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 #34, in which Jade takes the center stage again for an issue that DEMANDS two reads. Honestly. If you read it once and then came to this column, go back and read it again.
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.
One Quick News Bit: The Last of the Double-Shipping
“Morning Glories” #33 represented the last of the double-shipped issues, with today’s issue coming out three weeks after so don’t get used to getting the issues so frequently! (I read what comes next and it is well worth the wait… #35 is going to get people talking.) On that same thread, Morning Glory Babies will officially return next month (Promise!), since Joe now has a bit more time to draw panels about baby versions of your favorite characters.
But, when he wasn’t drawing babies, you know what he was drawing?
Kindabigdeal: with 034 this Wednesday, MORNING GLORIES will cross the ONE THOUSAND PAGE MARK. Bow to @Supajoe
— Nick Spencer (@nickspencer) November 5, 2013
Officially 1,000 pages of “Morning Glories,” as of #34! So everyone be sure to congratulate him on the colossal achievement as we move from 1,000 pages… to 1,000 issues!
And So We Begin With a Death
When last we saw the events this issue opens with, it was #17 of the series and we had just confirmed that one of the strange things Jade saw in her dream sequence from #10 was in fact the death of her mother. What we didn’t really see is just what came next; while we saw little bits and pieces of it, the majority of events that happened in immediate relationship to the death weren’t discussed — just the aftermath. Now we get it all, in all the depressing, gory details, and holy crap have I mentioned that it is depressing?Continued below
If there’s one thing that I think has been very present in “Morning Glories” since the advent of Season 2, it’s that death has been lingering over all of the students rather consistently. It’s pretty much a main element of every issue, as different facets of death and how we deal with it (or rather, how the characters deal with it) has been a driving factor of the current arc. As such, every single issue we seem to learn a little bit more — issue #31 gave us Samsara (the cycle of life) and Orpheus (a story about the dangers of challenging death), issue #32 gave us the Zhang Zhou butterfly story (questioning reality) and the new theory about time travel being related to death, and issue #33 gave us the Tralfamadorians (resounding to fate) and showed us that death can be transferred apparently — however you want to take these elements and spin theories about them is up to you, although obviously this being my column I’ve well established my own thoughts and theories.
What this issue ostensibly seeks to add to the discussion is this: Dead is Dead. Whether it be from the Priest’s remarks at the funeral or Jade’s meltdown rant at the end of the issue, the thing that we learn about the rules of death in “Morning Glories” is that once you die, you do not get to come back in your body. Sorry, Zoe and Hisao fans.
(We’ll discuss the very end of the issue at the end of the column in greater length. I’ve got to keep you scrolling somehow, right?)
We also get the return of the shaky POV vision at the start of the issue, a recurring element of the story that we’ve seen in a number of different sequences throughout the book that signifies that we need to pay attention to the events being perceived by the lead of the issue. That we start with it here is certainly ominous towards the events of the issue, a general bad sign, and something that we haven’t seen in this arc since the Irina issue. I don’t have any grand theory to go with that, but it’s probably worth at least noting.
Never Forget – Pam’s Headless Teddy Bear
“Chhhh gtthhhh” indeed.
The Underground Club
(I was trying to think of a Breakfast Club riff, but as you can see I didn’t come up with anything clever.)
It seems like the underground storage area is the place to be, eh? Whether it be when the Glories first arrived there in issue #4 to figure out how to rescue Jade or the Truants hung out there in issue #25 to discuss what they thought was a rescue mission, this particular area seems to be the one place the kids feel like they can talk openly. Keep in mind, they didn’t even particularly think the Library was safe — #4 showed just how clever Casey was in recruiting her troops, as remarked by Daramount who was watching her and admitted that she couldn’t hear what was being said. So something about this storage area, for better or for worse, says safe.
But is it safe? And why? After all, didn’t Daramount storm in at the end of #4 after being led by Ike? Surely the staff has to know that the children are making these little night time excursions and having secret planning meetings of their own; they aren’t idiots running the school and surely, after all the trouble these particular kids have caused, they have to realize that there is some organization. This isn’t the AV Club and the secret dream meeting place, after all.
That and, we’ve seen that the staff does have knowledge of what the kids do and lets them do it anyway. Hodge says as much in the very last issue when she agrees to let Hisao into the school. The staff is essentially allowing insurrection.
