Hello and welcome back to MGA Study Hall, where all things Morning Glories are analyzed, dissected and poured over with the hope that we can figure out just what is going on!
Today’s issue is issue #30, where Irina takes the spotlight as the second character-centric arc begins.
Join me as I discuss the issue, its story and the possible hidden secrets that we may or may not be picking up on. I should note: this column contains massive spoilers for the issue. Enormous. Colossal, 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 comic debut, Enormous, now in stores and formerly serializing here on MC! Many thanks to Tim for being fantastically awesome and providing it to us.
One more thing before we begin, as I’d like to continue to throw out this short plug:
For more details, click the image above. As for myself, I’ve got theorizing to do. Let’s kick it off.
All About Irina
After the first arc of “Morning Glories,” the book took some time off for us to get to know the cast a bit better with character-focused issues that introduced us to who these people were and how it informs their lives now. It was all very LOST-ian, and it helped us get attached and empathize with these characters a lot more. The latest arc of the book seeks to do this as well, and it is starting with Irina.
Up to this point our general understanding of her was simple: a former acolyte of Abraham (whose own goal was/is assumedly the destruction of the school), she saw *something* that convinced her to rebel against him and yet still continue to take down the Academy. Apparently both are horrible in their own ways. Now, however, it appears that the road that took her to this place is even more dark than we’d previously guessed: she’s from a home beyond broken, with a mother who hires men to rape and murder her for practice. It’s all rather awful.
However, it does bring up some interesting thoughts about Irina. She’s been in training for a task all her life, and is decidedly more militant than any of the other children – which is clearly reflected in the actions we’ve seen her undertake. But it also opens up a rather legitimate reason for all this: is Irina coming after the Headmaster so heavily because of what he ostensibly did to her own mother? Because, after all, one of the twists of the issue is that Irina’s mother is the same as Georgina Daramount’s, which insinuates a certain type of relationship between Irina’s mother and the Headmaster… which is troublesome, to say the least.Continued below
I mean, the general implicatio on a first read is that Irina is the Headmaster’s actual daughter, right? We’d never seen anything to suggest this in the past, which I assume is very much the point, but the dark hair and attitude between her and Daramount do nod favorably towards the sister angle and not just some kind of weird cult thing; we’re most likely looking at blood relatives here, whereas I’d wager Daramount and Hodge are step-sisters because of whatever their crazy father is up to with the women and the babies in basements and all that.
But we’ll talk more about this in the next section. Put the brakes on it for now.
So in a story that has such a heavy focus on the role of parents, is Irina’s primary motivation that of vengeance against the ultimate horrible father/Father figure? Because it sure seems that way now — and if that’s truly the case, if this is all about retribution, then it makes Irina’s story that much more relatable… and a touch tragic. At the very least, it certainly creates a similar line of action between Irina and Casey in a fashion.
It also makes Irina’s line from the last issue about a “whore mother” read very differently, although the issue does address that on its own. Phooey. I wanted to call it out!
Wanna Know How I Got These Scars?
So, ok. Irina is the daughter of the Headmaster, right? Lets think about why.
If you think back to issue #20, you’ll remember that during the issue we saw the birth of Lara Hodge. You may also remember that her mother was instantly killed via an injection of some kind from a young Nurse Nine. (Or, well, we assume that’s what happened, anyway — we don’t know what this particular drug does, but who needs another body laying around? Plus, it was administered by a child; hardly the best candidate for the safe administration of anesthesia.)
Well, should Lara’s mom be dead here’s a theory as to why (in a manner of speaking): because the last time the Headmaster had a daughter, the mother absconded. We don’t know too much here, but we meet Georgina and Irina’s mothers Kseniya in this issue and she is much worse for wear – her face is scarred and she’s missing an eye. The insinuation, at least to me, is that whenever she got away from whatever it was she needed getting away from, it was done quite literally by the skin of her teeth. This resulted in her scarring, I would assume.
(She could’ve always looked like this, sure, but I wager that her visual look here is more to show that she is battle worn and not just unlucky with a bad skin condition and astigmatism.)
