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 #32, where Vanessa takes the spotlight and my mind blows up with theories.
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.
News Bit: MGA Study Hall is Still Coming to NYCC 2013!
As a reminder because we really want you to come: this column is going to be LIVE this year at NYCC!
Nick, Joe and I are going to sit down together in front of a live audience to talk about the book. I will try to see what secrets we can trick them into saying, there will be some visuals to go along with the panel (I’ve done a Power Point!) and it should be a good time for “Morning Glories” fans to get together. OH, and, yes: if you attend the panel, there will be time for you to get up and ask Nick and Joe (and me, if you want) questions directly. We won’t skimp on the Q&A, rest assured.
There may even be other goodies to be had at the panel. I don’t know. Show up and find out.
Here’s all the relevant information:
Title: Morning Glories Study Hall LIVE!
Time: 6:45PM – 7:45PM
Speakers: Joe Eisma, Matthew Meylikhov, & Nick Spencer
Description: From the hit annotation column on Multiversity Comics, it’s MGA Study Hall Live! Join creators Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma as they discuss their hit Eisner-nominated and New York Times Bestselling Image Comics series “Morning Glories” with MGA Study Hall host Matthew Meylikhov, including a live Q&A segment. Questions will be asked, answers will be avoided and all will be well – for a better future.
So, join us! If you haven’t bought a ticket for NYCC, now is the time to, right? You totally have to.
The panel is not going to be in one of the rooms that NYCC is streaming live, unfortunately, but we are doing our best to record it. we’ll figure something out.Continued below
Oh, and after the panel, we are going to go to this awesome party. You should come.
News Bit #2: Credit Notes
As a note, this issue has a colorist credit to Jason Lewis, who colored the last issue of the series. This issue is actually colored by the current series colorist, Paul Little.
Alright, lets begin:
A Hole in the Wall
If the introductory to this issue seems oddly familiar to you, then guess what: it absolutely should! Because, as you may remember, we’ve seen this sort of similar situation before — back in issue #3 to be precise. Set in 1490’s Spain, we saw a woman trapped in some kind of unknown prison cell in what we fans believe is an early iteration of the building that would become the school (which was at the time a monastery).
What’s really amazing about this sequence, though, is it’s almost a 100% exact replica of the opening sequence of issue #3, minus the dialogue and the final page. Don’t believe me? Take a look:
Like I said, a few deviations and obviously the dialogue is different, but they’re essentially a mirror. And because of that, we certainly have to take this scene within a certain amount of context — especially after the discussion of reincarnation being weighed so heavily in the last issue, with Samsara and all that. Could that woman and Vanessa essentially be the same? It’s plausible, I suppose.
More to the point, though, is that you have to wonder if the reasons that that woman is in a jail cell in 1490 is for the same reason that Vanessa is. If they’re stuck in a loop of history repeating, how much was that woman’s circumstance similar to what we see today — and, given the differences we can see, what if anything has also changed?
Especially when you know the ending of this issue. Because that’s certainly a reveal. So without further ado,
Hodge and Vanessa’s Excellent Adventure
The first big thing worth discussing in this issue is the relationship between Lara Hodge and Vanessa. It’s a very complex one; Vanessa is one of the first characters we ever met (although we didn’t know she’d be so important back in her kick-ass scene from issue #1) and since then we’ve been able to see that even if she’s part of the Bad Kids Crowd she’s certainly one of the good guys. And from the perspective of reader, she’s done a lot for us – because without her, we’d never have really officially known that Hodge is not the heroine we wanted her to be.
In fact, this is what leads to the end of the issue, when an older version of Vanessa is revealed to be in the adjacent prison cell. The issue clarifies a lot about Vanessa’s story so far, really: after getting put away after the first revolt back in issue #1 and then broken out by her friends to get Hunter at the end of issue #19, Vanessa was manipulated here by Hodge to eventually go back in time to the events of issue #20, where Vanessa actually showed Hodge a time travel shrine (I’ll explain in a moment) – but Hodge bashed her head in and imprisoned her for her effort, leading to her being imprisoned now… whenever “now” is. And with the imprisoned Vanessa looking at least twice as old as the current Vanessa (this isn’t an instance of people being time displaced; it’s the Vanessa that went back in time from issue #20 now many more years older), it’s clear that she’s been down there for a long time – so you can now ask yourself if Hodge is too nice to just kill her, or too evil to just kill her.