Yet so much of this book has dealt with the concept of fate that you kind of have to assume that, well, maybe the staff wants it to happen anyway? The kids are being trained for a greater purpose, and perhaps their revolution against the school is part of the grand cycle. I would wager at the very least that both Daramount and Hodge are aware of what is going on — Hodge because the children think they can trust her, Daramount because she has eyes everywhere and cameras everywhere else (as we’ve seen on numerous occasions). I’d bet the staff in general knows… and there’s a reason they aren’t acting.Continued below
What We Learn
Of course, the whole sequence that takes place in this area gives us a lot. It’s probably not something you’d think of at first, but there are a few lines of dialogue in here that establish a few elements of where everyone is at, and given that this issue is the end of this arc (so to say — Nick confirmed that there would be more character-centric issues going forward, but #34 represents the final issue of the sixth volume), it’s a good place to let the audience and characters know where everyone stands.
Why? Because this is the first grand meeting of the surviving kids. Yes, they’ve all had interactions with one another through various forms and fashions, but this is the first time that everyone that isn’t currently locked up (i.e. Irina sort of, Ian and Fortunato) or hospitalized (i.e Akiko) gets to hang out. That’s pretty darn monumental, given all that has occurred so far.
So. What do we learn?
- Nobody likes Ike. It turns out that even after Irina tried to kill him and he was put through some serious shit in the last arc, Casey still wants him out and the others don’t seem to particularly disagree. Probably because last time they were down there, Ike betrayed them all!
- Hunter hasn’t given up. One of my most prominent notions (it’s not really a theory) was that Hunter had essentially given up on the Glories. It was probably never going to be a case of him just plain leaving the group and fully committing to his identity with the AV Club (especially since it has been confirmed that other members of the Truants are in the AV Club), but it appears that Hunter does believe that there is something to the group yet, as he’s a rather vocal member in this scene’s discussion.
- Vanessa wants to talk to Casey. This is important a) because she emphasizes the “soon” aspect, which means it has to be about something important, and b) because for all intents and purposes Vanessa was the de-facto leader of the group after Irina disappeared — meaning that this is the meeting of two assumed leaders, one of whom has important information to share. And after Vanessa’s solo issue, I don’t doubt it.
- Everyone knows about Jun/Hisao. It was implied in the last issue that no one knew until he broke down, and this issue essentially confirms it. What’s more, though, is now that everyone knows, this will play a major role. It is not a secret; Hisao never told the group about his brother (I assume — it’s possible Hunter knew after issue #8) but Jun is very quick to tell everyone what happened and explain their tumultuous relationship.
- Casey does not remember where she went after #13. It had been something I’d been questioning for a while, especially after the events of issue #28 (Clarkson’s car crash) and #29 (Casey touching the Cylinder). Looks like that is confirmed now: Casey does indeed not know anymore what she did as Clarkson. I would wager that she lost her memory in the Cylinder-touch/reset event, but it is important to put down on paper that those memories do not belong to her anymore. I would wager that Clarkson herself does not remember her life as a secret agent either, and has fully committed to the teacher/mom Clarkson identity — which I think perhaps opens up an interesting discussion as to how two seperate personalities could exist out of one person.
- Last but not least, the other Truants didn’t know what Irina was up to. It had been a theory that Irina kept her plan to herself, but again, it is now confirmed that not only did the other Truants not know what was going on, but that Vanessa truly did believe they were on a rescue mission and that she has no idea Guillaume is a snake in the proverbial grass. It’s also debatable how much Fortunato knew, given their clandestine meetings, and how much the others know about Fortunato.
So that’s where we are now as the second arc of Season Two comes to a close. But there’s two more things in this scene that I think warrant greater discussion.Continued below
The Only Comment I Don’t Buy
There’s only one remark during the whole scene that I, as a reader and frequent analyzer of the series, don’t know if I buy — when Jun says that he knew Hisao better than anyone else.
Hmm. Did he?
Separated at a young age, Jun was brainwashed at the Academy, something that didn’t get undone until his “death” (although his anger is still there). The two haven’t been in great contact, although Hisao has been looking out for him in his own way and, for all intents and purposes, came to the school to save his brother (amongst other potential hidden agendas, like Abraham and Guillaume). So if it were Hisao saying he knew Jun better than anyone else, I’d totally buy it — but the other way around?
