In today’s edition of Study Hall, Crit and I tackle the 19th issue, which brings us the shocking finale to the ‘PE’ arc — and believe us, if there was ever a time where our spoiler warning mattered, it’s now.
So join Crit and I as we discuss the issue, its story and possible hidden secrets that we may or may not be picking up on. We should also note: this discussion contains massive spoilers for the issue. Colossal. Ginormous, even. The issue is out today, so make sure to read it first before you read our thoughts. It helps to give the issue a few read throughs before coming to us, but consider this your warning about impending spoilers.
As always, our very lovely/supremely awesome column header was designed by the graphic designer for the actual book, Tim Daniel! For more of Tim’s work, please visit his site Hidden Robot and be on the lookout for Tim’s upcoming comic debut, Enormous! Many thanks to Tim for being fantastically awesome and providing it to us.
Matthew Meylikhov: Welcome, all, to the latest installment of Study Hall! Today Crit and I will be discussing the finale to the third arc of Morning Glories, and it’s just a bit of a doozy, isn’t that right, Crit?
Crit Obara: It is the doozy-est!
MM: So before we begin looking at the insides of this comic, tell me — what did you think was going to happen in this issue? If you had to guess what was the outcome of this arc, what would you have thought that that was?
CO: Good question. I was thinking we’d see some conclusion to Woodrun – the kids would be out of the woods and so would we in the sense that we might see a bit of what exactly what was going on with it all. How about you?
MM: I would’ve imagined that they would return to whenever the academy is (notice I say WHENever), and that PE class would “end.” And that we may have gotten some insight into what the purpose of the Woodrun is, or was. That’s me operating under the idea that a given arc would “close off” a part of the story, though, which was very very wrong of me to assume.
CO: So we were thinking similar things. And yes, we were not correct!
MM: So we start exactly where the last issue let off, which was a murderous Zoe stands over an unfortunately dead body. The key difference between now and before was we can blatantly see Zoe’s face. I’ve always thought it important to note that Joe would angle the shots so you’d never see her directly, but now we see her… and she doesn’t look too disturbed or anything. What do you think the importance of us seeing her is?
CO: Well before having read the issue, I’d say it was to finally disclose what we’d believed for awhile. After reading it, it seems she’s being shown because something important is going to happen to her later.
MM: Do you think our previous theory about there being multiple personalities of some form or fashion in Zoe still stands?
CO: Yes. After this issue, I still think so. Do you?
MM: Very much so after the issue, sure, but in this scene I questioned it a bit. The thing, I think, to notice is that despite the fact that we’re finally seeing her face, it looks to me — and I can’t tell if this is intentional or not, but knowing Nick and Joe, I’d guess it probably is — that Zoe has some kind of calm clarity about her situation. Something along the lines of, “Wait, where am I? Huh? Oh… dead body… I’ve been doing that again, have I?” You’ll also notice that once she SEES Hunter, we stop seeing her face for quite some time.
CO: You’re right. After she sees him, we can’t see her face. And the panels on page 1 where we clearly do see her face, she does look calm. Not the look you’d expect in the eyes of someone who just knifed someone. else.Continued below
MM: It also depends on why she did it, as well. I mean, outside of Zoe being a “bad person” or whatever, we have to ask what did Maggie do to deserve to be knifed. Outside of liking Hunter, that is. I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to wonder if Maggie wasn’t some kind of double agent? I saw a film this weekend, and I won’t say the title because it is in theaters and this is a “spoiler,” but basically there was someone working for a rival organization that was sent to the film’s protagonist to seduce him, acting as she’d been in love with him forever and was head over heels for him. Do you think that could be what happened with Maggie? Or is Zoe just a cold-blooded killer?
CO: If Maggie’s backstory gets told and we see how she ended up with a knife in her, I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s a double agent of some kind, or even somehow (accidentally, even) knew too much or something she wasn’t supposed to, or even was for some reason in Zoe’s way. Then again, Zoe might just be a killer.
MM: How would you explain her going after Hunter?
