2/10/10 – 3/4/10
pages 1358 – 1542
The opening of Act 4 is brilliant. Homestuck’s art style is fast and loose to accommodate the update schedule and the breezy adventure comedy tone, but it achieves moments of beauty as well. By and large, the comic and its setting could be described as whimsical, and I mean that in the best way, but it’s also grandiose. That’s almost a contradiction in and of itself, “grand” is such a heavy word while “whimsy” is light and airy, yet it’s apt. The Land of Wind and Shade is possessed of a grand whimsy, embodied by thousands of trapped fireflies, rivers of oil carved into bare stone, and many blue trees and mushrooms.
The interactive controls are a little less grand, being slow and rather slippery. I don’t think I explored very long on my first read, and I can see why. A persistent headache starts in the center of my forehead and begins to spread out from there before I’m a minute in. I’m not sure what’s causing it. I am one of those people prone to simulation sickness (I love video games but sometimes they make me need to go lie down until the nausea passes and my vision stops blurring over) so maybe this is related? I do my best to explore everything on this read through, because I don’t ever plan to come back to this particular page after this.
“Doctor” is a wonderful song pick for both this setting and John. It makes me wish I knew more about music so I could better explain why, but the combination of the heavy beat with the light twinkling melody is that grand whimsy I described earlier translated into sound.
There’s a lot more information stored in this interactive mini game than I remembered. I recalled looking at John’s house through the telescope, the pipes that allow the salamanders to send packages on the Breeze, and the description of the havoc caused by the sleeping Denizen, but I missed everything about the frogs. I knew Dersites hated amphibians but I thought this was to do with the Consorts being followers of the players. I didn’t understand that frogs were particularly important until Hivebent, but if you look around there’s destroyed frog statuary and Nannasprite out and out says that frogs are key to the game. She tells John he is the Heir when I remembered his title reveal as coming later. There’s also a cute scene with her feeding cookies to imps that reminds me of Tavros and Gamzee. One of the salamanders explains that it was Agents from the Kingdom of Darkness who put the Denizen up to clouding the air and gunking up the pipes. I wonder if that’s true.
There’s a new and decidedly different voice in John’s head now. We chat and then I spend some time collecting packages and attempting to deliver a hat and a shoe after having dropped all the shoes along the way, this begins an inventory cascade that makes me think I should have had more sympathy for John back in Act 1. The scene now thoroughly investigated, I gratefully exit stage right.
Back in the future, the metal sentries from the apple pod don’t like AR shooting at their new friend and return fire. AR beheads one with a rocket, much to PM’s dismay. Meanwhile, WV hits the ground, ending up with his pumpkin satchel on top of his head. AR sights in for the kill shot but when he sees the symbol on the pumpkin he abruptly changes his mind. He runs over to WV and assumes the most ingratiating posture of surrender imaginable, but it’s too little too late for PM’s liking.
In the same temple but at a different time, Jade has collected Dave’s game discs from the lotus blossom time capsule. She then gets bored and ejects everything from her fetch modus to try out another one. Jenga doesn’t really work out for her but eventually she settles (the poll settles) on the Pictionary fetch modus. With this modus she can create ghost cards for items she doesn’t have, which doesn’t net her the object itself but does provide a captcha code for it, awesome. Democracy for the win! Though I do remember Hussie saying on Formspring that devising a scribble that would convincingly replicate the face of Charles Dutton was one of the odder things he’s done artistically in what one must imagine has been an exceedingly odd career. Trying to get a captcha code for a pumpkin doesn’t work, and prompts what I assume is Jade’s dialogue to show up in the caption. The tangle buddies and the eclectic bass reveal some of the hazards of the Pictionary fetch modus. Before Jade can collect most of her stuff, Bec shows up and carries her back to her room.
Jade turns on her computer and starts installing Sburb. Several of the handles down in the TrollSlum are flashing. CG, of course, but also TC and AG, which is interesting because I have no memory of a chat between AG and GG.
She contacts John, who is finally on to her when it comes to knowing what she shouldn’t. I guess he’s allowed to be suspicious since it’s been revealed to the audience already. Jade says she couldn’t explain anything because it would have made things go wrong (how?) and John lets her off the hook. They sign off so Jade can get in touch with Dave and John can find Dad’s car, but before he gets anywhere he’s interrupted (this also leads to him talking in the caption).
Dave is having no better luck reaching Rose than John was. He does that thing where he talks to himself in chat. I admit, this is a thing I did too back in the days of AIM. I still sometimes continue to type messages to friends in Google hangouts after they’ve signed off. He attempts to read Rose’s walkthrough and is repulsed by its sheer verbosity. Jade messages him to let him know that she’s connecting with him as client player and that there’s a giant meteor heading for his apartment.
