You guys demanded it. Nick and Joe encouraged us to do it. Now we’ve done it: my partner in crime Crit Obara and I have sat down and studied the first six issues of Morning Glories! Today we’ve got the first issue, and we’ll have a new version of this column up daily this week, with our studies of #6 and #10 up next week! Get excited.
As a note, these columns contain massive spoilers. The issue has been out for quite some time now, but as a note if you have not read the issue yet you will have the ending ruined for you, as well as other key elements of the book. While a lot of what we say is just theorizing and speculation, some of it is a reflection of the latest issues as well up to the 9th issue. So. Read the issues. Then read our thoughts. Agreed? Good.
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. Many thanks to Tim for being fantastically awesome and providing it to us.
Click behind the cut for the discussion!
Matthew Meylikhov: Hello, and welcome to Study Hall! Throughout this week by popular demand, Crit and I will be going over the first six issues of the series (which is kind of cheating given what we know now, but oh well!). SAY HI, CRIT!
Crit Obara: HI, CRIT!
MM: Are you ready to begin our epic trek through the over-sized first issue?
CO: I sure am!
MM: Alrighty then! So. Page 1. A page that has been noted to be ridiculously important by the series creators. How about that page, eh?
CO: Knowing it’s been said to be so important, I went to it…and couldn’t figure anything out. I kept going back to it and still, really not sure what to make of the comment. How about you?
MM: Well, there are a few things we can take from it. A man is waiting in what we can ASSUME is a hospital or nursing ward somewhere, and he is rather nervous about… something. On top of that, he has a little note that says “For A Better Future”, which is our recurring background slogan throughout the title – so it is connected to the school somehow. Obviously. While I don’t know what it is, the one bit that really caught on to me was this: the man asks “is SHE all right?” and the responding nurse says “it’s probably best if you just come with me.”
CO: Sounds like someone from the school has been injured, and he needs to go with her nurse…and he’s not sure what to make of the note. So we are left to wonder who is “she,” who is he. and why does the nurse not just answer the question.
MM: I actually thought it might be a father waiting for a daughter to be born. That was the initial impression that I got.
CO: Interesting…a miraculous birth of some kind. If that’s the case, I’d probably guess it was Jade. Just a guess.
MM: Yeah, I was thinking it might be the birth of one of the characters we have met. I also think the suit on the character is a clue, but I’m not entirely sure to whom. I mean, there is a “head master” at the school who is never seen… so it could possibly be him? But I was also trying to find someone wearing similar apparel throughout the comic, and nothing really clicked immediately.Continued below
CO: The headmaster is another good guess. Like you said, he’s still a mystery.
MM: We’ve never seen him, so he could be anyone. And considering we don’t see a face here, and the headmaster is referred to as a “he”, this could be him.
CO: That would be interesting. What do you think the chances are we’ll see that scene?
CO: I think so too. I feel like it might not be for awhile, but I hope it’s soon!
MM: So we turn the page and are introduced to, for the first time, Morning Glory Academy! With “For A Better Future” written on the wall in the first panel, of course. And here we get to meet Miss Daramount as well as Akiko, who is caught passing a note during Daramount’s lecture.
CO: My thought on the note passing was perhaps that very note is the note we see on the first page. I don’t know how it makes sense and don’t believe it, but it should be noted (ha!) that there’s that note in the man’s hands and then this note being passed in class.
MM: It’s a nice thought, but why would Akiko pass a note that says “For A Better Future” in a class with the same thing written on the wall?
CO: Right… it doesn’t seem to make sense.
MM: Not really, hahaha. Sorry!
CO: It’s okay, I did say that I couldn’t really get it to work even though I liked the idea of it.
MM: True. Given what comes next, I assumed that Akiko is passing some kind of note of rebellion.
CO: Because she’s been working with nitrogen triiodide. And the thing about nitrogen triiodide is that it’s unstable and it only takes a small amount of it to make a big kaboom. And it’s somewhere in the classroom on a dry surface.
MM: This is the first instance of Nick Spencer using science as a weapon in the comic, and I gotta say I love that it’s in there. And I also feel that this all somehow connects to Casey, who is the next character to make a big kaboom with science.
CO: Ooo, nice one. Casey is the physics scholar, after all.
MM: Right. So Akiko, while explaining her science project, has rigged the chalkboard to blow up as soon as Daramount ignites the nitrogen triiodide, and there are two important things to note from this. 1) That Akiko is just a diversion, and 2) Daramount does not appeal to be injured even remotely, which I find odd. I mean, we’ve seen Daramount in future issues at a younger age, and she looks about the same as she does now. Then she has something LITERALLY blow up in her face, and she doesn’t even get a scratch?