As far as we know, Jun spent so much time within his own head and the indoctrination of the Academy that there was not too much room for anything else. After all, he spends a whole page laying into himself (and basically explaining everything to everyone), so while he certainly has a certain hate for himself and guilt over all the events that have happened — including his childhood switch and the recent switch — the love is undeniable… but the knowledge, I’m less sure.
I mean, what about Guillaume, right?
(As a note: I feel like picking at this line is a bit strange, as obviously its intent was less for me/you/anyone to pick apart the accuracy and more to illustrate Jun’s feelings about his brother. But, as someone who has written so much about the series at this point, it did feel like an interesting place to sort of pick at Jun’s ongoing role in the group — which I’ll do more in a minute.)
Breaking the Narrative Pattern (A Debate of Leadership)
So, the other big element of the group meeting was to show where do we go from here, in a manner of speaking. Because there’s two things that need to be discussed: the issue of how much everyone knows and how they will use that knowledge together (which is mentioned quite humorously in Hunter’s above fourth-wall breaking statement) and who will be in charge. That’s what I’m most interested in here.
Since its inception, “Morning Glories” has seemingly been about thumbing its nose on a lot of typical narrative conventions, tropes and archetypes, both in comics and within the general genre. Hunter’s remark here sort of gets to the heart of it, laying out what the book is and poking fun at the idea that there are any actual “rules” here — because, if there are any rules, they’ve been hardly paid attention to, right? Rules are made for kids to break, and this book stars kids.
But there are so many plates spinning at any one point that it can be difficult to guess where they all fall, even though that is half the fun. And now, as one very large plate falls, it is time to see where it lands: on Casey or on Jun.
Now that the group has grown larger and our cast of kids have become less adversarial (assumedly — Irina is still out there and angry, who knows what Fortunato, Akiko and Ian will decide upon when they return, and the AV Club is weird and mysterious), all of our notions about the group are essentially shattered. Lets say, for example, that we look at them like we look at the Breakfast Club, wherein every character in the group has an established role — the Princess, the Jock , the Freak, etc. In our understanding of the Glories, everyone did have established roles… but now those roles are beginning to criss and cross. And while we’d assume that maybe Vanessa and Casey would have some kind of clash of leadership (although not a loud or angry one, as Vanessa seems really agreeable), it stands as interesting to me that Jun steps up as the one who decides he has to lead.
After all, it says a lot about Jun, right? Because to the group, he’s a nobody; he has the body and face of their former ally, but he is not that man. He was never a Glory, he was never a Truant — he was the Enemy; when we first met him he was beating on Hunter, and later he launched the Ceremony against everyone. And, sure, he has intimate knowledge of the enemy, but would you trust him? Because I sure as hell wouldn’t after all that happened.Continued below
How the group will interact going forward is certainly something that will be interesting to see unfold, as its a major component of the book’s core concept — a group of kids rebelling against a school. It’s not resolved, but I would bet that Casey will still end up in charge — but it’ll be interesting to see how those plates fall, and how Jun deals with everyone going forward.
But that’s it for stuff about the group. We’ve got a big, giant whopper of a finale to ta–
Oh, wait. No. Hold on. I want to get some smaller stuff out of the way first.
This is mostly just Easter Egg stuff, but I do want to point to the My Chemical Romance and Rocky Horror Picture Show posters in Jade’s room, both of which give us a little bit of information about Jade’s goth persona, which we’ll discuss in the next section. See, we know she was a normal girl before her mother’s death, but she was very quick to adopt this new angry persona — which makes sense, of course, but it’s interesting to see what of her is actually kind of normal, as far as angry goth/emo teenage kids go.
(The other two posters are nothing, by the way. I asked.)
Of course, what I really think is actually quite interesting is that there is a cross outside of her room. I can’t confirm if this is in the script or not, but it sort of gives you an idea of who she was. She goes into her self-identity in her speech later in the issue, but the fact that she grew up in a home that very visually identifies towards a religion, only to have the death of her mother change her so completely, is just a nice little touch of scenery on Joe’s part to really show who Jade became.
Which brings me to…
Birth by Fire
In a silent scene in the book, Jade sets fire to the cornfield outside of her home. It’s done in a circular pattern from what I understand, although I am not sure if there is any specific meaning towards the fact that it is a circle.
