Well, almost. Crit is working at a summer camp at Harvard University, so it’ll actually only be me doing the annotations for now. With that in mind, I’m going to change up the format a bit instead of having it be a conversation between the two of us, although all of the annotations and commentary are still a combination of my notes combined with Crit’s. He’s with us in spirit, if not in actuality!
In today’s edition of Study Hall, we discuss the 20th issue, a story that leads way into the next arc and changes the way we look at a certain dynamic..
So join me as I discuss the issue, its story and possible hidden secrets that I may or may not be picking up on. I should also note: this column 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 here, 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.
To begin, I’m going to point out something some of you might not have seen, just so you readers who follow Study Hall are on the same page I assume we’re all on.
Don’t Call It A Relaunch: The Truants
In case you missed it, yesterday Image released the above cover for “Morning Glories” #21, showing a cast of characters to mirror our main Glories, called the Truants. It’s a great cover, mirroring the first issue, and it’s a big clue towards what is coming in the next arc — specifically, new characters and a wider cast within the school. Nick has teased in the past that there are many characters important to the story who have yet to be introduced, and this is just the first part of that as we move towards the end of the first “season” of “Morning Glories.”
To call towards a LOST comparison, think of them as the Tailies from Season 2. But a bit more sinister.
But, speaking of teases, if you listened to the MGA Study Hall podcasts (links to the episodes are at the bottom of this post if you missed it) you would’ve known the Truants are coming, and you would also be able to correctly identify three of those characters! But, just in case you didn’t, I’ll help you out: the boy on the left is Guillaume, who we met in the last arc (Jun’s boyfriend, issue #18). The girl next to him is Vanessa, who first appeared in issue #1 and reappeared at the end of last issue. The girl in the center (with a grenade instead of an apple) is Irina, who aslo appeared at the end of the last issue but was not named (Nick gave her name in the podcast for issue #19).
The other three? I couldn’t possibly tell you what their names are. (@docenteer suggests the girl in the back is Akiko from issue #1.) I can confirm, however, that the boy with the glasses is the same as we saw in issue #19, so at least we have somewhat of a reference for his identity. I also couldn’t possibly tell you what is coming in the next arc, but considering what ended issue #19 and considering that the next arc ends Season One, you can guess it’ll be pretty big.
And there you go. If you didn’t listen to the podcasts, I’d highly recommend it as there is a lot to learn about the book (and I’m not just saying that because I want you to hear me badger Nick and Joe for ten hours). But, hey, if you didn’t listen, turns out I’m nice enough to give out some of the information in this post that I said I wouldn’t give out in the podcast posts!Continued below
So before we get too far, I think it’s only right to give this solo column a brand new header, in honor of a certain character who gets a lot of quality screen time in this particular issue:
Yeah, that’s more like it. Now lets talk about what I know you all have come here to talk about:
Miss Dagney Is The Best Character In Morning Glories
It started off as a running joke in MGA Study Hall due to the character seemingly being the only nice adult in the cast and having little screen time, but I’ll be the first to admit that I very quickly grew to actually be quite fond of Miss Dagney as a character. Here was someone who seemed to know so much more than she let on, but ho also didn’t fall into the same sinister roles that were filled by Dagney and Gribbs. She was kind and patient, and seemed to have the kids best interests at heart — for better or for worse.
This issue, more than anything, really gives credence to that line of thought, but in a way you might not expect. A younger Dagney is given a bit of a spotlight as she shepherds the young Lara and Georgina into the ladies they eventually become, but its in her ability to play both the sinister mentor and the loving role model that we really get to see Dagney for the impressive character that she is. Dagney is very much proven here, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to be one of the most important people working at Morning Glory Academy, and that just like Eloise Hawking, there’s a very good reason why she seemingly knows so much.
But we’ll be talking about Dagney throughout the entire column, so let’s back it up and start at the beginning of the issue and work our way forward.