CO: I didn’t even think of 2, and now I feel like I really should have noted that…she ends up on the ground if I remember right, but she’s unharmed. Strange.
MM: You don’t see her face directly at first, but then she straightens her hair and glasses and – no other damage. She’s got some dust on her face, but you’d think a direct explosion like that would.. I dunno, kill her?
CO: She should probably be in little pieces all over the room. Pieces so small that there would be no identifiable remains.
MM: At the very least maybe have a thing or two sticking out of her face that was imbedded in there due to the proximity. Something is definitely up with her unbreakable skin there!
CO: Maybe it’s Maybelline?
MM: MYSTERY SOLVED!
MM: I can’t wait until Morning Glories #75, where the final reveal is given to Casey, with a bloodstained headmaster standing over her. “So now you know, Casey,” he says. “Maybe you were born with it…. or maybe it was Maybelline.” THE END.
CO: Now I hope no one reads this, we just gave away the ending of the series.
MM: Oops.Continued below
CO: Strike from the record! Okay, so the diversion is from Vanessa and Brendon, who we meet as they run down the halls.
MM: Yes, assumedly to some kind of escape that they’ve coordinated. I have heard a rumor from a reader of Multiversity that Brendon is an important character, and I do want to point out that he is theoretically wearing the outfit of the character on the first page.
CO: Ooo, nice.
MM: I don’t have any definitive connection to make for it, especially considering what happens next, but the thought came to me.
CO: And what happens next is the first appearance of the cylinder.
MM: Although right before that, we see Brendon kicking a fair deal of ass, implying he has had some kind of training.
CO: He certainly can fight. But then…big trouble.
MM: He also has no idea what the Cylinder is. I actually had had a thought that maybe Brendon was an agent of Abraham, since we have our popular theory that Abraham is training kids to take down MGA… but I’d imagine Abraham might warn/tell Brendon about the Cylinder, so that doesn’t seem right.
CO: Yes, I’m sure he would have informed him about this crazy cylinder, though I like your thinking on that.
MM: I am almost always thinking “How does this connect to everything we have already said,” and given that we are reading this after all we know, it’s easier to begin to put some mysteries together.
CO: Indeed. I liked reading the first six again now with more knowledge from 7-9.
MM: So Brendon discovers some mysterious paperwork about Vanessa, which seem to imply something sinister. But before we can learn more, our weird mysterious no-name ghost friend (who Zoe later calls David) sticks his hand through Brendon’s skull. Oops!
CO: Then Daramount refers to the thing as “it.” So we know that she knows that it exists…but she may or may not know anything about it.
MM: Gribbs also says, “Likes ’em kicking and screaming, that one does,” implying that there is more than one.
CO: Hm, I didn’t take that to mean there was more than one. I see what you mean, and knowing how there are little details everywhere, I think it’s possible, but it could just be a phrase he used.
MM: Perhaps. Spencer said on our Spoiler Alert episode to pay close attention to dialogue between Gribbs and Daramount, so I try to .. uh.. assume as much as possible. But our “it” does do that weird shifting body thing that we know to pay attention to as well, which we’ve sort of seen Zoe do through the eyes of another character, so I figured this “ability”, whatever it might be, is not unique to just “David” here.
CO: Daramount also says she had plans for him “of [her] own,” which makes sense as we’ve seen she uses students for her own little things independent of the greater goal, whatever that is.
MM: Right, and Gribbs makes a comment about how everyone has a role in the “grand plan.” He also notes that “they don’t all end up getting the worst of it,” which – to use this word again – is implying that maybe Brendon, despite having his eyeball falls out, could still be useful in … uh… some way.
CO: Strange…and awesome, potentially. We also learn that Brendon is “not one of them.”
MM: We never see what happens to Vanessa, too. Which I feel is probably important in some way. Nor do we see what ultimately becomes of Akiko.
CO:True. That scene ends when Gribbs mentions enrollment day, and then we meet our main characters…can we call them the Glories?
MM: I don’t see why not. Our first Glory is Casey. She lives in Chicago, both parents are still alive, she’s 16 years old, and she’s attending MGA on a Physics scholarship. Good for her! She’s also the only character that starts the story with both parents.Continued below
CO: Which is an important detail, being that she’s the exception there.
MM: She’s the only one that doesn’t come from some kind of odd home. Zoe does have a mother and father, but they’re not her real parents.
We then move on to Ike, who is our anti-Glory character. He lives in the Upper East Side of Manhattan as a socialite, only has a mother (he may have killed his father), he is a terrible student and has been referred to as the next unibomber, Hitler, and possibly the anti-Christ.
