In today’s edition of Study Hall, Crit and I tackle the 21st issue, in which we meet a brand new set of kids: the Truants. Things are going to get twisted.
And on top of that, we’ve even got a neat exclusive just for you hidden at the bottom of the post. What could it be?
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: Hello and welcome back to MGA Study Hall! After an edition by myself, Crit has returned from the cells below Morning Glory Academy and is ready to do some annotations with us again. Welcome back, Crit!
Crit Obara: Thanks! It’s good to be back, and we’ve got one wild issue here in front of us today. Plenty of new questions are raised, and we might even get to say that a prediction of ours came true!
MM: Well let’s get right into it! We open with a scene we’ve seen before back with issue #18, but now we see a bit more of it — specifically to introduce to us the Truants. We start with Guillaume, who we know, plus there is Vanessa, Ian and Irina who we met last issue, Akiko from issue #1 and the brand new character who we’ve never seen before, Fortunato. They’re the Truants, the “Original Six,” whatever you want to call them, and they apparently know more than we do. So, Crit, before we dive into this issue, who is your favorite of the new characters?
CO: They know a lot more than we do, so if they read this they should email us and help out with our next column! Just putting that out there, guys. I want to answer this question with Fortunato, just because at this point there really isn’t a reason to pick him, but I think I’m going to go with Irina because of that crazed look in her eyes which scares me a little bit. I don’t want to upset her and feel that gaze on me, so I’ll pick her. I will also say that Vanessa seems to be the most interesting, though. Who’s your pick?
MM: So far I like Ian, if only because he seems the most relatable. All of the kids seem to fill “roles” to the same extent that our previous batch of kids did, and Ian seems to me to be the Hunter-esque kid. It’s easy to look at his dialogue and his maneurisms and say, yeah, I’d probably be that cynical and witty in this situation. Or, I hope I would anyway.
So, lets break this issue in half to make it easier to discuss. First we’ll discuss all of the events that take place in the past, and then we’ll discuss all of the events that take place in our presents. Does that sound good?
CO: That sounds all good and chronological. When I mentioned that a prediction of ours may have come true, I was talking about how we’d alluded to an army being built. This first scene, four years ago, coupled with a line later “we’re going there to kill!” looks to me like an army is being built. A teenage army, whose purpose is yet unknown. What’s your take on the opening scene?Continued below
MM: Well, clearly Abraham is trying to infiltrate the school, supposedly with the help of Daramount (as we saw in issue #18). The question is really why? For a better future? For some sinister purpose? I’d say at this point we really don’t know who the “good” guy is, but so far everyone that has been attached to Abraham has ended up to be a rather dark individual. At least we haven’t seen MGA train kids to be warriors, right? They’re at school, even if that school is ostensibly evil. So my take on the scene is yes, he’s building an army, but I would go so far as to potentially call them the invaders, or even the potential usurpers.
CO: I keep having a feeling that they’re not there to help our old friends, as I read I just felt that they were up to no good. Whether that means they want to usurp or maybe even just burn the place down, I don’t know. The latter seems a bit boring, a hostile takeover sounds much more interesting to me.
MM: Well, it’s possible that those six are Abraham’s agents, but “our” six are for the School? We know that Hodge is manipulating Casey, and we assume she knows about Abraham and what he’s up to due to her interactions with Jun. Hodge has only shown loyalty to her Father, and she killed a Truant in issue #20 (Vanessa). We’ll see how that plays out.
CO: Now, when Vanessa is packing, there’s mention of an item that she has remembered to pack when reminded of it. At first I thought this was something sinister, re-reading it had me wondering if it’s something as simple as her application or essay or something innocuous of that nature. And while we’re talking about packing, what’s up with all the bags Ian is carrying?