Rise And Shine
The issue opens with Lara running through the woods, seemingly frantically, in a floral dress covered with morning glories. This is of course interesting, because the last time we saw Lara is when she walked through the white door in issue #16, which in and of itself was a direct mirror of the scene that opened issue #12. So, with the knowledge that the traditional rules of time/space travel don’t apply to “Morning Glories” (something discussed heavily in the podcasts, hint hint!), we’re led to understand that Lara did not enter into an infinite loop but instead was moved “somewhere else,” assumedly right where she wanted (as we will later see that Lara is a tricky character).
Of course, why she’s in a dress from wherever she ended up is yet to be seen. Your guess is as good as mine, but I’d imagine that we’ll find out the details of that later. I’d be hard pressed to believe she decided to pause between various manipulations to wear something better for the weather.
This scene also shows what Georgina has been up to since we last saw her at the end of issue #14, in which she was informed that she lost the entire student body of the Academy. The last thing we saw was Gribbs yelling at Daramount about how she would explain this situation to the Headmaster, and this issue finds her emerging from a greenhouse covered in cuts. However, you’ll notice something very suspicious about the greenhouse:
There is no other figure in there.
What could this mean? Oh, any number of things! It could mean the Headmaster is invisible. It could mean the Headmaster is made up of plants. It could mean that the greenhouse is bigger/different on the inside versus how it appears on the outside, like a more eco-friendly TARDIS. It could mean that Georgina just spent the past who knows how long whipping herself in a Fight Club meets Da Vinci Code combo scenario, because there is no Headmaster. It could mean any number of things. Your guess is as good as mine. We’ve been led to believe that there is a Headmaster, and that he is a He, but in the world of “Morning Glories” that really defines nothing.Continued below
But for now, lets assume that there is someone named the Headmaster, and that for whatever reason we can’t see him. And that that is suspicious.
Oh, and where are her shoes? What is she doing wandering out in the middle of who knows where without proper foot attire!
Outside of that, the scene ends by showing that the sisters have a deeper bond with one another despite the constant venom they seemingly spit at one another, which leads directly to…
That Parent Thing
The relationships between child and parent has been a big recurring element of “Morning Glories,” starting with the first issue of the book where all of the kids except Casey had weird familial relationships (and then Casey’s parents were murdered). Hunter, Zoe and Jade’s mothers are dead, both of Jun’s parents are dead and don’t even get me started on Ike’s situation. Now we get a look at the same trend being seen with the sisters, as both are born from surrogate mothers who are then killed due to some kind of contract. It’s a bit disturbing, really, that someone would be a surrogate only to then be killed as part of an “agreement.” Whether or not the mother actually agreed to that aspect of it is up for debate, but if she did then you have to ask yourself why? (I’d imagine that’s a question that may never be answered, so let’s go with “because.”)
Either way, the older Daramount does seem fascinated by the newborn Lara, and her eyes light up quite a bit here when she meets her for the first time. If you look carefully enough, you’ll see that her eyes light up similarly a few pages earlier as she wanders dazed from the greenhouse, and if you pay close attention to the book you’ll notice that she perks up quite a lot during the issue.
Additionally, I would like to posit that with the parental situation in this issue, it is highly possibly that the Headmaster is not Lara and Georgina’s biological father, since we have no evidence that a) he actually exists and b) that, well, he’s their biological father. We see a mother give birth, so fine, we know that Georgina and Lara weren’t grown in a tube. But you’ll notice that they have differing last names for some curious reason and they don’t look too much alike. In fact, the only similar trend they have is their eye color, which is yellow (and which is not a typical eye color). We don’t know WHAT the Headmaster is, let alone WHO, and while we know they have some kind of father figure in their life we don’t know too much more beyond that, because — again — a father figure could mean anything.
You’ll also see later in the issue that the girls seem to have a cultish reverence towards their father, the Headmaster, which makes me suspicious of his identity — let alone his existence.
However, one concrete fact that you can take away from this? Lara is 25 years old. We can assume Georgina is probably 31. And we of course know that Dr. Dagney was quite the looker 25 years ago as well.
There’s one more great thing about this scene as well, which is:
Morning Glory Babies Is Finally A Reality
Quite some time ago, the Morning Glory Babies joke was born from a dialogue between Joe and I (see more here), and after a long wait, we finally get our first official iteration of the MG Babies with Baby Nurse Nine!