CO: He’s been kicked out of 7 straight schools. That’s gotta be a record. At least in New York, if not the country or world. His mother questioning whether or not he killed his father is some real awkward and intense dining room conversation.
MM: I can’t imagine that would ever be an easy question, and I get a feeling in Issue #11 we might see if he did or didn’t as that is the Ike issue.
Then we meet adorable Zoe, who has 5 boyfriends MINIMUM, lives in Sandiego, and has two parents (although at this point in time we don’t know that they’re adopted). Did you know a Zoe in high school, Crit?
CO: There were no Zoe’s at my high school.
MM: Huh. I knew a few.
CO: How were they?
MM: When I was needed for something, very nice!
CO: Oh, THOSE type of ladies!
MM: Yeah! Zoe!
CO: Did they have lines of boyfriends like our Glory Zoe?
CO: Well there we go. Next we meet Hunter from Toronto. A Canadian, eh! His mom appears to be out of the picture, and his father speaks of “Angela,” who I assumed to be his second wife. There’s also a reference to Grant Morrison and The Invisibles.
MM: WHICH IS A GREAT COMIC THAT EVERYONE WHO READS COMICS REGULARLY SHOULD READ! I know you’ve never read it, so I’ll try my best to summarize here: the comic is about a group of super secret agents who are part of an anarchistic group fighting against an entity that controls/is invading the world from the shadows due to a rift in space and time caused by overlapping universes.
MM: It’s very, very good, and I know it’s a huge influence on the book according to both Spencer and Eisma. As it should be.
Then we meet Jade. She lives in Des Moines, has a brother and a father (and a hound dog!), and is very, VERY emo. She’s writing in her notebooks, which are apparently so frightening her father and brother are too scared to steal and read, and she is stalking one of her teachers named Marcus, referring to MGA as a prison keeping the two of them apart.
CO: She’s fascinating, because she just seems so odd.
MM: She is THE character to watch in this story, to say the least. For sure.
CO:More on that in issue 6!
MM: Finally we meet Jun. He is arriving straight at the airport with no parents (which we know why NOW from issue #9), and he is picked up by a driver who has his name on a card in the form of an anagram. We also get a nice shout out to Carlton Cuse (co-creator of LOST) and George Markstein (co-creator of Prisoner) here. Would you like to give a brief synopsis of LOST for the record?Continued below
CO: Sure. There’s an island and a plane crashes there and lots of crazy things happen and Desmond and etc.
MM: And in the Prisoner, a former spy is kidnapped and brought to a weird island where his name is taken away and replaced with a number (6) while another number (2) tortures him for the duration of the show.
CO: Oh yeah, there are some numbers in LOST too!
MM: Wow! So Jun solves the anagram, at which point the unnamed driver asks him, “Does that allow you to claim this name for yourself?” Which at the time we first read this meant nothing, but now that we know the Jun/Hisao story means a heck of a lot! (And thanks to a Colin Bell for pointing this out!)
CO: Heyo, that’s a nice call, Colin.
MM: Jun’s reaction is also interesting, acting confused to the comment, which is then returned by the driver with “Well, that’s a bit better. You’ll pick it up in no time, I’m sure.” Which is a comment I loved.
CO: That’s rich.
MM: The Driver, who has no name beyond that, also notes that he has worked at the school for what feels like an eternity, which could perhaps be more literal than we imagine. A lot of his dialogue is really great here. “You’re starting a new life with us, sir. Can’t have you bringing all the baggage of the old one.” “Funny how familiar new beginnings can feel.”
CO: I had that here in my notes. I liked the baggage comment as well as the eternity.
MM: And, “I know you’re the type looking for answers, and by all means, we intend to give them. And hopefully you’ll pay the favor back, in kind.” With the first comment, I think it’s obvious what the dual meaning here is given what we’ve seen happen in the second arc. With the second comment, it seems to note that what’s about to happen in the story we’re reading has perhaps happened before, with the Cylinder not being the only circular thing in MGA (METAPHORS!). And with that last comment, I feel like it’s both Spencer talking to the audience as well as referring to Jun’s double-agent nature, which the Driver seems to kind of know about.
CO: I like.
MM: And then everyone gets knocked out rather easily, except for Zoe. Which I feel is done both on purpose and for humor.
CO: Who blah blah blah blah blahs a little bit, and the driver just smiles until she is knocked out.
MM: I’ve had my theory about Zoe having some freak kind of hyper adaptive multiple personality disorder… thing, so I think it kind of makes sense that she’s resistant to the knock out gas. And now, welcome to Morning Glory Academy!
