Hello and welcome back to Morning Glory Academy Study Hall! In this column, MC contributor (and TV Overmind writer/FuckYeahLost’s head honcho) Crit Obara and I sit down and analyze the latest issue of Morning Glories.
In today’s edition of Study Hall, Crit and I tackle the 16th issue, which picks up with Casey where we last left her in #13 — in the wrong time and a very wrong place.
So join Crit and I after the cut 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: Hello everyone and welcome back to Morning Glory Academy: Study Hall. I am here, as always, with my faithful co-“host”/fellow Academy student Crit Obara, and we are just about ready to dive face first into our latest over-sized issue! 32 pages for $2.99 — that’s how you hold the line!
Crit Obara: Hello everyone! Crit here, reporting for Study Hall.
MM: How are you doing today, Crit?
CO: I am full of IHOP and ready to do this thang! How about you?
MM: I too am full of IHOP. How conveniently coincidental that we both had IHOP today. Weird!
MM: Well now that we’ve sufficiently plugged our sponsor, are you ready to open up this issue? It’s a bit… I don’t even know the right words. “Mentally stimulating,” or perhaps “almost aneurysm inducing.”
CO: That sounds about right. I’m as ready as I’m gonna be…let’s attempt to figure this thing out!
MM: Despite last issue ending with a Zoe-related cliffhanger, this issue brings us back to Casey’s story after her timejump with Ms. Hodge. She is currently being waterboarded by one of the US soldiers who captured her back in issue #13 (who, for the record, looks just like 4 Color News and Brews co-host Brandon Burpee, who has a history of waterboarding people).
CO: He sounds like a nice guy!
MM: Well, with a wife and two kids, you usually have to pick up some disciplinary tactics. Brandon also mentioned to me personally that when he waterboards people, he listens to whale sounds, so hopefully that adds an extra layer of depth to the scene overall.
CO: It certainly does.
MM: In this scene, Brandon is torturing her to find out her identity, because her father is his superior officer, and they don’t really believe her about the time travel thing. Admittedly, in their shoes, I don’t think I would either.
CO: Yup, I can’t blame that for that one.
MM: We then flashback to “a different time,” as Casey sits in her bedroom assumedly doing homework and waiting for the mail to arrive. Two things of note here, one of which I think I’m wrong on but you can correct me: On Casey’s wall is a Foster the People poster, a band formed in 2009 (so that might give us a date for this scene, since Nick and Joe didn’t add one — and Morning Glories started in 2010). Also, incredibly subtle but never the less there, are a series of flowers on a vine hanging above Casey’s door, visible in the third panel. I’m not good with flowers, but Crit, do you think that this could be the eponymous flower of the book? I don’t THINK they are because, again, I know nothing about flowers. I do love conspiracies, though.Continued below
CO: I’m not sure we can tell, but I’d love it to be. Also, if the band formed in 2009, that only means that this is somewhere 2009-present, so it could be 2010, which is when the first issue came out.
MM: Foster the People made it big with the song “Pumped Up Kicks”, which came out in 2010. About a month after Morning Glories #1, actually.
CO: Right. Now that song will be stuck in my head for the rest of this, even though I’m listening to something else!
MM: It’s catchy! So Casey gets her acceptance letter to Morning Glory Academy in the mail, and she immediately runs to tell her father, who is in the basement praying. The scene with her father is pretty interesting for the background details, I think. For starters, he’s on his knees praying with a bible in front of him, but in the background there are painting supplies and an easel with a blank canvas on it, which is referenced later. We really knew nothing about her father before this point outside of the fact that he loved his daughter very much and was a soldier, so the artistic element is an interesting addition.
CO: Ah yes, I saw the Bible and the praying but didn’t notice the easel.
MM: I mean, there is a washing machine in the background and a boiler, but I don’t think they add to his character as much as the blank canvas does!
CO: Yeah, laundry and heat are pretty boring!
MM: We immediately move backwards in time to Casey’s torture scene, where Brandon is screaming at her while she insists that she is Captain Blevins’ daughter. Meanwhile, throw a one-way mirror, Dan and 4 Color News and Brews co-host David Harper are discussing if there is any possibility of truth to what she says, which Dan sincerely doubts.
CO: Dan says she doesn’t look at all familiar.
MM: So then it’s suggested that the Chinese sent her, but why would they be sending a teenage white girl in a school uniform?
CO: I was wondering if the Chinese had tried to infiltrate before, or if this is just an offhand comment.