GG: so now it is my turn to be the star!
GG: i will be your hero
GG: its me
TG: wait what
GG: i installed the game!
GG: im connecting to you as the server player
TG: oh man
TG: this is ridiculous
TG: i just set this shit up with rose and now i got to do like
TG: some double duty thing
TG: i mean i own at the game and all but cant i just relax for half a second
GG: dont worry!
GG: you can keep playing with rose while i just set up a few things
GG: i figured id get a good head start to avoid all the drama you guys are always getting into
GG: such a bunch of drama queens!!!
Meanwhile, one of my favorite pesterlogs is taking place. I love the idea of two people becoming friends backwards. They have one very long day to do it in and by Act 5 it’s done. By the end of their sessions we understand why they are friends and how they need each other in order to survive. It works in context and that is amazing given such a crazy premise. In it’s silly way, this relationship serves as a perfect illustration of how increased knowledge deepens understanding of others which leads to empathy and then cooperation and finally some real affection. Time has certainly softened my perspective on this exchange. Karkat comes off as grumpy, weary and determined to me when I read it now rather than as a noxious asshole (which, granted, he is). At the time, I was too distracted making the connections back to Slick and the intermission to think much about him as a character.
CG: IT’S REALLY WEIRD.
CG: THIS HUMAN EMOTION YOU CALL FRIENDSHIP.
EB: friendship isn’t an emotion fucknuts.
CG: SEE, THAT IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.
CG: YOU’RE MUCH MORE TOLERABLE A GUY THAN I THOUGHT AT FIRST, OK JOHN?
Friendship: noun. the emotions or conduct of friends; the state of being friends.
WV, with his natural talent for diplomacy, knows that food is the lubricant that allows the cogs of society to turn.
Jade goes about deploying the alchemy devices and Dave goes about being his usual self, scolding Rose for not talking to him and then scolding her for distracting him. He leaps into action in order to defend his stuff.
TT: So you mean to tell me she was able to connect with you in a timely fashion, without waiting until you were on the brink of annihilation?
TG: we went over this
TG: i was a little bogged down
TG: in the epic swaddle of legendary puppet taint
TT: I’ve done nothing but wait for boys to play this game with me all day.
TT: First John lollygagging with the client, and then you with the server, downright filibustering my existence with unending fraternal melee.
TT: And yet a girl, one who didn’t even own the game, was able to connect with you minutes after you connected with me.
TG: whoa wait
TG: what the hell is she doing
TG: shes taking my bed what the hell
TT: And there she goes.
TT: She HAS the karma.
Jade’s got her work cut out for her navigating the minefield that is the Strider household. She doesn’t touch the puppets, Bro makes her nervous. The command that Jade should tidy up leads inevitably to towels being dunked in toilets and…
The Land of Light and Rain is beautiful, though LoWaS appeals just a touch more to my sensibilities. The animations leave me eager to explore these settings. It’s a shame that we don’t end up spending much time on the kids planets. There was a sense that each place was meant to have a profound connection to the personality of the hero, but all that sort of got left by the wayside over time. A little of the scene’s overall effect is spoiled by the command “AR: Cautiously drink Tab” underneath it.
Back with the carapacians, it’s been five minutes so the two boys have to start vying for the girl’s attention. AR heads back into the temple to pick up Jade’s fridge, cooker and tangle buddies while WV shows her the pod he arrived in. I can’t help but notice the prominently displayed frog toggle that the metal apple’s sendificator didn’t have.
PM was the second voice communicating with John. I like her; she uses complete sentences with punctuation and everything. We have a little review for anyone who might have missed things in the mini game (such as yours truly).
It’s now Rose’s turn to start hearing things. Apparently it is a queenly attribute to be able to use dialogue on screen.
Things are going about as well as can be expected back at the Strider residence.
There’s been discussion on the forums lately (I might have caused some of it) about the comparative amount of interaction we see between certain characters. In essence, how we almost never see Rose and Jade interact. A little of this disparity might be a result of the lineup. Rose and Jade never get to directly work together because of how they fall in the server/client daisy chain. That said, John and Dave never get to team up either but they certainly find time to talk to each other.
Anyway, these moments of direct interaction are revealing of the dynamic between characters. For instance, John is only just now coming to believe in Jade’s special powers (in the moment that they’re being shown to be not all that special) and Rose suspects a great deal but seems to have been circumspect about asking; Dave knows full well about Jade’s sleep typing and her dreambot. He even tricks her into waking herself up later. They seem to have shared a lot about their lives in between flirting and exchanging remixes. Though he’s still paranoid about peeing with her watching his apartment. I’m glad we got the question of what happens when someone needs to use the bathroom out of the way. While Dave is otherwise occupied, Jade finds the slain crow and decides to do something about it.