CO:We’ve arrived! (Fanfare and trumpets!)
MM: We begin with Casey having a blurred vision of Daramount, which we’ve been told to pay attention to.
CO: That was pretty strange.
MM: You originally assume it’s just her waking up and being groggy, but once Spencer pointed out that these type of blurred visions are on purpose, you become a bit more curious about it and how Casey is seeing double, or why.
CO: Any ideas?
MM: Not for another few issues, nope! Thanks to Casey, we get a brief history of the school. It was designed in 1760 by Benjamin Gerhardt as a monastery, originally. It was purchased by the school 14 years ago (so assumedly in 1996 if Hunter watched the finale of LOST), became a respected prep school after 7 years and has four McArthur grants and 70 Ivy entrants – so not everyone who goes here dies! On top of that, Miss Daramount calls it an experiment that rejects the rigid, failed approaches of the “old guard”, and they’ve done much to “distinguish themselves” from other schools (which is perfectly timed dialogue as Brendon’s body is carried away in the background.Continued below
CO: Good info!
MM: We also get to see the “it” again, as it watches Casey from behind, getting a disapproving look from Daramount.
CO: I think it has a crush on Casey.
MM: Wouldn’t you?
CO: More than the other two, sure!
MM: Poor Zoe. So now we have our orientation with Miss Dagney, who is important in the first arc. She gives the kids a wonderful speech, calling the teachers “servants” to the kids on a journey towards perfect tranquility and the very ends of knowledge itself which, and I quote here, “may hold the key to the salvation and security of man throughout all time.” Pressure, much?
CO: Nah! The teachers as “servants” is pretty laughable.
MM: There is actually more to this line that we find out in issue #6, but … we’ll get to it! This is also accompanied by several images, which I’m not actually convinced the kids see. We start with a desert inhabited by a boy and his father as they walk their pet goat. This is followed by two scientists, male and female (with the female having red hair, which I’d like to make a note of). This is followed by the Cylinder. This is followed by the weirdest two images: someone, assumedly a child, holding a doll of an old man, which is followed by a close-up of that old man doll with it’s cane, now looking very real. This is followed by an image of the previous father, son, and goat, with the goat’s throat slit open while Dagney says the phrase “breathtakingly clear.” And it all ends with “FOR A BETTER FUTURE.” Uh. What?
CO: If I was there, and I saw them, I’d quote John Locke. “We’re gonna have to watch that again.”
MM: I’m not sure any of that makes sense, outside of the cylinder and FOR A BETTER FUTURE. Is there any biblical story that comes to mind about a man, a boy, and a goat?
CO: I don’t know! Is there?
MM: I don’t know! I was hoping you found one.
CO: I don’t know of any, and a few quick Google searches don’t turn up anything.
MM: Huh. The only thing I found worth nothing about the scene is that Hunter is the only one who really reacts to the images on the screen. It’s as if the others didn’t really see anything, but the goat death disturbs him and him alone.
CO: Maybe no one else was really paying attention? That doesn’t seem like it would make sense.
MM: I feel like it’s a video of subliminal images, and due to the sequential nature of the art we just get to see the bits and pieces. I mean, if you see the Cylinder in the orientation video, why didn’t Brendon recognize it?
MM: Then again, you and I see and hear things daily we forget if they don’t appear for a while.
CO: Maybe this is their first appearance, and each presentation at the school has similar images/messages?
MM: Anything is possible. Although the old man doll thing and the goat are really what stand out to me.
CO: We know the cylinder is related to MGA…it’s there. Does that mean these other things are school related? Are there goat sacrifices? Creepy old men / dolls? (I hope not!)
MM: Well, if the kids hold the salvation of man throughout all time, they could theoretically hold the salvation for men who live in deserts and kill goats in front of their kids. …BUT WHAT IS WITH THAT DOLL THING?
CO: I don’t know. Not sure if I want to!
As a note, user FanBolge has suggested that the “goat thing” could be a reference to the biblical story of Abraham, in which Abraham sacrificed a goat instead of his son to God.
MM: Haha, fair enough. So the kids are sent off to their rooms, and first we see the boys room. Hunter is trying to be super nice, but Jun is very abraisive, eventually saying – and I love this – “If anything happens, just stay close to me, you’ll be fine.”Continued below
CO: He knows more than he appears to.
MM: I wonder what that’s all about. And Ike, of course, is a jerk. Meanwhile, the girls are living with their RA, Pamela. My note for Pamela is this: “What a maroon.”
CO: Maroon works for me.
MM: If it’s good enough for Bugs Bunny, it’s good enough for everyone.