MM: Hmm. It might be. That’s a good point, but I feel like it would be a tool. That said, a tool can be an essay if delivered to the right person. I’m sure at some point we’ll see Vanessa (who we should note is the daughter of Miss Richmond) with some kind of item, but whatever it is I’m sure it has to do with either a) the downfall of the school or b) communication, either with the “outside” (Abraham) or the other students, which came to mind due to the mention of the school being able to “interfere.” As for Ian’s bags… that’s a good call. I hadn’t thought of it. Guns, perhaps? The school has their guns locked up, maybe they have a clever way to get guns in and they’re all in the bag? That or comic books. Dude’s gotta read sometime.
CO: I like the idea of it being comic books, especially since he makes reference to them while getting on the bus.
MM: Yes, and what I especially love about this moment is that she says she has superpowers, which is something you and I have discussed the various characters having. Nick has denied this element before in the audio editions of MGA Study Hall, but then he throws out a line like this… you have to assume he’s probably just screwing with us a little bit.
CO: Most definitely! But then Ian says “it’s not for – nevermind,” so I think he was about to say that whatever it is in there is not for him. Maybe we’ll see. Fortunato is on the bus praying silently, and doesn’t even respond when spoken to. I have a feeling the first time we hear from him will be a significant moment.
MM: It would seem that all the kids have to bring “something” with them. Maybe they don’t even know what the others are bringing, as if each are being placed as independent sleepers who are aware of each other? I know I just watched the television show Homeland (and this may be a slight spoiler of sorts for the show?), but one of the ideas in this show, which is about terrorists in America, is that each individual sleeper has no idea of the other. They’re working together only in that they have similar goals, not in that they support one another. Maybe that’s what the Truants are? Individuals with separate personal missions?Continued below
I also want to note: Ian is supposed to be British. Unlike the last group of these kids, this team has much more widespread diversity in terms of where they come from.
CO: I like that comparison, it’s certainly possible. They all have individual jobs to do, that may or may not (but I’d think they do) serve the same ultimate purpose.
Two years ago (page 19) we see everyone heading to the school. Those first three panels share something – well, someone – in common. There’s a man in a suit and dark sunglasses lurking in each. At the airport, on the plane, at the airport. Who is this mystery man? Seems to be guiding the students along to the school.
MM: Yes, good eye, Crit! There is someone in the background of all those scenes. I know we’ve extrapolated a lot based on situations like that before, but that seems FAR too intentional to not be on purpose. He’s definitely an agent of some kind, but of whose we don’t know. I’d also like to point out the Kuder sign in the airport, which is a reference to Aaron Kuder, the artist.
We also get to learn the driver’s name, which is Albert. Good to know, and good to see him again!
CO: And how about Vanessa arriving at the school, this looks familiar. We previously saw Daramount welcome Casey, now it’s Hodge welcoming Vanessa in almost identical fashion. This scene had me pretty excited. Same actions, new people.
MM: I like that Hodge greets Vanessa, given that Hodge killed Vanessa one issue ago. Hodge even makes a coy reference to this, and the remark about mothers is obvious a callback to that. It must be interesting knowing someone’s future.
CO: I suppose I’d act strange to someone knowing I was going to murder them.
MM: But yes, same actions with new people. It brings new actions to certain sequences, like Miss Dagney’s opening video/slide and how they react to it being weird (or how they’re in a room full of students, unlike the Glories), or all of Guillaume’s roommates reacting to having the same birthday and their parents not knowing them, which is identical to what happened with Jade back in issue #1. I loved seeing that in this iteration, it’s incredibly well executed! Plus: YOUNG PAMELA!
And, as an added bonus, I would like to point out that Guillaume is reading the Count of Monte Cristo in this sequence, which is the story of a man wrongly imprisoned who escapes from jail and seeks revenge on those responsible for his imprisonment — I wonder what that could possibly be foreshadowing?
CO: Hmm. Maybe Jim Caviezel is going to show up at some point.