CO: I’m not really sure. Again though this might be cliche I think it’s possible that she has a list in her mind of people who are for one reason or another ‘in the way.’ Of what? Not sure what her ultimate goal is or why she’s killing. Do you have any ideas?
MM: I’m not sure. The surface value answer would be that he saw too much and therefore he must go, but that seems so simplistic an idea for Morning Glories. You have to imagine that there is something working in the background, and without us discussing the ending of the issue too much (since, you know, we’ll get to it), my gut reaction would be that if Maggie is some kind of double agent for “the rival faction” — whatever that may be — that Zoe is now going to take out Hunter because Maggie was trying to “turn” him. Either that, OR Zoe is the “double agent,” and is taking out Hunter before he can tell someone about it, even though there is no way that Hunter knows anything.
CO: Zoe as the double agent, I can see that too. She has to take him out for fear that he knows something, even if he really doesn’t, she can’t take that chance either way.
MM: I think I may be watching too many spy films, or movies that deal with conspiracies and what not, because it’s all I see!!!
CO: Well your ideas are certainly plausible!
MM: Alright, so lets stop talking about Hunter and Zoe for a while and talk about the sequence of events that this issue is interspersed with — specifically, the death of Hunter’s mom. The first thing I noticed here, and this is probably just a little detail to show the connectivity of it all, but when we started with the flashbacks and had a Hunter issue back in #8, it opened with him running in a similar style as we see in this issue. Granted, the parallel here is supposed to connect us between the panel of the previous page with Hunter fleeing from Zoe, but that struck me as a thing as well.
CO: Interesting catch. In my notes I wrote how he’s running in woods / running out of school, same pose, person behind him, but the person you’d think would be shouting at him (Zoe) isn’t, but this other guy is, just to be a dick.
MM: That kid is like the universe’s physical manifestation of the device that makes sure Hunter is never on time.
CO: Haha. Poor guy. And then he gets to the hospital, just a bit behind schedule.
MM: As always.
CO: This might be stupid, but he arrived a few minutes late, and his mom says that his aunt left a few minutes before he got there, and then I was wondering who his aunt is and trying to decide if I thought it mattered and then I was pretty sure I was just going crazy.Continued below
MM: That’s not a bad call. A lot of things in the Gloryverse are connected in ways we haven’t thought of. There’s no reason that couldn’t be something important down the line.
CO: Alright, I’m putting that note away for now.
MM: This scene is pretty sad as a whole, but the important thing to note about it is that his mother is urging him to apply for Morning Glory Academy. She asks him why he hasn’t sent in the submission yet and calls him out on stalling, but a lot of her dialogue seems rather purposeful with its word choice: “You WILL get in.” “THAT is where my son belongs.” “You have TALENT.” “You are SPECIAL.” “You’re just gonna have to… take my word for it.” It’s like she knows something. Every parent says that about their kids, but this seems a bit more… on point.
CO: She seems so sure. I also liked that in the final panel of this page, she looks so happy. She’s sick in bed but she looks so uplifted at the thought of him sending in his application.
MM: You kind of have to wonder if she is doing this not just because she wants her son to succeed, but because she is familiar with the school. We’ve seen parents in the book who have both been familiar and unfamiliar with it; Casey’s parents, for example, know nothing (at least not until she leaves and her dad checks out their website), Ike’s dad certainly knows quite a bit, Jun’s parents are dead and we know nothing about Zoe’s parents or even what Jade’s knew, if anything. Yet, the parental factor has ALWAYS been important about the book. Always, always, always. Given this situation, I find it hard to believe Hunter’s mom isn’t goading him on on purpose.
CO: I agree, I have a feeling she knows something. What exactly that is, I’m not sure. It could be about the school or what goes on there or why he’s special, but it’s something.
MM: So let’s hop back to the interspersed Zoe v Hunter chase sequence for a second, because there is one panel I want to talk about in particular.
CO: Hit me with it!