CO: She seems strange in just a ‘wow, she’s out of her mind’ way. Even Zoe says, “You know, I kinda thought I’d be the perky one.” Not the same strange as everyone/everyone else around MGA.
MM: Although we later learn Pamela really is just as mental. Meanwhile, Jade has a missing notebook. As we learned earlier, all of Jade’s notebooks are incredibly personal and dark/scary insights into her very emo life where she stalks her teacher and hates everything/everyone. So the question is – did she leave it at home, or did someone take it?
CO: I’m going to go with #2.
MM: I’d say that’s a safe bet, as I’m going to guess someone could probably use those notebooks.
CO: Definitely. Then Jade makes a phone call home, and we get our first look at the weird parent…thing. Sorry, that’s not your dad, it’s just a guy who doesn’t know who you are, Jade.
MM: We learn more about that later from Pamela, who says it’s part of the school’s unorthodox methods to help parents separate from their children. And, after a very brief romantic “they are so going to fall in love later” incident between Hunter and Casey, we learn that it’s everyone’s birthday.
CO: Yes. How cute. Party for all! Except, not. Especially not Casey.
MM: Zoe also notes here that she changed her birthday because she wanted to be a perfect ten, which was one of the perks of being adopted. So this confirms what we were thinking earlier when it was revealed that all the kids were going to the school on the same day for the same reason – it really is all of their birthdays, and that birth date offers some kind of strange psychic synchronicity of intellects.
CO: And yet there doesn’t seem to be any real synchronicity between them…they still mostly seem like a ragtag bunch of kids plucked from all over.
MM: At least for now. As we learn in the second arc, they’re more connected than we know.
CO: Yes…at this point though, they seem like a random group.
MM: Casey is the one to figure this out in the story, which is the first clue that she is the defacto “leader,” and she brings this issue to Pamela, which leads to the craziest spiral staircase any school has ever had, revelations that we have just discussed, and the final reveal that since her parents wouldn’t comply with the separation thing, the Academy killed them. All ending with the line, “Sometimes love really does win in the end.”
MM: I feel like that last line could actually be foreshadowing a later story, but it’s still a very sadistic finale.
CO: The first time I read this, I knew right here that I didn’t know what was going on but I really LOVED it.
MM: I was just about to ask you a question to which that would be the answer! With this being a secondary read of the title, knowing what you know now, what do you think of this first issue?
CO: I love that you see all these bits and pieces of all these people, then they all kind of come together, but you still don’t know what’s going on, but everything seems mysterious in an authentic way, and you immediately just want more, especially after that crazy ending.
MM: I’ve found that being able to talk to both Eisma and Spencer about the issue has really given a very interesting look at the issue, with clues I definitely wouldn’t have noticed on my first read. It really enhances the reading experience, and I feel like reading the first issue after the conclusion of every arc is something I’m going to start doing.Continued below
CO: I think I might too.
MM: So who is your favorite of the Glories?
CO: I think Hunter. He’s Canadian, and he has a sweet name. Yours?
MM: Oh, hands down, no question. Hunter is awesome. He says everything I would say in any given situation.
CO: Haha. Nice.
MM: So since we both agree on Number 1, who is your number 2?
CO: I’ll pick a girl. Casey.
MM: Zoe for me, actually.
CO: I think I like her most of the girls. I think Jade is the most interesting but…that’s another story for another time! Study hall needs to adjourn, my dinner is ready. In the … cafeteria. At school. Of course!
MM: Of course. I suppose before we go, one last final question. With the first issue done, and this not being the first time you’ve read the issue, do you have any particular theories in your head about the story that have been influenced now?
CO: The thing that stood out most to me in this this time was Daramount’s comment about having her own plans. We see later that she does her own little manipulations, and I wonder if she does them completely on her own or only what the headmaster tells her to do. I think its the former.
MM: So you think Daramount is more nefarious than just a tool of the school? Interesting.
CO: I think she does it for the school…but I get the feeling she acts independently from the school.
MM: The main difference for me between the first read and now is the commentary about the teachers being servants of the students, and the drivers commentary (who, I forgot to mention, I theorized in my notes might be the headmaster, since I feel like the headmaster is a character we have probably seen but don’t know the importance of) about “how familiar new beginnings can feel” have made me think that this has all happened before, and will all happen again. (Look forward to a wild theory when we get to issue #6.)
CO: I like him as someone we have seen .And the new beginnings line, things being circular and having happened before is pretty exciting to think about as a possibility.
MM: Well, that wraps it up for today! Stay tuned for tomorrow when we talk about issue #2 and REALLY get into the weird stuff!