In a twisted way, one might even be able to now say that Vanessa made Hodge what she is, and Hodge is simply making sure that the timeline – as seemingly fluctuating as it is – stays on track for specific events in an endless loop.
Either way, it’s beginning to become clear that no matter how strange the timeline may appear to be, there is a way that all of this syncs together – and now we also know why certain people may not remember events in their own timeline. There is something that can be done to erase memories, probably as a form of time correction to ensure that certain events can happen within their course without any interruption or influence.Continued below
But of course there’s more to it than that.
On Shrines, Butterflies and Philosophy, Part 1
One line of dialogue in this issue that I think needs to instantly go into your memory banks is Hodge’s remarks about where she takes Vanessa: “It’s an instruction site. Another shrine. Just like the tower, or the cave.” The tower she’s referring to is what the Truants and Hunter arrived at in #22, which we’ve all collectively agreed is the Tower of Babel, and the cave would be the cave from issue #13, also known as Plato’s Cave. What’s important about those places and this site is that they all seem to share a common element: they allow for people to travel through time.
A shrine is, by definition, a holy or sacred place, created for worship of some kind. It’s a place to go and offer up respect and worship towards whatever it is you deem worthy of such attention, and I would wager that in “Morning Glories” that is still somewhat similar. Yet here, a shrine seems to take on a different purpose overall, instead operating as a place of power in which talents can be activated for the purpose of traveling through time. We’ve now seen three places noted as shrines offering this sort of ability, but if a shrine’s purpose is a place of worship you kind of start to wonder how it is that they then give powers too, right?
Well, I’d remind you that, in terms of gods and things to be worshipped, a popular phrase in this series is “So we created our own gods,” which we’ve taken to meaning as that one of the purposes of the school is to fashion the students into beings of a certain amount of power – or, gods. It’s also worth mentioning that the Sumerian priest referred to the Truants during issue #22 (Vanessa included) as gods that are “amongst us, yet before us.” So clearly, if we’re on the right path overall towards understanding all of this, then this aspect of the school that seems to take place outside of time allows the children of the Academy certain abilities when it comes to whatever these shrines are — which are in turn understood as the powers of a god.
Meaning: the shrines allow for self-worship of a fashion which specifically relate to the awakening and use of special abilities.
Also of note is that this shrine is heavy with the water, which we’ve seen linked to Vanessa in the past, such as in the aforementioned Sumerian temple of worship for Enki, the god of water, and that’s assuredly no accident. On this thought you could perhaps even assume that part of her power can be “derived” from water, or that it to a certain extent “activates her abilities” in the same possible way that fire perhaps allowed Casey her abilities to travel through time in issue #13. But it’s all just pure speculation.
On Shrines, Butterflies and Philosophy, Part 2
The second idea about time travel we get in this issue is by way of some philosophy. The issue makes reference to Zhuang Zhou, an influential Chinese philosopher, whose butterfly dream calls into question the understanding of reality based on relativism. But given that the mention of this happens in immediate relation to Vanessa traveling through time, there’s a lot for us to consider about it’s use in the overall mythology of the series.
Based on the idea that the butterfly doesn’t know if it dreams that it is a man or if the man doesn’t that he dreams he is a butterfly, it would stand to reason that — for all intents and purposes — time travel perhaps only occurs in a conscientious fashion. Yes, minds and their respective bodies are moved throughout time in a fashion and we’ve seen this (this issue included), but what is important to consider is that whenever someone returns it’s always exactly where they left – Casey eventually emerged from her cave, Hunter escaped from the ruined temple from atop the stairs, and now Vanessa arrives back in the present in the pool in front of her … perhaps because when she went into a trance and traveled through time, her body in it’s normal place fell forward into the water unconscious.Continued below
We’ve never actually seen the body move through time, and whenever we see time travel it’s always a bright flash and a focus on the eyes. Perhaps all those white flashes we’ve seen are literally just the mind moving through time, leaving the body.
Another interpretation, of course, could also relate specifically to the character’s understanding of reality around them — that they don’t know if they’re awake or dreaming. I’d wager that it’s easy to transcribe this to the idea of Samsara again, that all the characters we see here are actually people from past lives reincarnated within an endless cycle, and that endless death and rebirth and life could certainly aline with the idea of not being able to tell what is reality entirely. And, of course, there’s the notion that reality is non-local, which could most certainly have a thing or two to do with this.