Dave’s exile is quite taken with Jade’s exile. He offers her the tangle buddies, which brings back PM’s memory of their previous encounter, back when they were the Authority Regulator and the Parcel Mistress.
Meanwhile in this time frame, John has discovered a salamander village that’s under attack. He attempts to help but is overwhelmed by enemies more powerful than any he’s yet encountered. Even dual wielding Wrinklefucker and Pogo Hammer along with his ghost gauntlets and the Sassacrusher isn’t enough to make much of a dent. He’s about to be eaten when a mysterious gentlemen steps in and takes down all the enemies with a few well placed blasts from his blunderbuss.
Future PM is stargazing when she remembers something she has to do. We go back to present day PM steeling herself to ask an enemy agent to please hand over the packages he’s confiscated from John’s car. She’s not a sword wielding heroine, yet, just a simple postal worker who intends to do her job.
AR is years away from becoming the rocket wielding maniac we first encountered. He is polite to PM, recognizing the carved tablet John sent as a legitimate claim to the Sburb disc but finding himself unable to surrender the green package. PM quickly places the disc in an empty pyxis (one of the pipes) and then follows AR in hopes of retrieving the package.
The salamander village has been emptied of monsters but is still on fire. John attempts to smother the flames with the Betty Crocker Barbasol Bomb, because he’s thirteen and knows nothing about shaving cream.
John starts to panic but then a convenient gust of wind puts out the fire.
This seems like a good moment to say a bit about the Heir class. Most of the classes have been left fairly ill defined in comic; I believe in order to allow for narrative wiggle room. Furthermore, John’s title was probably chosen for pun’s sake, but let’s sit down and contemplate the ramifications anyway.
The first definition of an heir is “a person legally entitled to the property or rank of another on that person’s death”. The idea here is someone who is handed power they didn’t have to earn. That is the situation we’re seeing at work in this scenario. John doesn’t have to summon the Breeze, he doesn’t even to need to think of it, it simply comes to him. We see this with Equius later. Things around Equius are hidden from the likes of Doc Scratch in spite of the fact that Equius might not even know who Doc Scratch is or why he’s dangerous. This actually could be what gets him killed. It’s telling that Gamzee takes out Equius, and his inconvenient power, first. The game mechanic analogy would be a player who starts the session with access to all their powers but no tutorial or pop ups to tell him what those powers are or what they do.
There’s a second definition of the word “heir”, a person inheriting or continuing the legacy of a predecessor. Initially being an Heir is about ignorance, or innocence if you prefer that word (and symbolism). The player is handed a gift. The salamanders celebrate John even though he’s done nothing. On a deeper level, being an Heir means obtaining the knowledge to use that gift correctly. We’ll talk about it when John gets there.
Amidst the celebration, PM contacts John and instructs him to carve the tablet that set her on the quest for the discs and the package.
Rose is exploring LoLaR when she discovers some footprints in the sand. She and Vodka Mutini follow them to the hatch where the cat mausoleum used to be and head down the ladder.
The tunnel that led to Skaianet Laboratory now leads to a dock, one that once had a boat tied up to it.
Mom doesn’t seem to have ever been physically abusive to Rose but neglect is still a thing. I don’t want to start an argument about who was worse, Bro or Mom (it was Bro), but I do wonder if Mom ever regretted the lack of honest communication as much as poor Rose ended up doing. One wonders why Mom found it so necessary to retreat into a world of booze and pink wizard dolls, but such mysteries are probably forever beyond our understanding.
Back in Exile Town, WV and AR are bonding. We see that WV’s thing is still being the leader, while AR’s main concern seems to be maintaining order and protecting the innocent. So far we’ve seen AR take on the role of judge and of militia captain. PM doesn’t seem to need to pretend to be anything other than herself. Then…
Dave’s not sure what to make of his entry object. He decides that the obvious thing to do is smash it, but seppucrow has other ideas.
Dave and Jade discover that each time a player enters the Medium they get more items to deploy and more build grist to use. While John and Rose only had 20 grist to start with, Dave has 200 and Jade is working with 2000. They deploy some of their new toys and experiment. One of their new tools is gristtorrent, a program that allows players to share grist. Dave nabs some of John’s shale and sets the program to keep leeching off John’s cache.
John is busy chatting with Rose. They compare notes about lands and trolls. Then there’s this interesting exchange:
EB: so dave came through?