MM: This isn’t the first time that there has been a correlation between war and China in the book. I remember you and I discussing some cold war paranoia elements back in issue #6.
CO: Ah yes, I do recall that.
MM: For those who don’t remember, in issue #6, future Jade/Ellsworth approaches a new character named Julie about “delicate work” on a project with “global ramifications”, and Julie asks Ellsworth/Jade if she is with the Chinese.
CO: Bingo. Interesting, MGA has some enemies in the world.
MM: Are we sure it is related to the Academy, though? Further evidence in this issue seems to imply no implicit relation between what is happening here and the school outside of obvious coincidences. There just seems to be this underlying tone in the book of impending war between America and China.
CO: Hmm…yeah, I may have overstated that.
MM: I mean, that’s a real conspiracy theory, for the record — that World War III is right around the corner, and it’ll be fought between America and China.
CO: Yeah, that makes sense. Then we go back to the Blevins household. Dan and Kathy are discussing Casey’s acceptance letter.
MM: Right. Kathy seems a bit upset at the idea of Casey going away to boarding school, and blames Kelly Clarkson.
CO: I didn’t get that…is there a Kelly song joke in there somewhere?
MM: Nope! I see Clarkson, I think Kelly! … Kathy has the line “I bet it was that bitch Clarkson”…?
MM: I think it is interesting that Kathy is the one who doesn’t want her to go away. Dan is supportive here, but Kathy tells him that he has to go and break Casey’s heart and tell her she can’t go. Knowing what we know from issue #1, it’s an interesting bit of foreshadow, given that a) in issue #1 Kathy seems hesitant during the opening sequence to let Casey leave and b) they then end up dead.Continued below
CO: And even though Kathy is the one who doesn’t want her to go, she tells Dan that he has to be the one to tell her.
MM: Right, which you can tell he doesn’t care for.
CO: He looks downright solemn when she tells him that.
MM: Well, she is daddy’s little girl. Of course he doesn’t want to be the one to tell her, “Sorry, honey, that thing you’re really excited for? Forget about it.”
CO: True, she did run to him, not her mom, when she found out and was ecstatic.
MM: Exactly. We then switch to the “other time”, with her father driving up to his current home with guards stationed outside. Kathy is admittedly perturbed about the armed guards. We then get to see li’l Casey, asleep in her bed with an adorable little cat toy that Joe informs me is actually a cat toy he got for his son. Other toys in her room include Max from the Stuff of Legend and Happiness Bunny from Shin Chan.
CO: So Dan doesn’t sort of deny the existence of his daughter, he just doesn’t think the girl being tortured is the same person because he has a little girl at home.
MM: Right. He, thinking clearly, knows his daughter is younger and at home, so it makes no sense to him why this other girl would be his daughter.
CO: They’re two different people to him. This scene is immediately, however, followed by the return to 16 year old Casey, where Dan tells her she won’t be going to the school she got into, so this is pretty much an example of dramatic irony. Sorry, Dan.
MM: This also brings up an interesting note. If we’re to assume Casey is three, that would mean the flashback sequence took place 13 years ago, or roughly in 1997 if we’re still assuming the book takes place in 2010 when Casey is 16. What’s interesting about that is, as we learned in issue #1, the school was founded in 1996 (14 years prior to Casey’s attendance). That is assumedly no coincidence, and extra credit goes to RJ Droll for pointing it out to us!
CO: Good call, Mr. Droll! A+ for the day.
MM: Moving forward, we now get our first shot of Lara, who has been absent from all the Casey-centric scenes. Lara is in a detention cell of her own, and we are greeted by a guard who looks eerily familiar. What was your first thought when reading this scene, Crit?
CO: Mind control. She says “you’ll do anything for me” and in the next panel…the look in his eyes, it’s like a trance.
MM: My first thought when reading this scene was, “Hey! That’s the guy Lara was with back in issue #12!”
CO: Oh, yeah!
MM: But yes, she uses mind control on both him and the next guard they encounter. I think this is the first blatant example of mind-control in the comic, although you and I have theorized its existence before.
CO: Indeed. So then she breaks Casey out!
MM: Lara sends the guard off to get a bag, but here’s a question for you: how does Lara know this? Or, to clarify, it seems that everything as it happens is going according to a plan, as Lara has a very smug look on her face when we first see her. The whole capture/torture thing doesn’t seem to phase her at all. So what’s up with that, Crit?