Her actions in this scene are obviously in question. The closest that I can get in terms of a guess is one of two things, the first of which is that she is essentially burning it in tribute to her mother; a viking funeral comes to mind, I suppose.
The other possibility, though, is that Jade has been reborn — that there is an inbetween time betwixt when Jade transitions from a good girl into the Dark Jade Archetype, in a manner of speaking. Like I had said, everything about Goth Jade was just kind of stereotypical, right? But in the last aspect of that previous scene after hearing her brother talk, she stares out into the cornfield — and then when we see her next, she goes out and sets it on fire. It’s more like a phoenix at this point, where her new persona comes out and into the world as a result of this action; from Phoenix to Dark Phoenix.
The reason the latter seems more likely to me is that the idea of characters having a predilection for setting things on fire isn’t new. Ike, for example, was arrested for setting a fire back in issue #24, and Irina walked into fire in issue #22 as well as the flames seen on her cover for #30. And there is also Casey and the idea that she might burn the school down, let alone the ruined and charred ashes of the future of the school. Lots of fire stuff here in this book, often closely related to the characters.
And Jade, now giving in to the futility of life and accepting her assumed new role, sets fire to her old life to make way for the new. No longer does she have to stare out her window at that cornfield, but now upon something of her own design.
What makes it more interesting to me is that Jade had been more closely associated with water vis a vis the drowning sequence in issue #2. So how about that.Continued below
No Mention of Marcus
Last but not least, waaaay back in issue #1, when we first met Jade, she was writing in her diary about Marcus, who we learned was her teacher whom she was in love with. I don’t know why, but honestly in this issue I thought we would get some mention of it. We see so much about her early life, probably in its the most linear incarnation, that you’d think he’d pop up somewhere, right? He wasn’t in #17 either which probably also fueled my random assumption that we would hear about him, but alas, it was not to be.
I’d also like to point out that when we met her in issue #1 she wasn’t this current iteration of Super Goth (we called her the Emo Kid back then), so clearly at some point some more stuff happens to her that causes her to get rid of all the black… probably with this Marcus fella.
So, OK, fine — that’s it. Lets talk about what everyone is likely to want to talk about the most in this issue.
The Ending: What Just Happened?
Great question! I don’t know. But I may have an idea.
So, all things considered I think there are two options for the finale. The first is that, at the moment of her mother’s death, Jade managed to switch bodies with her mother in the same way that Jun and Hisao switched in the previous issue. The framing is the same, the way events play out are of a similar enough fashion that to see the events play out again, our assumption here is that we’re viewing similarly occurring events.
But: for this to be as simple as the Jun/Hisao switch-up of issue #32 would seem too easy, wouldn’t it? Why pull the same trick twice? And after Jade’s speech about dying and not coming back? Certainly that has something to do with it. I’d highly doubt that the Jade we knew was just her mother the whole time. It’s plausible that she switched into her mother and then switched back, but I would assume that there is more to this than that.
So here’s my theory.
The second option is that Jade prayed her mother back to life. That somehow, through all the powers we’d seen appear in the book, one of them is to return life to the dead as if it were from the hand of a god. Lets presume that there is some kind of power present in the book that isn’t God, especially because “we created our own gods”, so her prayer is most likely to herself. And in channeling her power – which is what we can assume the white light is, based on previous occurrences of similar flashes (which, to me, kind of proves what the white lights are) – she’s able to bring her mother back to life.
The reason I think the second option is the most likely one is because I think we can definitely prove that she was a young girl who had lost her mother as opposed to a mother who was masquerading as her daughter. There are so many scenes throughout the book that point loudly to her being a young girl, whether it be her diary in issue #1 or her memory of events afterwards in issue #17; I’d even point to the scene in #27 where Clarkson visits Jade’s mother and Jade’s mother looks distraught — perhaps because she is told that she has to die? That, and when Jun and Hisao did their switch, the dead body stayed dead, which seems like a pretty telling moment.
(Although we can’t see Jade after her mother opens her eyes, which could hurt my theory. And I suppose it is worth noting that the book opens with a POV shot and ends with Jade’s mother breaking the fourth wall and staring right out at the reader — almost as if it was on purpose! Spooky stuff.)