Now seems a good a time as any to remind people that, back in the MGA Study Hall podcast for issue #10, Nick Spencer revealed that Nurse Nine is just a lady, and her name isn’t anything special that we’re supposed to pick apart. She’s not a clone, or some weird replicant thing; she’s just a girl who grew up whose name is Nine because it sounded cool. Then again, Nick also has said in the past that he would lie through his teeth about anything and everything, so feel free to divine any additional information from this scene as you see fit.Continued below
Of course, what a “Baby” version of a character is doing murdering people is a very curious element indeed.
Haaaaaave You Met Ted?
Five years later, while playing a game on what we can reasonably assume is the future Academy grounds, Lara and Georgina (under the watchful eye of Miss Dagney) are playing a game, when suddenly a homeless man later identified as Ted (no relation to the talking bear) attempts to hold Georgina hostage. However, as Dagney tries to calm him down, we’re given a show of force from Lara as she apparently reads his mind and the minds of others who are “under the ground… screaming up at us.”
I hate to constantly reference this like a broken record, but on the podcast for volume three, Nick spoke to the existence of “powers” within the Gloryverse (new term!), in that they’re not traditional powers or mutations like the X-Men sport but rather special abilities that some have and some don’t, with a more “real” explanation coming later in the series. This scene demonstrates Lara’s power, which we’ve seen a small bit of in the past, but it’s interesting to note that despite my harping of it in earlier series, Georgina doesn’t seem to have any. Sure, I used to believe she had indestructible skin or something along those lines, but where Lara exudes confidence and abnormal consciousness, Georgina seems very much to be “just an ordinary girl” (more on this soon).
Then there’s the people under the ground. If you remember back in issue #3, there is an entire facility under the school and near where the nurse’s office is filled with what Crit and I had previously assumed were clones. There were rooms upon rooms of men and women in gowns sitting in rooms with padded walls, and as we saw in that issue a) escape isn’t a new thing and b) the people in those rooms are deadly. Apparently Ted is from an old version of that, although he isn’t nearly as deadly as the girl from issue #3
Whoever they are, there is assumedly some purpose to them; however, given how much time we have now spent with the book and how we’ve seen things happen, the theory I’d offer is that these are people who ostensibly fit the description that all the students of the school fit, except they’ve been given a different/harsher version of the school experience than even we’ve seen so far. These are people who have cracked under the pressure, and lost their sanity as a result. This entire scene takes place before the Academy, and before the Academy even has its first real student, so clearly there was some kind of operation in place before then that was not even remotely as successful.
However, this would somewhat confirm that the Academy is Version Two Point Oh (or later) of an older program, which would explain all the different odd things around the campus.
Where Ted got the outfit I’m unsure of, but I’d expect to see Ted again if I were you. Or, at the very least, people like him. (More on this in a bit.)
Oh, and how awesome is Dagney, am I right? Just distracting Ted until her guys can arrive and shoot him in the head, without blinking an eye. Oh, Dagney. You fox.
Georgina Isn’t Special
Seven years later, both girls now in their teens, we’re given the first iteration of the school, which is just between the two of them under the tutelage of Teacher Ms. Dagney, PhD. This scene once again shows that Lara can read information from blank pages somehow, although what she’s reading in this sequence I’m unsure. (It would appear to be a diary, but whose I’m unsure.) However, Georgina has none of these uncanny abilities and storms out of the classroom, riled by the fact that Lara is seemingly so great. It’s basically a version of Marcia Syndrome (note: not a clinical term) brought on by jealousy and the competition for their (absent, to us) father’s love, and her lack of powers seems to come from the mother (which means that whatever is making Lara special didn’t come from the father, although that doesn’t necessarily make for a direct stab at lineage like some other things do).Continued below
Of course, it’s all for a better future of some kind. The girls are training something, but for what they don’t know. We have a better idea, of course; Georgina grows up to be the fearsome Miss Daramount of Morning Glory Academy, whose role is to teach children (kinda sorta) as Dagney alludes to in this scene. Then again, the twist here is that Dagney seems to be slightly pushing Lara down a darker path for a different purpose, because their father (whoever that is!) needs one of the two of them to be a leader. We’ll talk about this more at the end of the issue.