CO: Well, considering her control capability, it’s possible she was right where she wanted to be. If she didn’t want to be there, couldn’t she have just used her control to keep that from happening?
MM: Here’s the thing — back in issue #13, she flat out says to Casey that they’re not “where we’re supposed to be.” Yet now it would appear that things are working out great. I get that Lara is generally a shifty character. We perceive her as a “good guy” because she helps Casey, but her motivations are completely unknown. So is she lying in 13? Is she just super lucky now? Is there perhaps a scene in between 13 and 16 featuring Lara that we just aren’t privy to, which explains how she knows so damn much? Because the bag that the soldier brings is fully of REALLY convenient items.Continued below
CO: I would have to lean towards her lying and this is where she wanted to be. No one else in this series has been calm in captivity- they’re constantly unsure and scared. She looks fine in her cell, just like she’s waiting to play out her plan.
MM: I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. Lara seems like a liar, no offense to her. And yeah, there has to be some scene in there that we didn’t see. She knows much more than we think she does. Almost too much. She also brings up Hunter, who she wanted Casey to bring with her back in issue #13. However, no fear in the face of danger, and all that. Lara very clearly states that they have gone back into the past, though, so I hope that will deter anyone from discussion of alternate realities and whatnot in this particular instance.
CO: It seemed to me, and I wrote in my notes, that she’s like some kind of time cop / architect or something. “we’re in your past,” she says calmly. “It’s going to be a lot more complicated than I wanted it to be.”
MM: Time cop and architect — I like that! Time cop angle I get, but what do you specifically mean by architect? I’m not entirely sure I follow that one, although I like that you mentioned it.
CO: I’m not positive on it, but because she’s so ultra-aware of what’s going on, and because she seems to know the plan many steps ahead, is this something she somehow ‘built’? How is she so aware of this, and who’s plan is it? Hers? Did she sit around thinking about what needed to happen and then enact the plan?
MM: Hmm. I want to come back to this point soon, so hold on to this. There’s a scene coming up which I think can really add to the discussion.
MM: Pushing forward, Casey has a bit of a freakout about the whole time travel/missing her dead parents thing, but Hodge calms her down and insists that she needs to focus on their mission. Lara mentions that “being here is very dangerous” for her, and Casey brings up the issue of time travel and the butterfly effect (the idea a butterfly flaps its wings in America causing a hurricane in Japan, which can be translated with time travel to mean changing one thing in the past causes various effects on the future). However, Lara mentions that Casey change whatever she wants. That’s an interesting bit, I believe. I mean, there are a LOT of theories about time travel, but there is something later in the issue which seems to possible contradict what Lara is saying here.
CO: The butterfly effect in general is a real mindfuck.
MM: Is there any particular idea of time travel that you subscribe to?
CO: Not really any one in particular, just nothing paradoxical. I think the grandfather paradox is interesting, and really just feel like if you go back you can’t change anything. Whatever happened, happened, as the saying goes.
MM: Keep that one in the backburner as well, because I’m going to ask you about it soon!!
MM: As the scene continues, Lara and Casey escape. Lara continues to use her mind powers on all the soldiers, and informs Casey that she has the same abilities as well, which is new. Lara refers to the ability as playing God, which is pretty insane if you ask me.
CO: I agree. Mind control is one thing, but to actually come out and call it playing God, I was kind of shocked.
MM: I think it’s interesting Lara says “pretend you’re God” when we saw the religious nature of Casey’s father earlier in the issue. Those two elements certainly seem to clash in my mind. Casey has never really been assigned a religious upbringing, but a traditionally Christian/Catholic ideology seems to clash with the idea that you can pretend you’re God, you know?
CO: Absolutely. I also wrote down “interesting that she says ‘just do something that should come very, very naturally to you.'” No big deal, just do something that’ll feel natural – pretend you’re God! I know she’s a very smart girl, but playing God should not feel “natural.”Continued below
MM: You know, Lara mentions before Casey and her part ways, “You know, all I’ve ever read about you…” If you take that line, add in the one you mentioned, and throw it all together with Zoe’s anti-Casey speech last issue, it paints Casey in this really curious light, you know? Obviously Casey is more than “that pretty girl from high school,” but Lara seems to treat Casey as a powerful figure that can play God and is being trained for a better future, and Zoe is tearing Casey’s exterior behavior down at the same time as an act…. I don’t know, man. You and I have discussed Casey’s behavior a LOT, from calling her the savior/main character of the book to calling her “the next Daramount.” The more I read about her, the less I feel I understand. Like, everyone knows more about her than I do.