There’s also Irina and her communications through time with Hunter, who himself was dreaming in his mother’s hospital room. Irina began to float through meditation, but perhaps there is a similar path to be made from time travel as we understand it and time travel as it operates in “Morning Glories” based on the abilities of the person. And remember, it was noted that Irina spent a good deal of time traveling the campus and destroying shrines. Perhaps Irina is able to control her passage throughout time a bit better than others, perhaps moving more through space than just time, and was attempting to limit the places to which the school could access similar powers.
Like, say, a greenhouse.
The Zhuangzi reference here inherently calls into question the actions of the travel and how real it is, and we can probably safely assume that they aren’t strictly dreaming (we’ll get to this in a second) and that they are indeed traveling because of what became of Casey/Clarkson, but to what extent are their travel’s unreal? It’s noteworthy that Hunter has had large dream sequences in the series, particularly with last issue in which he was in a place on campus he shouldn’t have been before finding himself in his bed – and we’ve seen his kind of time-travel-via-dreams scenario happen before with Jade back in issue #10. There’s certainly a precedent for this and the idea that the mind travels but the body does not… and it is certainly hard sometimes to tell which is real and which is not.
But we’ve only actually seen a body move in time and stay in time once, in the case of Casey who went on to become Clarkson, perhaps because of how Casey choses to stay and influence the timeline. No one erases her from existence like Hodge does of Vanessa and she doesn’t appear in a dream, which could justify how Clarkson is allowed to continue to exist after Casey whereas others simply transfer back their bodies.
As clarification, though, I would point out that when Casey touched the Cylinder in issue #29, we saw that Casey in the “now” time had no memory of her time as Clarkson, and we’ve inferred that Clarkson has no real recollection of being Casey. This aspect of the body staying behind would certainly play against the initial theory of bodies not traveling, but we’ll have to see if there’s any sort of clarification on what Casey does or does not remember in terms of her conscious mind in relation to this theory.
So with all of the discussion of time travel and time displacement and events not happening in order and the weird way the timeline seems to work, this issue with its references to Zhuang Zhou and shrines and butterflies stands as more than just a Vanessa piece. This issue gave us our strongest idea for how time travel works in the series, and it’s all thanks to just a few tiny clues.
Oh, And One Last Thing
While we’re talking about butterflies, have we ever mentioned that Vanessa is actually a genus of brush-footed butterflies? That’s probably worth stating too because there are no such things as coincidences.
Glimpses of Yesterday and Tomorrow
Further adding to my theory that sequences such as Casey’s travel sequence in #13 is actually Casey going through past lives until she finds the spot she’s meant to go towards (which was revisited in #29), Vanessa’s time travel sequence is immediately followed by four panels of other lives . Maybe they were her in a previous lifetime. It’s entirely plausible.Continued below
But outside of two of these, I can’t discern too much. We have a warrior poised for battle and a woman about to be hung in what looks like a Western scenario, but it’s the first and the third panel that I think garner any kind of importance. The first because it is a series of people in hooded robes in what I would wager is some kind of ceremony, and that seems in line with the previous ceremony we’ve seen at this school with their robes and whatnot. Perhaps this is one of the earliest iterations of all of their past lives, performing the ceremony together? Though I appear to be getting stuck up on that theory and it’s best not to take anything said here as actual truth …
The third panel, though, is the unknown doctor figure who keeps appearing. He appeared for Casey in her travels in #13, he talked to Jade in #10, and now here he is again in the exact same panel from issue #13. If this is Vanessa cycling through her other lives, his presence here would seem to throw that idea off — how could Vanessa and Casey have been the same person? Or… does that just make him an anomaly? And with Jade’s dream of him and her interactions with him as if he was a familiar entity within her life, does this perhaps indicate that this doctor, whoever he is, is somehow outside of the rules we’re trying to create here?
Talking to Myself Again
There is another idea of time travel that the issue very discreetly relates, at least to me. It’s something you might not think of, especially not at first glance, but while we can guess about how some travel through time via philosophy, there is one character who seems to have a particularly good grasp on time travel in the book: Lara Hodge. And the reason that I bring this is up is because it seems that Hodge is able to actually communicate with different versions of herself through time.