The last point of this scene, though, is that a new phrase was introduced last issue: “… to stop running.” Irina told it to Hunter through the TV, and now Dagney tells it to the young Lara. So, the children are being trained for a better future because it is time to stop running… but what is it that they could possibly be running from? (Outside of murderous homeless men who live underground and predators in the woods.) If anything, the stop running mantra seems to be the type of phrase that would relate to a doomsday prophecy if anything, in that there is something coming that would destroy the world and/or the future and it is time to stop running from that. Instead, whatever is coming must be embraced for a better future.
A Weird Slip Of The Tongue
The following scene contains this bit of dialogue, in which Georgina is asked by Lara if she had any interest in meeting her mother:
This could very well be me pulling apart things to find meaning where there is none, but if I’m reading this correctly the above dialogue would seem to infer that Lara and Georgina’s respective mothers came from the same place that Ted came from. If Ted came from the cells that were shown in issue #3 like I’ve guessed, then what does that mean about the people contained downstairs? Am I correct in reading the implication that the people who are dangerous and need to be locked in padded rooms are being bribed with roles of surrogating a child in exchange for their release (with release meaning death)?
That’s twisted. Assuming I’m reading it right, of course.
Plato’s Cave, or Everything You Know Is Wrong
Lara is visited in the middle of the night by Vanessa, first seen in issue #1 who returned in #19 as one of the Truants. She has apparently traveled back in time to this very moment, per request of Lara (as we later learn) to reveal to Lara the cave we saw in issue #13 under the assumption that this will allow Lara to connect with her mother, which is something Lara has been thinking about.
In this sequence, one of the theories we had back in issue #13 (that was also discussed on the podcast, if you listened!) is confirmed, and that the cave on the school grounds is a replica of Plato’s Cave allegory. For those who weren’t here the first time we discussed it, the allegory of the cave is about the nature of perception of reality, as a group of prisoners are chained up below a walkway, watching shadows move along a wall and assuming that that’s what the world is because that’s all they’ve ever seen. What Vanessa explains to Lara is that the the allegory of the cave is the true explanation of reality within the Gloryverse: we assume time moves in a straight line, from Point A to Point B and eventually to Point C. Instead, A, B and C all exist at the same time, there for you to access and control if you contain the specific abilities to do so — which Lara does. This is why Lara can travel through time/space without the regular restrictions that science fiction has taught us to believe in, and it sheds some light on Casey’s ability to change things back in issue #16.
The allegory of the cave also works in relation to the school. We’re under the assumption that Georgina and Lara are on the school grounds the entire time, or what will eventually become the school grounds. This is all they know, all they’ve ever seen; the things that exist outside the walls of the school, wherever they may be and whatever they might be made of, are shadows on the wall. There’s a whole wide world out there waiting for them, and who knows what really exists out there.Continued below
According to Vanessa, the assumptions we have about reality are what are enforced upon us by “the Evil Ones.” Who, or what, those are is unknown, but you can assume that whatever the Evil Ones are up to is directly related, either in line with or against, the mission of the Academy. One would assume that it would be in league with, and that’s what Vanessa certainly believes. However, things are never that easy, are they?
Vanessa does go into things a bit further: we’ve often speculated that there is a war happening in the Gloryverse, one at which the Academy is dead center of. The war is between “those who love this world” and “those who want to destroy it.” That’s not a lot of information to go with as it’s pretty generic and could refer to anything, but it does confirm the “good” and “bad” dichotomy. Which side is the Academy? I’m not to sure. At this point, I’m honestly willing to bet they might be on the side of good more than we know, because hey, remember when we all thought the Others on LOST were the villains?
This scene also confirms that Vanessa is from the cells downstairs, from issue #3, where Ted came from. Fancy that. I wonder if the other Truants have similar connections? After all, the name of this gang comes from a term for those who have absconded from their schooling. Perhaps those six are all basement escapees in some form or fashion.