The same actions / new people was definitely well executed, and when taking notes for this I broke out issue 1 and read the scenes side by side for added effect. Very cool. And of course, the big finale for our past timeline here, the ol’ dead parents in the basement trick again…except this time with more ass-kicking!
MM: Yes, Irina and Steve — and if you think back to when we first started doing MGA Study Hall in the second arc, you may remember Steve and Chad from issues #7 and 8, who bully Hunter and are murdered for it. I don’t know if it’s the same Steve, but I think that’s the implication, don’t you?
CO: I had forgotton about Steve there, but looking at it that way I think there’s a good chance that we’re talking about the same Steve here.
MM: I can also confirm that Steve here is based on Lan Pitts, a writer for Newsarama who is friends with Joe. Yeesh, if this is what he does to his friends…
Anyway. The mirroring thing begins to add a new dimension here. Irina notes that those are not her real parents strung up on the wall, and since Irina is the “Casey” of the group, that may mean that Casey’s parents are alive and well. That was the impression I got, at any rate — that MGA puts on a show for new students in order to get them compliant to their rules, which means parents who don’t remember some students and parents who are dead for others. Would you agree with that?Continued below
CO: And because Irina is the Casey of this group, there has to be that connection with the parents. Casey obviously had a different reaction than Irina, but considering how much of this lines up, I would be willing to bet that Casey’s parents are just fine somewhere. So while they were able to break Casey down, Irina has the upperhand on the school here. She’s smart, and is going to play along as if she doesn’t, which makes me think she has some foresight about the school’s operations, and she’s perhaps working on bringing it down from the inside or getting some information out.
I think it’s funny that even though we’ve seen similar events before, you’d think we would have an idea of what was going to happen this time. But this group of students is different, and seemingly aware, to some level, of the school and the things that go on there, where the original six were clueless to it. Interesting.
MM: Well we certainly have a comprehension of the situation that lets us view things in a different light. Seeing the “Bro, we have the same birthday!” is viewed as comical to us because we saw it happen with our main characters and we know the result of it. The reaction from Guillaume is therefore that much more funny, because he’s thinking, “Ugh, this stuff is OBVIOUS.”
MM: The scary thing to think about, though, is how much does Irina and/or the Truants know that we don’t? Irina, referring to her parents hanging up on the wall, says “I think I will like this place — it reminds me of home.” What is home for her? Her literal home? Abraham’s camp? I think the implication is that we are supposed to trust them for whatever reason, but based on Irina’s action alone in this issue I find that hard to do …
…which brings us to the actions of the present day when she shoots Hunter in the leg to keep him from running away! But of course Jun/Hisao shows up and vouches for them before things get too argumentative and out of hand.
CO: They have knowledge of the situation and/or the future. And they have guns. So, they are considerably dangerous to the originals, and maybe even each other. They tell Hunter that they’re in need of his help, but they can’t explain anything to him. So now he’s supposed to trust the girl who just grazed his leg with a bullet after he’s witnessed a pair of murders. Hunter, the hunted.
And yes, then the Jun/Hisao reveal slash gun-to-the-mouth, who almost walked in on his brother’s ceremony at the school (dungeon?). And apparently, if this ceremony happens, the plans are all ruined, and “the change in time will be undone.” So, we have time travelers here? Course-correctors, or course-alterers? Something else completely?
MM: I believe we have it 100% confirmed from Nick, via the audio episodes we do, that they are in the future. Why they’ve gone to the future is a mystery, but they are definitely displaced from time so that some of the students can perform an action. We just have no idea what the plan is for it… but I’d bet the Truants (and any other sleepers out there) do.
The gun-to-the-mouth thing though is interesting, because we later see that Guillaume and Irina are in on it together. That was to save face so Jun wouldn’t suspect anything. That got me thinking — Abraham had Jun sent to the school at a different time from Guillaume, and when Guillaume went to the school we saw he was hand-picked by Daramount from a scene in issue #18 where she says it “has to be” those six students. I think that reinforces the idea that the Truants are operating not necessarily in sync with one another, with perhaps Irina as some sort of mastermind?