CO: I’d like to look at the file they have on her.
MM: Don’t think we’re going to get to, buddy.
CO: Sad times.
MM: So back with 16 year old Casey, we get a nice scene between Dan and Casey in which he talks about her to her, and says “you terrify us, Casey.” He talks a lot about her personality, like you and I have been doing, and mentions that caution is not her strong suit. But still — “you terrify us, Casey.” What a line.
CO: What a thing to say to your teenager.
MM: I mean, I don’t disagree. Casey is pretty terrifying. I think she is the next Daramount. What about you, though? Is Casey terrifying?
CO: The word I’d use is intrigue. She intrigues me more than terrifies…but I’d be a little scared too.
MM: Fair enough. Either way, Dan admits to Casey that they changed their mind, and she will now be going to Morning Glory Academy. That brings us back to the past/present, in which the alarms on the base go off, and Dan tracks down Casey, who is running off in the woods. He and Casey have an interesting interaction, in which she uses her new mind control powers on him accidentally before giving him really vague statements about how she has something to do and can’t explain. She mentions that he is a “great artist”, which ties back into the easel in the beginning nicely, and she basically tells her father how to raise her.
CO: I totally missed the artist line there, nice. He sure was calm here while this girl who he doesn’t think is his daughter is giving him advice on how to raise her.
MM: I imagine the calm bit is based on her mind control powers.
CO: Ah yes, good call.
MM: She tells him, “you have to believe me,” so assumedly he does, right?
CO: Thanks to her powers, I’d say so.
MM: She also makes him forget the entire discussion before disappearing, and Dan is picked up by other soldiers, one of which is the Next Issue’s Mike Romeo. In the next scene, though, we see that this didn’t necessarily stick. The following scene features Dan returning home from dropping Casey off at the airport to go to school, in which he looks at the Morning Glory Academy website and remembers her outfit. He also mentions “in her future,” which is an obvious riff on the frequently mentioned “for a better future” angle of the school.
CO: That whole page was great. His facial expressions, and yes, the use of that phrase.
MM: So this brings us to the scene I wanted to talk about. The next FIVE PAGES are the exact same pages as the first five pages of Morning Glories #12, in which we first met Lara.
CO: Yes indeed.
MM: This page brings up a LOT of questions, but before we try and figure out what this means (I have theories!), I want to talk about something else: We have mentioned a lot about time travel and time travel theory, and we’ve got the butterfly effect, the grandfather paradox and whatnot all swirling around in our heads. We’ve also got the question of how Lara knows so much up in the air. This scene seems to emphasize the “whatever happened, happened” idea. We’ve seen this happen before, but now we’re realizing HOW it happened, in a sort of circular motion in the story to the same extent that we understood Jade’s “silver streaks in the sky” comments after issue #10. However, there is enough evidence in the issue, I believe, that says time is in flux — that moments aren’t fixated in time and can be changed. The question I have is: which is it? Can time be changed in Morning Glories? Is everything fixated along specific points that tie into one another in ways we have yet to see, or can things be changed?Continued below
CO: I think that’s a fair question, especially since we are seeing characters move through time. Casey going back to her dad and giving him advice seems like it could change things, yes?
MM: But what if she always did it? What if Casey had always influenced her own upbringing? Of course, asking questions about Casey is difficult, because Lara says “you can change whatever you want.”
CO: Good point. We don’t know if that always happened or if it was just happening now.
MM: It is not unreasonable to believe that Dan remembering the logo on her shirt was time “correcting” itself, in a manner of speaking. Maybe he had never heard of the school BEFORE sending her to it, but after this event, now he realizes — and ONLY now — what he has done. However, it doesn’t matter, because he HAS to send her to the school, or else she can’t visit him in the past.
CO: Yes. Man, my head hurts.
MM: Time travel is the worst. But this is what makes me bring up your architect comment again. With Lara traveling around time as she does, are we of the belief here that she can influence things and build upon history, or is she just helping to lay the bricks that eventually build the house? She brings Casey to the wrong place in time, but is it perhaps actually the right place?
CO: Especially now, I think she knows more than she’s letting on and has more power than we think
MM: So, if you could, sum up your thoughts on time travel in relation to the series, Casey and Lara.
