestuck Prospit reveal

Dream Jade jams on her bass for us. It turns out that “ohgodwhat” from her remix list was simply the introduction to this piece, which is “The Beginning of Something Really Awesome”. This is an entirely appropriate selection for the animation that names Prospit. It’s also a long time favorite on my Homestuck playlist.

Dream Jade goes exploring, which causes Dreambot to also go out flying over the island. We see in the two images the similarities between the settings. There is a strong relationship between the island with the Frog Temple and this golden planet.

Jade sees someone familiar.

WV manages to restrain himself from eating the deliciously green letter long enough to read it.

I don’t think I noticed the first time through, but when PM first sees WV she goes for her sword. The only reason she doesn’t attack him is that AR beats her to it.

The artwork in the exiles story is often more striking than that of the rest of the comic.

AR fires on both of them and they end up taking cover behind the same rock.

Back on Prospit, Jade goes to check out her neighbor in the next tower. Now we know what Jade meant when she said she was literally waiting for John to wake up.

I was so enamored with the idea of dreamselves once upon a time. I don’t know as the comic ever found time to really explore to concept. They ended up being dismissed as “extra lives” when they felt like so much more.

John plays around with alchemizing, trying different ways of combining cards. He makes himself even more new clothes, some wearable computer glasses, a gigantic hammer, some healing ectoplasm gushers, ghost hand gloves that allow him to remotely wield the gigantic hammer, a razor blade umbrella that will sadly never see use, and the Betty Crocker Barbasol Bomb.

This would be what Hussie calls retroactive foreshadowing.

He finds out that you can also remake items by playing around with hole punches. He uses this method to save his Ghost Dad poster (ugh). I feel like the question “What would the combination of the Problem Sleuth poster and the hammer have made?” got answered at some point and I’ve forgotten it. Does anyone remember?

There’s also the Wrinklefucker.

So awesome.

This is how the tradition of holiday grist spending, hoard building came to be. Doesn’t your heart warm at the thought? I know mine does.

Meanwhile, on the roof…

Homestuck Bro Versus Dave

I was worried this flash would give me feelings the way the last one did, but actually it’s very quick. This is the strife where Bro breaks Dave’s sword and the record on his shirt, also the one where Lil’ Cal is torn apart. This is something else I struggle with. Lil’ Cal is a juju, we have been told, so that means he can’t be destroyed unless a copy is introduced into the timeline. I know there are people out there who have charted this puppet’s timeline. Does anyone want to explain how this works better than I can? Finally, if we’re going with the theory that Cal was influencing Bro’s behavior the whole time, does this affect how Bro behaves later? Many people have been pointing out how Bro does seem to want to protect Dave. Perhaps he was briefly freed from the evil mannequin’s malign influence?

On a side note, I find “Versus” to be a much more bearable rendition of “Beatdown.”

There’s another animation only two pages later, it’s an expanded version of John’s dream earlier. This time we get Jade’s perspective as well, and we learn what was up with that meteor that crashed. Actually, she was dreaming about Bec’s arrival on planet Earth, which is another thing we now know to be tied in with Sburb and Skaia. We also see Bec preventing Jade from entering the Frog Temple. I like how the pesterlog is incorporated into the animation so that the conversation doesn’t feel separate from the surrounding events but properly part of the overall flow. Jade’s next chat with John is considerably less annoying now that we know what’s up. Jade decides to sneak out her window while Bec’s taking a nap and we see the events that led up to WV appearifying the package in the distant future.

Rose has been hard at work.

Dave regroups and finally gets in touch with Rose. She is in her room, contemplating the fire outside and her birthday present to John. We head back in time to see what prompted this facetious show of sentimentality. I find John’s letter to Rose to be surprisingly mean. What’s so depressing about an interest in horrorterrors? Who asked you, John? Anyway, Rose must have decided he meant well because she accepts the gift. This segues into the first conversation we see between Rose and Kanaya. It is hilarious in hindsight.

By contrast, John’s letter to Dave is surprisingly sweet and encouraging. He’s definitely right about Dave needing to break free and forge his own identity apart from his Bro. Like I said before, Dave doesn’t just wear those glasses as a joke; he makes them part of his identity and I don’t think it’s anything to do with irony. Again, in light of recent events and Dave’s admission of feeling totally unloved through his first thirteen years of life, this gift obviously meant a great deal.