Just bear with me. It’s a fun thought.
I’m not saying she can hop through time on a whim, but rather something more planned. Hodge clearly has some sort of understanding of time travel that we don’t understand, right? When we first met her in issue #12 and saw where she was coming from in issue #16, we assumed she was in an endless loop — but obviously this is impossible because of everything we’ve seen since (and that Nick confirmed this wasn’t an endless loop, through both direct confirmation and helpful Primer hints). So Hodge has some sort of manipulation of the time stream that only she so far seems to be able to do, and we know that she understands to be at multiple points for specific events.
So with #32 here, it’s a very tiny thing that got the wheels in my brain turning: Hodge appears in this issue in both the Present and the Past, but the two iterations of her ostensibly appear to be in communication as opposed to being just the same person. It’s not overtly stated anywhere, but the actions seem to tell it all – the Hodge of the past knows exactly where to meet Vanessa when she arrives, and to erase Brendan’s memory right as Vanessa disappears. Somehow, despite existing in different moments of time, the Hodges are coordinated enough to know exactly when to appear and do what needs to be done to keep the timeline otherwise stable, and it’s perhaps safe to assume that Hodge can do this via a form of communication and not just travel.
How? Well, we know that Hodge is a time stream manipulator, and at the end of the first arc of season two (#29) we saw her leaving a message into a tape recorder for the Headmaster. I’m not particularly advocating that Hodge is really the Headmaster (the amount of ways that doesn’t add up is extraordinary), but it bears repeating that Hodge couldn’t communicate with him directly; she had to, for lack of better terms, leave a note. So on that same thread, given all of her time travel-y exploits, we could perhaps assume that the way she communicates with the Headmaster is the same way that she communicates with herself throughout time… and perhaps even for slightly similar purposes.Continued below
We know Hodge is dangerous. We know she has a plan. We now know how coordinated she can be. Despite others not being allowed to directly be aware of their greater damage to the timeline and all of the manipulation of the past, Hodge can do it. And she can do it without getting into trouble apparently.
The real question left over here is whether or not Hodge’s actions right now are saving face or not, since in her message to the Headmaster she noted that she failed whatever she was trying to do. So is she on Plan B, or — and this is perhaps the biggest possibility — is everything Hodge is doing now part of Headmaster’s plan instead of her own? Only time will tell.
And I suppose this could open up the idea that the Headmaster is somewhere outside of time himself, but lets not go too far down this rabbit hole right now, yeah? We’ve got one more thing to talk about.
That Telling Haircut
In the finale to the issue, we find out that the person that Vanessa was talking to on the other side of the wall was actually herself. And not some kind of clone or weird thing like that: teen Vanessa was talking to what I’ll assume is late 20’s/early 30’s Vanessa.
What’s important about the scene is her hair. I’ll tell you exactly why.
Back in issue #3, we met a young girl named Megan. We’re not quite sure what Megan’s deal is yet, but we know that a) she was taken from Abraham’s camp (as confirmed in issue #25) and b) that she was a former student of the Academy (issue #10) and c) that she had no hair. Completely bald. The question has always been why; what’s up with Megan that she doesn’t get to have hair and spends all of her time in a dusty basement with almost no light on?
Well, here in issue #32, we see that Vanessa’s hair — normally long and luxurious — is now gone. And it’s so close to her head that you can imagine she is just now regrowing it, perhaps because she is recovering from a similar form of baldness.
So what I’m saying is: I think it is safe to assume that in the interim years of when Vanessa was smashed in the head with a brick by baby Hodge and now, Vanessa was put through similar treatment that Megan was. She would’ve been the right age for it, right? As a young teen student of the Academy, she fits right into what we assume is the main group of people down in that sanitarium (or whatever it is); now that she’s older, perhaps that initial spark is gone and there’s no need to keep her in there anymore, so she gets a cell.
A cell like Ted (#20) had. Because there was no further use for Ted either.
Vanessa certainly had to have gone through an ordeal in that time period, and I would wager that Megan and Ted are our best guesses as to what sort of thing was happening. Vanessa herself gives us the Before and After images of the whole ordeal, but you have to wonder: is this what ultimately lies in store for those who have had their eyes opened?
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.)
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.Continued below
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