MM: We’ve seen the book imply that she is a “predator,” and last issue we saw Guillaume and Jun racing into the woods to find her, but all of the evidence we’ve ever seen about Zoe has told you and I that there is an internal schism between the girl Zoe and the murderer Zoe. With this part of the chase sequence, we get a close-up of her eyes, and they are glowing. Normal human eyes don’t glow, Crit! Not only that, but if you look at the borders of the panel, they’re slightly skewered, and Joe has told us in the past that it’s important to notice the borders of any given panel because they give subtle clues about the realism of the sequence within. It’s not that this isn’t happening, but it’s (I believe) a nudge that there is something else going on that the naked eye can’t see. So! Glowing eyes!! Tilted panel borders!! Crit, what do you make of all this?
CO: I think your Sherlockian work is very good. I’m on board. There’s something going on here that we are not quite aware of yet.
MM: Is this, or is this not, confirmation about multi-Zoe?
CO: I think it can only support the theory.
MM: It seems preeeeeeeetty blatant that that’s what is going on.
CO: She’s not a normal girl, that’s for sure.
MM: Poor Zoe. Moving back to the past, we’ve got Hunter watching TV while his mom sleeps. He’s watching who I believe is Jimmy Fallon, or at least a reasonable Jimmy Fallon facsimile, interview a young lady on his show. Her name is not mentioned, though, but Joe tells me that she is modeled after Amanda Seyfried in In Time.
CO: That’s a good info nugget right there.
MM: She says her dog was named after Ralph Waldo Emerson who was a leader of the Transcendental movement here in America. I prefer Thoreau to Emerson personally, but he had some interesting ideas and her quote hits on that. “He believed that the path to man’s salvation hid within himself.”Continued below
CO: This is the nudge Hunter maybe needs at this time to start thinking that he alone is responsible for his life and destiny. I like this scene because the last bit, “It’s time to stop running,” is kind of an obvious fourth-wall breaking moment both in terms of the New Mystery Girl talking to Hunter by his mother and the corollary to Hunter in the future.
MM: However, I do want to note that with what she’s saying about Emerson, none of that is a direct quote. In fact, for the life of me I could not find any quotes from which she (or Nick) could be pulling this information from, although admittedly it does somewhat fit in with Emerson’s thoughts on combining religion and science.
CO: Though individualism, the nature of and the possibilities of humans were big tenets of his writing.
CO: So to me, that was meant as “Hunter, you can do anything. It’s up to you. Go.” Kind of an activating speech that compounds what his mother just told him.
MM: And is unfortunately timed exactly with her death, which could relate to that as well in that his mother needs to stop running from the death that is coming for her. But that’s super dark, so it is probably less intentional than this being a motivator for Hunter is.
CO: Poor Hunter.
MM: The last panel on page 20 is a fantastic artistic representation of complete confusion and despair on his face, almost like he’s not even there. Oh, and one of the doctor’s running into his mom’s room looks like Turk from Scrubs.
CO: Haha, yes it does!
MM: I also want to note in that same panel that the TV isn’t on. Not sure if that is intentional or not, but we have seen evidence of Hunter looking at a computer and seeing something that wasn’t supposed to be there.
CO: Whoa, very interesting.
MM: Alright, so the finale. One thing of note before we begin – the scene begins with Hunter reaching a cliff with a brick wall beside him. What do you think that’s about?
CO: No clue. Any ideas?
MM: My first thought was the building we saw in the opening of issue #3, but I’m not sure. It does seem odd for the landscape, however.
CO: Hmm. Maybe!
MM: The dialogue here from Zoe is all very interesting. We talked a bit earlier about her being a double agent, and a predator, and someone with multiple personality disorder and whatnot. Now we have a very clear and very focused Zoe getting ready to knife who we thought was her friend, but what she says is “If it’s any consolation, I put you off as long as I could. Passed up the chance at least twice.”
CO: When she was a kid, she was visited by Abraham and we assumed he was working for him — but why would Abraham want to kill Hunter?
MM: I don’t know. She says it’s not Hunter’s fault, “but then you had to get nosy, right?”
CO: She was going to kill him anyway, though.
MM: Here’s a thought for you: In the last issue we have Zoe flashbacks, back in #15, she attends the funeral of her friend but she’s brought by someone we don’t see. Someone whose dialogue we see, but no faces. Can’t help but imagine that even though she was contacted by Abraham originally, whoever she’s talking to their is her “real” “boss.”