TT: Pardon the envy I’m about to vent in your direction.
EB: for what?
TT: For finding yourself at the mercy of a rational orchestrator.
EB: oh, haha.
EB: yeah, i’d feel kinda weird if dave was watching me too.
TT: You don’t feel weird when I watch you?
EB: rose i feel weird when you’re just TALKING to me, when you’re watching me it’s just like the weird frosting on the big weirdo cake.
The shippers made mountains out of conversations like this, but I think Rose and John are discussing legitimate doubts about Dave’s capacities here. These two have a more challenging relationship. While conversations between Rose and Jade felt cooperative, John and Rose seem to butt heads. John picks on all his friends, but the comments directed at Rose are pretty pointed. I can’t help thinking back to the letter he sent for her birthday. Possibly, on some level he understands that Rose would resist outright affection but is naturally inclined to accept criticism and consider it as helpful feedback. I think if John had been on the meteor certain issues would have been easier to overcome.
Rose is curious about John’s statement that the trolls want to be friends and decides to see what the one pestering her is after.
GC: H3Y L4LOND3
GC: STOP CRY1NG 1N YOUR MOMS B3V3R4G3
GC: SH3 H4T3S YOU 4ND H4S L3FT YOU FOR3V3R
GC: H3H3H3H >8D
Terezi is an all around more competent troll than Karkat. She states that she will hate the humans forever but nevertheless intends to be helpful. She’s also the logical one, having decided to start communicating with the kids at the beginning of their adventure rather than the end, unlike some trolls she knows. I’d forgotten what a font of information she is. In a single conversation she reveals that she is the Seer of Mind, explains the Exiles, mentions the Reckoning, talks about the self fulfilling time loops that make up the Mob1us Doubl3 R34charound that is the game, and names Paradox Space. She even uses the same terminology Rose did when explaining how the game sets up quests customized for individual players. She also claims time travel gives her a headache, but we know she’ll prove pretty adept at manipulating timelines later. There are strong similarities between Rose and Terezi, which is why I believe Terezi bails and starts messing with John and Dave instead; they’re altogether easier to steer. I do have to wonder how she knew what a mom is though.
We jump into the past to see a conversation with another troll.
CG: I JUST HAVE TO DELIVER A MESSAGE AND THEN I’LL GO.
CG: IT IS A MESSAGE FROM YOU, SO YOU PROBABLY OUGHT TO LISTEN.
GG: this is nonsense
GG: every time i believe something you say you laugh at me and call me a gullible human!!!!
GG: its so childish
CG: OK FINE I ADMIT IT, I COMPLETELY SHIT THE BED HERE.
CG: I GET THAT.
CG: AND I CAN’T PROMISE I WON’T KEEP TROLLING YOU.
CG: CAUSE I WILL, IN WEEKS OR MONTHS OR WHATEVER.
CG: I’LL KEEP GIVING YOU A HARD TIME, BUT SEE THAT WON’T BE PRESENT ME.
CG: THAT’S PAST ME.
CG: FROM LIKE A HALF HOUR AGO OR SO, WHEN I WAS MORE HOT AND BOTHERED ABOUT ALL THIS, OK?
That last line is one of my favorites. Anyway, Karkat tells her that after her dreambot explodes she needs to get in touch with him. She obviously doesn’t buy this for a minute, because who would, and Karkat signs off in disgust.
After he’s gone, someone sendificates a green package to Jade. It’s her pen-pal, who has been helping her work on her present to John. Meanwhile, John gets a message.
GC: WHY WOULD YOU L4UGH 4T 4 BL1ND G1RL
GC: YOU H4V3 NO 1D34 HOW MUCH YOU D1SGUST M3
GC: YOUR3 4 TOT4L D1SGR4C3 TO TH3 F13LD OF 3CTOB1OLOGY
GC: 1F W3 3V3R M33T
GC: 1M GO1NG TO CUT YOUR THRO4T
GC: 4ND L1ST3N TO YOU BL33D WH1L3 1 SM3LL YOU D13
Back in the future, or possibly the present, PM is in pursuit of the agent who took the green package. I love how she simply teleports in to the Dark Kingdom with a parking citation, just because there’s an eternal war on doesn’t mean civic bureaucracy must stop. When PM gets lost she even ends up asking the Black Queen for directions.
Turns out all tedious paperwork is under the purview of Archagent Jack Noir.
Back on LoLaR another queen takes her leave.
Rose suddenly feels empowered to make her own decisions. She decides to mark her entry into adulthood by trying her mother’s martini.
This feels like a natural stopping point. Join me next time for rocket packs, time shenanigans and horrible consequences in Session Eleven.