There is a long-recurring thematic relation of the role of parents to the story, and Lara and Georgina’s parents are no exception to this role; there is something important to them, enough that having them loose in the world is very dangerous. Clearly, based on issue #20, the Headmaster is taking precautions against this, as Kseniya seems to be proof of why.
What we do need to take into consideration is that just because they have the same mother, Irina may not be the Headmaster’s daughter. In fact, the theory that I just gave you may be entirely bunk, for one central reason: the age difference between Irina and Georgina is rather large. Because of this, it would perhaps be safe to assume that either a) Kseniya left the Academy for Irina and before Headmaster instituted the Dead Mother Policy, or b) she has a different father.
Personally, I might lean to B, although I will talk more about A (which technically remains plausible due to the book’s use of time travel and events happening out of order as a narrative device). It just seems more natural that Kseniya would escape and breed a child to carry on her work, as a large part of the book — specifically when you look at relationships between established parent figures and their children, like Abraham and Ike — seems to revolve around the notion that the children need to pick up the load from their parents. Kseniya would seem to want to transfer this responsibility to Irina, no?Continued below
Just food for thought when formulating some new theories.
There Is… Another
On the thread of lineage, I do want to point something out as sort of a throwaway remark: what would happen if Irina was in fact the Headmaster’s daughter?
So, the Headmaster had — as far as we knew — two daughters: Lara Hodge and Georgina Daramount. They both work in the school, they seem to act against one another but they’ve both proven loyalty to his vision. Just as I noted that Kseniya seemed to be training Irina to take over her roles, Hodge and Daramount would ostensibly be groomed to take the place of the Headmaster.
Yet now, we learn of a third child, one whose presence we were aware of but of whose connection we didn’t know: Irina, the wayward daughter come to burn her Father’s house to the ground.
This isn’t a particularly revolutionary thought, it’s certainly wildly speculatory, but I think something to take into consideration is that Irina is probably not the only secret child of the Headmaster out there. Because, well, the guy clearly has some kind of plan going on; he has a vision and the resolve to accomplish it by whatever means is necessary, and a part of this could very well be the fathering of various offspring in order to perform various tasks. I’m not necessarily saying that everyone we know is a child of the Headmaster or anything, but clearly this guy — whoever, whatever he is — has a semblance of interest in the fathering of children. And while this is definitely me putting on a tinfoil hat here, the recurring thematic elements of the book do suggest that the nod to a “secret” child (of sorts) could have more to it than just, oh, another daughter.
I mean, he runs a school. I don’t know how more blatant it could be.
Think of what we know of Abraham, Ike and David — or rather, how little we know. We’ve seen that Ike is Abraham’s son, but Gribbs claimed that David belonged to Abraham which we believed — until last issue, where David was revealed to (supposedly, assuming there was no relationship cheating) be the son of Casey/Clarkson and Tom Reed. And Abraham runs a school too, and people call him Father when he’s not their actual biological father.
Not to hammer too fine one singular point, but the role of parents and how their children react to their burdens is a huge part of this story and how our characters operate. That such an omnipotent character who seems to have some semblance of control of his surroundings (in that he owns a rival school, not that he got captured and was imprisoned for who knows how long) can’t seem to have his lineage in order does to me suggest that his rival, who up until this point has basically been seen as Abraham’s opposite, might have things running a bit smoother.
For a better future, and all that.
Right. So, Basically…
There are two schools we can now sit in, pun intended.
- Irina is the Headmaster’s daughter and has been given an opportunity to take revenge upon her father for the life she has led thanks to Kseniya’s escape from his clutches
- Irina is not the Headmaster’s daughter, but through a twist of fate (as if things in this book aren’t pre-determined thanks to time travel!) has the chance to avenger her mother for what this man did to her in the past
I welcome theories as to which is correct and why.
A Common Enemy
Now to go down an additional rabbit hole: the big twist ending of the issue is that it was Danielle Clarkson aka Casey Blevins who recruited Irina so many years ago.