CO: Hmmm. Any guesses as to their identity?
MM: Not a clue! But hey, we know that Hunter is “special” and whatnot according to his mom, so assumedly someone needs him taken out of the picture — whoever the antagonist is.
CO: So he’s so special that he needs to be taken out? He’s kind of the key for lack of a better word for the MGA side of the war?
MM: Right. I mean, we’ve sort of assumed that there are two warring sides of the equation, with Abraham on one side and the Headmaster (or something) on the other.
CO: Okay, gotcha. I think that makes sense. In a big chess game there are pieces that are more important than others. I think that makes Zoe a pawn, then.
MM: Or at least a really sacrifice-able Bishop or something.Continued below
CO: I’d say so. Taking orders from above makes you a smaller piece.
MM: So she taunts Hunter quite a lot here, basically insinuating that he’s a mess and should die.
CO: Kind of mean, but not out of character.
MM: There’s also a line from Zoe here that reads, “I’m the one who’s willing to accept what I am! And what I have to do.” That kind of insinuates that the two halves of Zoe, the girl half and the predator half, are more in unison that we had previously thought, and our speculation about the beginning of the issue when Zoe “wakes up” and is ok with what she has just done would be correct, for lack of a better term.
CO: She knows who she is and what she has to do as opposed to Hunter who has no clue who he is or what he’s capable of, or why he’s “special.” She’s fully-realized (at least this version of her anyway) he is clueless.
MM: And then she gets shot. DEUS EX MACHINA INCARNATE.
CO: Boom! It really is. I also noted that the last thing he heard before his mom died was the TV saying “time to stop running.” Zoe’s second to last line is “it’s time to stop running.”
MM: Connections! And if you look closely, dead center in the middle of the blood, Joe wrote the word “BYE!” It’s a bit hard to miss, so look carefully.
CO: Hey, look at that!
MM: So what’d you think when Zoe got killed?
CO: I couldn’t believe it. That was my first thought. Which led to “they can’t really kill her…can they?” And I’m not sure about that. What were your thoughts?
MM: Two things. One, “Wow, people are going to be pissed.” Two, “Oh, good lord, I wonder what Joe looked at for reference shots…”
CO: Haha. Whatever he looked at could not have been pleasant.
MM: So Zoe lies dead. Hunter is perpetually in shock, and we have three “new” characters. I say new, because they’re not entirely new. On the left? Vanessa, who we last saw in issue #1 (she gave Brendan a smooch), in what appears to be a prison jumpsuit. Center? That’s definitely our new mystery gal from the TV earlier in the issue. And on the right? No clue, but he does look a little like Mike Bailey.
CO: What an ending.
MM: And the end of an arc, and both our initial impressions were clearly wrong. Or rather, assumptions.
CO: We were wrong. But I can’t wait to see what’s next.
MM: What are your assumptions about the next arc?
CO: I don’t know what my assumptions are because I feel like I’d likely be wrong… …but I hope that we can pick on each character, even those traveling abroad or dead (I feel like we haven’t seen the last of Zoe) and also find out more about the other side of the war. The non-MGA team. What are your assumptions, and what do you want to see?
MM: What I’d like to see? Haha. The answer to that would be “answers,” wouldn’t it? But that’s too easy.
CO: Of course.
MM: What would I like to see…. I’d like to see more Dagney. And that handsome fellow from issue #14 who put Zoe, Hunter and Jun into Woodrun. He should come back. What I think we’ll see, though, just from looking at the covers of upcoming issues, is a whole bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with the kids and everything to do with the faculty members and/or the history of the school, as well as perhaps some more confirmation of this war you and I keep talking about.
CO: So…Dagney, you, faculty, history, war. Got it! I’d be into that.
MM: Mostly Dagney, though. All Dagney, all the time!
CO: Maybe that’s too much. For everyone except you, I guess.
MM: Alright, well that about wraps it up for us. We’ll be back soon with our special audio commentary/chats with creators Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma, and we’ll see everyone at issue #20 for more annotations and theory discussions.
CO: Until next time!