This segues into the first conversation with Tavros. It was hilarious then, it is hilarious now. I can’t help but notice that Dave uses Rose’s ethnic wedding joke. Now we can attribute it to them being related, rather than being written by the same dude.

Meanwhile, AR is still trying to decide if he wants to shoot the interlopers on his self proclaimed territory. He’s an interesting fellow. Unlike WV, he hasn’t entirely rejected the kingdom he came from and he’s still struggling to enforce it’s laws. The ban on depicting amphibians for example.

Retcon spotted.

He’s found one of Grandpa Harley’s weapon stashes and he can’t let go of his old sense of order. He’s even less able to break free of patterns than WV is. PM too is not entirely free from old habits, as her nearly avoided attack demonstrates.

This is probably some kind of coping mechanism. Yeah…

PM reads the letter from Jade, but it’s instructions don’t quite match up.

Until AR takes a hand in things.

WV distracts AR, getting himself blown sky high in the process, so that PM can deliver Jade’s package. Which arrives many years in the past on a young girl’s birthday.

Thus John sends a package so late that it arrives several years early.

Inside the package is a T-shirt with a blue slime ghost, to match with John’s green slime ghost (I hadn’t realized before but John and Jade are wearing each other’s colors, green ghost and blue atom), and some packets of pumpkin seeds. In his letter, he thanks Jade for introducing him to Rose and Dave. Since Jade doesn’t know any of these people she’s intrigued. She decides to ask her grandfather to let her plant pumpkins in the atrium and try out gardening.

Remember what I said earlier about Karkat’s influence over people? This is a trait he shares with John. Subtly, gently, without really meaning to, John shapes the course of his friends’ lives. The changes he makes are so small, yet so fundamental, that they affect everything.

But enough of that, it’s time for another story transition.

Jack is preparing to finish Dad off himself when…

You release the prisoner. He is free to go.

It’s these little touches that keep Jack from being someone I straight up hate.

Jade uses a Legend of Zelda reference to reach the Frog Temple and Dave’s finally installing the beta. I love their little exchange.

TG: alright im installing this game finally
TT: Where doing this man?
TG: yeah
TG: you could almost say
TG: where making this
TT: Go on.
TT: What is it where making this?
TG: TRANSPIRE
TG:
TT: Excellent.
TT: Let’s make shit take place.


I don’t have a lot to say about Enter other than that it’s still one of my favorite moments in Homestuck. There are a lot of little links being connected, Dave breaking the wizard’s arm, Jade retrieving Dave’s copy of Sburb, Nannasprite writing that letter and sending it off to John, the pod WV found being the cork of the bottle Rose broke to gain entry to the Medium.

All the kids’ entries are a reference to some kind of beginning. John’s was about sacrificing innocence in order to gain knowledge and humanity, and thus mortality. Rose breaks a bottle like she’s launching a ship on its maiden voyage. She also takes a leap of faith, which is quite an act for someone who has been shown up to this point as being deeply distrustful of others. She’s mentioned her doubts about Dave’s reliability on multiple occasions, well-founded doubts it must be said. He comes through at the last moment, but the video seems to make a point of it being Jaspers who saves her in the end, not Dave. Though it could be argued that Jaspers was able to save her because Dave did was he was supposed to before running off after the birds in his room. Perhaps I’m reading too much into a moment that was simply meant to build suspense, but I don’t think we’re meant to give Dave any credit for saving Rose, not yet.

We zoom out from John’s house as the scope of our story expands yet again.

And so Act 3 ends.

Before I go anywhere I want to show you something Draconaes made for me over on the forum, ’tis a thing of beauty.

Behold!

You too can join The Roxening.

So yes, my 2k word limit was a polite fiction that I never managed to maintain. I either need to cover fewer pages or say less. The trouble is, it’s hard to follow one piece of narrative in Homestuck to it’s conclusion because the whole thing jumps around so much. Well, if you’ve made it to Session Eight, you’ve proven a willingness to read. Now we’re on Intermission. The Management would like to take this opportunity to remind you not to bleed on the suits.

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3 thoughts on “Session Eight: Back in the Saddle

    1. True, but this was before Peter Pan became a thing in Homestuck. I never associated Peter Pan’s ability to fly with dreams before, interesting… I know some people have flying dreams but I’m not one of them, maybe that’s why it never occurred to me.

      Like

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