Based on Jade’s reaction and speech later, I think it’s safe to assume that bringing back her mother to life didn’t really work. Sure, she may have eyes open and be there, but it’s not her mother. It’s something else entirely. Perhaps a husk that flails for some semblance of existence, or even someone brain dead; the police come and the body is buried, so we can presume that the body goes back to a dead state soon after, if not immediately. But whatever the case may be, Jade seems to know that (as I said earlier) dead is dead because of this.Continued below
Why? Well, if you think back to Disney’s Aladdin (bear with me), the Genie tells Aladdin that he can not bring the dead back to life — “It’s not a pretty picture. I don’t like doing it!” And if you look at the current “Afterlife with Archie” comic (just bear with me), when Jughead visits Sabrina to bring back his dead dog, the dog comes back as a zombie that starts the zombie apocalypse in Riverdale.
My point being: bringing the dead back to life is bad news and does not go well. Dead is dead, because the dead have to stay dead for one reason or another. They can’t just come back.
If we look at it within the bigger scope of our understanding of death within “Morning Glories,” it is interesting to place this in relationship to Samsara. If Samsara is the continued cycle of life (let us pretend we all agree that everything in “Morning Glories” has happened before and all the characters are reincarnated from previous lives, OK?) then I suppose it stands to reason that Dead Is Dead because whatever you want to imagine inhabits the body (a soul, perhaps) has moved on to its next home. So what you’re bringing back isn’t whoever died… it’s something else.
Jade didn’t bring her mother back. She brought something back in her mother’s body, and whatever it was, it had to be killed again immediately. Or at least removed.
Before moving on, I’d like to mention that all of this could even perhaps be related to the Doctor that we’ve seen appear periodically throughout the series, both with Casey and Vanessa but most intimately with Jade, where we first met him back in issue #10 in direct relation to her mother’s car crash. That is hardly a coincidence.
Either way, while this is a huge moment, how we (I) interpret it comes largely from one scene.
Revelation 21:4 (i.e, the Part Where We Talk About the Funeral Scene)
The only piece of this issue that I can without a doubt confirm as to what it is is what the pastor at the funeral is reading from – Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.“ In context, it deals with the creation of a new Earth after the destruction of the world as we know it, an apocalyptic warning that results in Heaven for some and a horrible eternity for most. We know little about the school and what it is training us for, but we do know that in the future it is destroyed and abandoned – and we can assume things at some point get apocalyptic.
However, the choice of this section is particularly interesting because of the words: “no more death or sorrow…” One recurring phrase in the series is “The sorrows of death compassed me,” another Biblical passage, is something that we (or just I) have essentially taken to be in strict relation to time travel and/or the use of powers. In fact, I introduced the theory that the white light and this line are so explicitly linked as to allow the use of powers (specifically time travel, though perhaps more) – and outside of Jade’s pessimism towards being reunited and her speech at the end (“all these things are gone forever”), it’s perhaps safe to infer that powers can be taken away.
Think about it. Given the pastor’s word choice here, one could presume that the removal of “sorrow” and the removal of “death” could in fact be particularly related to the final reveal of Jade returning her mother to life via some kind of special ability. If I’m reading it right, perhaps later regret in this action caused Jade to give up her abilities (similar to my discussion about why Jade set fire to the cornfield), which would in turn explain why she was not deemed special (#4) later in life — the powers were gone, and she chose to be a “normal girl” again, the transition from Goth Jade into the Jade we met in issue #1. Perhaps there is some kind of choice in how the characters who are deemed special utilized their special abilities, but that whatever it is that makes them special or important never truly goes away (which explains why Jade can come to the school at all)? That or they just get in by their birthdays for the staff to see if their powers manifest.Continued below
And it’s also debatable that she remembers this happening at all. I have my doubts, especially after Casey confirms she doesn’t remember anything before touching the Cylinder in #29. Jade has memories, yes, but they seem spotty and disjointed (see: issue #10); it is tough to tell what she actually honestly knows about herself, and what she just sort of half-remembers like a dream. (See what I did there?)
So… Jade’s mom was brought back to life as some horrible undead/not-alive husk thing, and Jade sacrificed her gifts at some point. That’s what I’m going with.
Either way, the issue is particularly tricky based on your read of the ending. Her speech to the others offer up something along the lines of the “so it goes” ideology we’d learned of before, albeit with more pessimism, but it is clear that the girl Jade was before her mother died was remarkably different from the girl Jade would become, in many ways.
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.
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 email@example.com. 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