Either way, Vanessa thanks Lara for everything Lara has done for her in the future, and then Lara bashes Vanessa’s brains in with a rock.
Lara Is A Jerk
Since Lara was introduced, she has been “the good guy.” She’s the one we’re supposed to side with, who helps our kids and who has some kind of investment in them and their survival. Whatever it is she’s doing, it’s for their better future.
Of course, if you’re like me, you began to suspect Lara of dubious intentions a while ago. After all, in a book like this where everyone has ulterior motives and wears two faces, Lara being “the good guy” is way too easy. It simply shows us that she’s the type of character willing to play the long con, especially for her father who has apparently done so much for her, what with giving her a “special” mother. So Lara, knowing her destiny to an extent and being an obedient daughter (to a creepy, cultish extent) decides to be a two-faced manipulator of those around her, with the only person aware of this being lovable Miss Dagney.
Anyone who read Spencer’s run on “THUNDER Agents” may also recognize a few similar elements here, in that a character we trusted turned out to be “the bad guy”, although not entirely. What I’m saying is: beware of Spencer and his damned long cons. Trust no one.
Of course, Lara pulling a double cross on the kids (and us) does give some credence to Georgina supposedly showing up in #18 with Abraham, as long as we’re under the assumption that Abraham is a good guy. If Lara could betray us like that, why couldn’t Georgina betray everyone at the Academy because daddy didn’t love her like he loved Lara? (The twist there being that, according to Lara, he does.)
Whose side is Dagney on, I wonder.
Nobody Puts Georgina In A Corner
As the issue comes to a close, we’re given a final moment of Georgina and Lara in the present. Lara admits to Georgina that she has always known that their father loves Georgina more, and that she’s OK with that. Part of their growing up has been a struggle for them to get along, but now that they’re adults she can see their sisterly bonds are more important than anything else. That’s why Lara is going to fix everything for Georgina, and get the kids back from where they are — which apparently involved taking Casey out of the equation.
So, OK. Lara lied to us because we thought she was a friend. Lara lied to Casey for the same reason. All things considered, we don’t actually know that Lara isn’t lying to Georgina right now and pulling a double-double cross. I mean, she says all she does is for her father and for the greater purpose of the Academy, but it still seems a touch suspicious overall that a little girl could be told she wouldn’t be the chosen one and then just go with it. In fact, as Crit points out in his notes to me, it is possible that Lara is in this for herself, slowly putting herself into a position of supreme power for the eventual reveal that she was “the Big Bad” all along.Continued below
But hey, who knows? Besides Nick, of course.
There’s also a reference to Abraham “getting what he deserves,” which would seem to be a slight indication that he’s not the great guy we thought he was. Then again, we thought Lara was one of our heroines and that she was working with him, so it’s all up in the air obviously.
This Month In Cameos And Easter Eggs
For issue #20, there is only one major scene of cameos and easter eggs, and that’s with the security guard who Lara brings Vanessa’s now dead body to. The security guard in this scene is played by Robert Wilson IV, a very talented artist who did a comic entitled “Knuckleheads,” which is also the name of the cereal he’s eating (and, as a bonus, the cereal box cover is based on the “Knuckleheads” cover and the letters in his bowl spell his name).
As for the books in the background, yes, they are all references. They are, from left to right: ‘Dharma Manual’ (from LOST), ‘Rossmo’ (as in Riley), ‘Urasawa’ (as in Naoki), ‘Prometheus’ (as in that movie) and ‘Manhattan Projects’ (the title of another Image comic currently being released). The one on the top shelf reads ‘Burns,’ which is the name of Joe’s first collaborator, Jason Burns.
The little boy who is the Academy’s first student is Logan Eisma as well, making his comic debut. Hopefully things turn out well for him.
Oh, and before we end:
The Final Twist
Might I point out that Ike and Jade are wandering through the camp grounds in the daylight, not the night time like the other students? I wonder how that’s going to pan out, seeing as they’re still in the present.