What we ultimately have to think about is this: Clarkson recruited Irina, assumedly, to go against the Academy. Now that Irina is at the school and has failed to destroy it (for now) and kill the Headmaster, the school reaches out to her to see if they can’t focus her on going against the woman who recruited her to help destroy the Academy in the first place. Talk about wheels within wheels within wheels.Continued below
What’s interesting to think about with the arrival of Clakrson at the end of the issue is that it effectively throws a wrench into our conventional thinking of what’s going on with the shadow war for power for and against the school. Why? Because Casey/Clarkson works for Hodge, which (assumedly) means that Hodge had Casey recruit Irina for Abraham, a known opponent of the school, which means that Hodge effectively set Irina on her warpath. But Hodge, in issue #29, admitted that her methods were “wrong”, and in issue #20 we saw that Hodge clearly has love for her father.
So either Hodge is terrible at making plans, or she basically created a plot to kill her own father. Why? Perhaps Hodge was trying to take control of the school and do Headmaster’s work in her own fashion (which would align with the idea that the child is trying to overtake the parent, or has to). But one thing that’s clear is that we still have not seen all of Hodge’s machinations, and it’s perhaps still fair to consider her one of the most untrustworthy people at the Academy.
Kseniya doesn’t seem to fit into this, which is problematic as well. Kseniya seems to be aware of Clarkson in a manner of speaking, because Irina killing her (a very literal version of the child taking on the parent’s burden) is what leads into the finale — but then what is Kseniya’s stake in the matter? If my theory about why Lara’s mom is dead is correct than I suppose this could add motivation for Hodge, but at the same time this is beginning to get to a point where you doubt Person A could know about Thing B in order to do Action C. There are so many threads on the board here of potential connections that we haven’t exactly establsihed anything so much as we have just… put threads on a board.
Is Clarkson the “common enemy”? Is Hodge? Does the Academy even know who they’re fighting against? Your guess is as good as mine, but the ending of this issue does beg the question as to whether the Academy, beyond just Hodge, know the true identity of Danielle Clarkson – although now the alias and makeover is certainly validated on a larger scale beyond just Casey needing to be careful before crossing into her own timeline.
One last thing I’d like to call attention to for this edition of Study Hall is the new teacher, Mr. N. We’ve not met too much of the faculty beyond a specific few, as bearded and handsome as they may be, so it’s nice to meet someone new to help keep alive the idea that these kids are at an actual school and not some strange weird torture-y place.
What I find interesting, though, is that he refuses to give his full name, citing that it can be difficult for some to pronounce. … what? That’s a BS excuse if I’ve ever heard one, right? Because not only does Irina speak one foreign language, but she partially grew up in a camp with kids from a variety of nations. She’s a highly skilled combat veteran and warrior who has proven she can blend into her surroundings; I find it hard to believe she would find difficulty in a name.
He’s clearly hiding something, is what I’m getting at, and there is power in knowing someone’s name. I’d be inclined to point you to a specific trope established by the story of Rumplestiltskin (as far as I know) that has been utilized in multiple stories and examples of media where knowing someone’s name gives you power over them, like a weird voodoo doll of sorts. However, it doesn’t have to be a literal power or magical hold, like we’ve seen Casey and Hodge do to people back in issue #16; knowing someone’s name gives the reader power because we’re able to research the meaning and insinuate certain things about their identity.
Kseniya, Irina’s mother for example, means “hospitality” from a Greek derivation (Xenia), which is interesting given that she’s one of the least hospitable characters we’ve met. Irina, also a name from Ancient Greece, means “peace” – which, again, is the opposite of her personality. The names picked for the book are often rather specific… so why can’t we know Mr. N’s?Continued below
Unless Mr. N is from another plane of existence where people have Lovecraftian names of unpronounceable horror, in which case OK, that might be hard to pronounce. But I’d say it’s probably a good idea to keep him heavily on your radar.
I’m not going into Snowflake’s name, though.
“These Are Not My Real Parents”
Now for a couple lighter things, yes?