Irina is clearly in charge and she’s a headstrong lady. She’s manipulating everyone individually, supposedly for Abraham — …. but what if she’s something else? Something worse? Nick mentions that she’s the “new Zoe” to an extent, she’s the girl to watch for. Well, Zoe was referred to in the book as a Predator. So if Zoe was a Predator, what would that make Irina?Continued below
CO: Right, the fact that they’re working together suggests some teamwork, but it’s still unclear if the ultimate goal here is the same for all of them. They could all even be pieces to the bigger puzzle but not even realize that they are actually working together. So they’re kind of together but they don’t all have the same information? I think that might be the best way to put it? Irina would definitely seem to have the most information, maybe she knows her job and everything about everyone elses, where they mostly know their own responsibilities.
So Zoe is a predator, Irina is the new Zoe, Irina is…a chestbursting alien/predator hybrid?! I don’t know. Something scary and dangerous, for sure.
For the mission to succeed, they needed to get Hisao away from his brother. And they need to get to a tower. A sacrifice is always demanded. My notes ended with “we have hints about what’s going on, but I don’t see where this is all headed and I want the next issue now.”
MM: If I had to guess, I would say they need to kill Jun’s brother. It might be as simple as they need to kill him to stop him from fixing things, it could be more complicated and closer to a “there can be only one” type situation. We do know that the brothers are complicated, because only one belongs at the school. Maybe both of them being there is preventing something greater from happening?
CO: I’d say that’s possible. They have them separated so whenever they catch up to his brother, they can just take him out. If the two were together, it’s possible that they wouldn’t be able to tell which was which, and making the mistake of killing the wrong brother could undo everything. Plus, as Irina said, Hisao is blinded by the love he has for his brother. She probably just doesn’t want him around if she’s going to kill his brother. Maybe she could even find a way to blame his death on the “other side” to make Hisao fight harder against them. Now this is just turning into speculation, but I could see this happening.
Well, my notes have been exhausted, except for one line that I really liked and want to point out. It’s a lighter one, from Hunter: “Somebody should tell me about something about something sometime…” With all the questions we’re asking, it was amusing and understandable to see one of the characters say aloud what us readers are thinking. Anything else from you?
MM: Yes. There’s one panel that I paused and stared at. It’s page 18, the last panel after Guillaume is hit by Irina. The panel is black except for a staggered glow around them. It’s a very neat visual, although I was trying not to read into it too much. Then again, the fact that this is the only panel we’ve ever seen like it has to mean something, right? At least a little bit.
CO: Hmm, it IS different. The dialogue doesn’t seem to suggest anything crazy or special, but the visual is almost a forcefield or an aura around them, and I’m not sure I can put my finger on a reason for it to be drawn that way if it wasn’t trying to say something. It could be reading into it too much, and it might just be a little visual fun, which I would say I’m leaning towards, but it could have a deeper meaning. I guess we can look out for that in the coming episodes and if it becomes a pattern maybe we’ll have something there, a connection of some kind or hint as to what it could mean.
MM: It could even be slight foreshadowing that there’s something not right about their interaction? We learn later that the gun-in-the-face bit is actually a routine. Maybe this was just Joe’s way of showing that not all is what it seems?
CO: I think that’s possible. That page has a panel that’s all white, followed by rays of light as he gets whacked, a normal panel that shows the woods and then the one you’re questioning. None of the four consecutive panels are alike, so it might mean something to consider not only the characters and their dialogue but also what can (or can’t) be seen behind them in each.Continued below
MM: I can get behind that explanation, sure. Good call!
CO: Alright! Well I think that just about wraps up MGASH #21 then! CRIT OUT!
MM: And now, as an exclusive treat just for Multiversity readers, get your first look at a “Morning Glories” EH Shepard-esque pin-up by “Cheeseburger” Charles P. Wilson III!