CO: I think Lara has some kind of omniscient ability, being able to see through time and make complex plans to help Casey move through time.
MM: Is time fixated? Or can it be changed?
CO: I am thinking fixated…but very unsure. What do you think?
MM: Fixated, but I believe Casey is an anomaly. Everyone in the book seems to have a quirk, or an ability. Given that I believe Casey is sort of the hero of the book (in so many words), I’m going to go with Occam’s razor, here: Lara says Casey can change whatever she wants and she puts on an emphasis on the word “YOU” during that scene. Ergo, Casey can change time (i.e. her dad “remembering” the logo on her shirt) but no one else can (the repeat of the scene from issue #12). However, that pushes us right into our next discussion — the repeated five pages! Before I go theory crazy, what do you have in your notes, Crit? What are your thoughts on this scene and how/why it is happening?
CO: Well, looking at it for the second time now, my thoughts went back to Lara’s mind control…but it doesn’t seem like she has to use it on these guys as she heads down the tunnel, so I’m not sure.
MM: How does she get from Point A, which is this time period, to Point B, which is the time period of Morning Glories #12, do you think?
CO: I’m not sure I have a guess. I want to hear your theory though.
MM: Well, there are two possibilities, I believe: a) Between when she leaves the base and when she rolls up to wherever this entrance thing is at, the car hits 88 mph and she time travels, or b) Once she reaches the entrance gate, this is where the time travel occurs. She needs to, at some point, travel through time. That is undeniable. However, as we discussed over the aforementioned breakfast at IHOP, I’m beginning to think it is the latter. Looking at this scene through new eyes sort of changes the perception a bit of what is happening. Hodge and the guards travel through the tunnel, arrive at a mysterious gate where both guards have to fiddle with some machinery. A door opens, a guard mentions “Just one more to go” with Hodge replying “Yeah.. something like that,” and then walks through a doorway into pure white. We don’t really know what she is walking through. We had assumed before that she was walking into some kind of underground environment, but she could easily be walking into a time machine of some kind. It’s also clear that this isn’t so much a straight door or gate because I think the detail of her hair being blown back is much more noticeable now than it was then, so that’s certainly a factor.Continued below
CO: Very interesting. So that’s the time portal? I could buy that.
MM: Yeah.. something like that. (Insert rimshot sound effect here) Although, this does bring up an interesting thought… is Lara technically stuck in an infinite loop now?
CO: What do you mean?
MM: Well, when we first met her, she was arriving on campus from an unknown destination. During her time on campus, she helped lead Casey on a trip through time, which ultimately resulted in the repeat of the first scene when we met her. Assumedly, from there, she will be returning to the events of issue #12, which will eventually lead her to help Casey travel back through time, which would then result in the subsequent repeat of the first scene when we met her where she returns to the school to help Casey travel through time so that she can go back to the school and help Casey go back in time so she can–
CO: I think I get it! But I don’t know the answer to the question.
MM: Let’s just guess, for now, that there isn’t one. Of course, outside of that, this changes the perceptions I have about Morning Glory Academy to a grand extent. I believe that the whole portal thing that Hodge goes through is definitely owned by the academy, but where does that mean the school is? Is it still in an underground facility? Is the school itself time-displaced? We don’t know anymore, Crit!!
CO: I wish I could answer any of those!
MM: Oy vey. Moving on to the final scene, we have Casey checking in at an airport and flying to New York City. She’s in no rush — she’s “got all the time in the world.” I have two notes about this scene: the first is that, in the first panel, the man buying a ticket looks a bit Abraham-esque, which could make sense given the time period. Could be a coincidence, could be a sneaky clue. (The other option would be Ike, but I the timelines don’t match up, because if Casey is 3 right now, then Ike would be too, barring something we don’t know happening.) The second is, well, Spencer essentially just wrote Casey out of the book.
CO: He does look like he could be Abraham. I was also looking at the people behind her in line but they don’t look familiar at all..
MM: No, no one particularly stood out. I thought the kid with dark hair in the back of the final panel looked a tad bit like Kaneda from Akira, but I’ve been told I am wrong.
CO: I don’t even know who that is!
MM: Well, there ya go! Although Joe did also clue me in that the book being held in the final panel is Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. So how are you feeling about this issue, Crit?
MM: Time travel, man. It’s the worst.
CO: It’s awesome, and it’s the worst.
MM: Tune in in a month when we tackle issue #17, the return of Jade and Ike!