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 #40, an issue that I once described on Twitter via a Shrek gif. What does that even mean?
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 sure to check out Tim’s books “Curse” and “Skinned“!
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: MGA Study Hall LIVE! Returns for New York Comic Con 2014
That’s right! After filling up the room last year and having a blast interacting with fans, the MGA Study Hall panel will be returning to NYCC with myself, Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma all here to talk about the book, the new arc, the future plans and — of course — for a live Q&A in which you can ask Nick how the book ends! Maybe I’ll even cosplay as that handsome bearded teacher that people say looks like me; who knows?
The panel will be on Saturday afternoon this year, which is hopefully more convenient for most of you, and here aree all the relevant details:
Title: Morning Glories Study Hall Live!
Time: 1:15PM – 2:00PM
Speakers: Joe Eisma, Matthew Meylikhov, Nick Spencer
Description: From the hit annotation column on Multiversity Comics, MGA Study Hall Live returns to NYCC! Continuing from last year’s panel, join creators Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma once again 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 another in-depth fan favorite live Q&A segment. Questions will be asked, answers will be avoided and all will be well – for a better future.
Here’s a shot of the panel last year:
Last year we had some technical difficulties when it came to recording the panel (read: I’m a dummy), but we (I) have learned from our mistakes so hopefully if you aren’t able to attend we’ll have something to throw up online to share with you. However, why chance it? Just come!
I also have it on good authority that a certain recurring event will be recurring the evening before. More information to come.Continued below
Either way, I hope to see you there.
Correction: On page two, when Drs. Simon and Richmond arrive, Dagney refers to Dr. Simon as “Ian” instead of “Oliver.” This is an obvious error, as confirmed by Nick.
The Truth vs. the Answer
So, as the issue opens up we find Hunter and Ian clashing a bit in class. Discussing their secret insurrection as part of the AV Club, we learn that since returning to the group in issue #36, Ian has pretty much reclaimed his spot as the cool guy of the group. In doing so, he’s ousted Hunter from being the “hot new thing”, and has since over-ridden Hunter on things that he has tried to bring into the group.
Most specifically? The title of their secret “psychic paper”-style student body newspaper, which is not The Truth but rather The Answer.
Now, we didn’t really discuss this name before because we weren’t really aware of what the competition was; Hunter mentions that he wanted a vote on the name, but Ian spends all of his time talking over him so we don’t know what he wanted to call it. However, it’s pretty interesting that Hunter says, and I quote: “I thought we were doing this to tell the truth about this place” — which, to me, is implying that that is not the newspaper’s focal point with Ian in charge.
This brings up an interesting debate in the idea of “the Answer” vs. the truth, because whatever answer we get doesn’t necessarily have to be the truth. If I were to ask Nick how the book ends right now and he were to tell me that it is all the dream of a dog in a snowglobe being observed by a man on an island and also the universe is just a marble held by an alien, that is certainly an answer — but it’s not necessarily the truth. So whatever is provided in “the Answer” doesn’t necessarily line-up with any kind of actuality. As we’ll learn, the first edition of the newspaper aligns with the arrival of Oliver Simon and Ellen Richmond, but what information could they possibly put that’s “true”? I’d wager not much.
The idea of truth vs. answers is intriguing to me, but it also reveals a bit about where Ian and Hunter’s heads are at. Ian clearly doesn’t care much for Hunter, and we’ll see that Ian has some strange and perhaps wicked plans ahead, but when Ian arrives and instantly takes over the group so he can do things “the right way” and then tries to push Hunter out of it, you do have to wonder: what is Ian in it for? And to that end, what is he going to use the newspaper for; if he clearly knows who the scientists that arrive are yet Hunter questions his commitment to the truth, what does the newspaper say?
What does Ian value: the truth… or just answers?
So as the issue kicks off, Dagney introduces two guest teachers: the aforementioned scientists, Drs. Oliver Simon and Ellen Richmond. Simon (who is, as noted, typo’d as Ian) is of course Ian’s father, and Richmond is Vanessa’s mother, who we learn the first name of: Ellen a variant of Helen that is Greek for “light, torch, bright.” And the reason they’re here is to help the kids with the science fair, which is both a call back to what we learned was the major point of conflict between Casey and Isabel and, y’know, one of a number of plot points we’ll probably be seeing over the next arc or so as different kids find themselves involved in different school-related things.
(I actually quite like that we’re getting a pretty heavy focus on the kids involved with school activities, for what it’s worth. That there’s a shout-out to the student council elections with Hunter saying “Who’s Isabel?” is a nice touch as well.)
The way Dagney speaks about them is quite fun, though. As you’ll remember, when Richmond and Simon arrived they weren’t exactly being brought in on good terms; Richmond’s hands were bound, and Simon was being shoved by the guards. As such, Dagney mentions that they are “new” and that they “may prove a bit unfamiliar with our ways,” which to me kind of opens up the question as to what they’re doing at the school once again. Before we’d assumed that they were captured and were being brought there for some nefarious purpose, but if they’re being integrated in the classrooms to the point where students can see them — including but not limited to their children (and I don’t think I need to remind you how important the relationship is between parent and child in this book) — then there’s clearly more at play.Continued below
My guess? They were probably recruited against their will, brought to the school by force and forced to cut some kind of deal. That said, given that the game being played here is primarily in the shadows, it’s also possible that when Abraham got out from the school’s clutches he sent Simon and Richmond in, and perhaps they’re some sort of double agent at work. We know Richmond was a teacher at Abraham’s school, and that she and Simon had worked together; that link isn’t too far-fetched.