Now that we know Irina’s mother, her line in #21 makes a lot more sense. Oh, sure, we all kind of figured out that Irina and the other Truants had been sent from Abraham’s camp to foster/fake families (just like we assume the same of Zoe from what we’ve learned of her), but it’s worth a nod back to as an element of the past that was clearly laid out for us.
The Return of the Amazing Spiderina
Another thing faithful readers may remember is back in issue #22, Irina showed us that she had some pretty sweet moves when it came to avoiding detection. I’ll bet you a whole bunch of stuff that Irina’s ceiling cling in this issue is a nod towards that and her training.
And no, I don’t think she can cling to walls as one of her secret powers.
As the last thing that faithful readers of the column and the series should notice, at three points in this issue do we get to see a scene from Irina’s POV: at the very beginning, in the middle and near the end (all three of which are in this column, in case you missed them). We have been told in the past that the use of POV panels is important to the series before, and often times they give us strange clues — for example, at one point a dying Amanda sees a murderous Zoe through a blurry distortion, which we took to mean several things.
Well, get your tinfoil hats on, because I have to point out Irina has three visions in this issue: the first clear, the second slightly blurred, and the third slightly blurred even further (even though they don’t happen in strictly sequential order). While I don’t have a “split-personality/possession” theory to throw at you, I do have the following observations to consider:
- Vision 1, the issue’s opener: Irina is at home, and despite being immediately thrust into a situation where she is about to be raped and murdered, she’s very much “at home.” There’s nothing out of place; this is her norm, this is what she knows and lives. There is no blur.
- Vision 2, awakening in secret dorm: Irina awakens inside of a nice apartment dorm inside the school to be greeted by a mysterious teacher. She believes she is still in control, she has to develop a read on the situation as there are unknowns in play but she is not afraid or nervous of anything that is to come. There is a slight blur.
- Vision 3, before killing her mother: Irina is awoken in a similar fashion to the first vision, but the circumstances are entirely different; in this situation, her attacker is her mother and she will have no help from her faithful dog companion. She is alone in a fight to the death, and no matter who wins the fight Irina ultimately loses. This vision has the most blur.
Is this a clue or an over-read? Are the visions created in order to signify oncoming danger or perilous changes for the person through whose eyes we’re seeing, sort of like a visual Spidey-Sense (so to say), or are people just groggy after awakening? YOU DECIDE.
As I’ve mentioned before, the Morning Glories Wikipedia is now live, featuring copious notes and annotations. While I’ve not written anything particular for it, I’ve contributed a few inklings here and there, and some notes are sourced for this very column in a cleaner database friendly fashion — so I guess think of it like this column, but with less “me” and more straight-up presentation of materials. Should be good for every time we get a name and are wondering if it has been mentioned before. (I particularly like this entry, myself.)Continued below
In further things you should be following, the Morning Glory Academy Study Hall podcast is live and updated with tons of episodes for you to listen to, including commentary for the fourth arc ‘Truants.’ You can find them streaming here on Multiversity Comics (see below for links) or on Podomatic and on iTunes. For those unaware of its purpose, this is a podcast that I do with Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma in which we discuss each individual issue at length, offering up commentary tracks to go alongside your reads. It’s pretty much the best.
Fifth arc discussion will be coming … soon. There may be other announcements coming as well.
And, oh, I suppose while linking to rival website isn’t good for Multiversity business, I will note that all-around good guy Kiel Phegley does a column called Morning Glory Days about “Morning Glories” where he interviews Nick that is a pretty interesting read for fans of the series. I won’t actively say you should visit other websites besides Multiversity, but I do like Kiel. It’s worth a read.
If you’d like to contact myself directly with thoughts or comments, shoot me an e-mail at the very specific firstname.lastname@example.org. I have a real e-mail that you can find at the bottom as well, should you prefer that.
I’ll see you in the backmatter!!
Previous audio podcasts: second arc interviews, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, second arc wrap-up, NSRFQR, third arc interviews, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, third arc wrap-up, all of the fourth arc