Also: note the tension between Ian and Oliver. First Ian refers to him as “sir,” then an emphasized and most likely sarcastic “dad.” There’s clearly not a lot of love there.
The Answer, Volume 1, Number 2: The Dude Downstairs
We’re going to hop ahead a bit as I’m saving the stuff I wrote about that’s actually in the backmatter of the comic for later. In the meantime, lets talk about what the AV Club is up to.
Intercut with the talk that Oliver gives to the class, the other Simon is discussing with his comrades about what to do with their next volume of their newspaper. The first thing that is nominated for the table is what Daramount did to Fortunato, the events of which we saw in the rather brutal issue #35. Hunter says that he heard about him from a couple of blabbing guards, and in turn feels that sharing this information with the school (the truth) would help reinforce the overall mission of overthrowing the Academy. He’s so insistent, in fact, that we even get to see a scene that Akiko walked through in #37 replayed “in continuity,” as Hunter brings Ian down to see Fortunato and hopefully convince him that talking about the bodies under the school is an important discussion.
Ian, of course, feels differently. To Ian, this is not an answer to the question he’s posing of content; instead, it feels like a trap to him. And perhaps it is; certainly the Academy has to be aware of the newspaper being circulated around the school, especially one that they can not intercept and read. We know that Hodge has the ability to read the psychic-paper style things, but we don’t know what the AV Club is doing to calibrate it for the student body. So Ian’s suggestion, while very paranoid, is certainly plausible, especially when we remember that Daramount even said explicitly that she wanted to make an example out of Fortunato back in #35.
So it’s clear that Ian doesn’t want to give up control in this situation. Yet, as we learn, Ian does choose to “run the headline.” To go back to the previous discussion about “the truth vs the answer,” in that Ian wants to maintain control of his surroundings, this one is tricky; you can see his line of thinking, that he can use “the truth” to manipulate things the way he wants to, but now we have two groups trying to spin the same wheel.
Granted, for Ian, the manipulation is something else. We see that he has a jilted hatred towards Fortunato simply because he had eyes for Akiko and was — I hate to use this term, but I can’t think of a better one at the moment — “friend-zoned.” It’s a boring description and non-existent state of being, but it’s one that has entered into pop culture rhetoric none the less, and it’s clear that Ian has internalized his rebuked affections against Fortunato, who clearly has no real overt affection of Akiko himself. Not that this matters; it’s still enough for Ian to want to wipe him out of existence.
Notice, by the way, the return of the glowing eyes. We’ve seen them used to denote “something” going on in someone’s mind to offset them, like with Zoe when she was hunting Hunter; we presumed it was power activation or a more predatory personality taking over, but really it could’ve just been her “seeing red” like Ian does here. In fact, if Fortunato had never mentioned that Akiko came to see him, Ian may never have decided to flip the script and hurt Fortunato. Ian is complex, certainly, but he seems kind of passive; more a snarky Zoe than an active Zelda, if anyone catches that reference. That he’d be willing to hurt anyone almost seems out of character — if we can presume to know anything about him after #36.Continued below
But the thing that I guess it’s important to bring up now is that Ian and Fortunato can talk in this scenario… and we know that Ian is dreaming, so he exists in Fortunato’s mind. Ostensibly, anyway. Despite the dreamwalk seemingly placing Ian and Hunter and others in a separate, astral plane (or, if this issue is to generally be understood, a different reality all together — one that somehow intersects with our regular one), Ian can communicate directly with Fortunato, which sort of implies that Fortunato is asleep, I suppose. That, or he’s attuned to whatever frequency that the dreams go along. This would, however, explain why Akiko could talk to him; it’s not that she was dying in #37, but rather that she is in her “brain dead” coma state, and she is simply doing what the AV Club is doing on their own.
Ian is a complicated guy, and we’ll talk a bit more about him and his plans for Fortunato soon. However, we should still consider that, given the way that his pushback against Hunter was intercut with discussions of reality (which we’ll get to soon as well) coupled with this betrayal of his former friend, it’s clear that Ian believes in a better world different from his own, and it’s one he wants to access in order to gain control over his current state of being — and when it comes down to the finale of the issue, it’s clear how.
(By the way, for those curious: the Ackbar nod is a Star Wars reference, and the “you are number six” script is a nod to the Prisoner, Six being Patrick McGoohan’s designate number when arrives on the mysterious island. Of course the AV Club speaks in pop references.)
Also, A Short Note on Isabel
As mentioned, there is mention of Isabel in the issue when the AV Club is trying to figure out what to do in their next edition. During this time, it’s thrown out there that Isabel has been at the school since she was five — so that opens up a whole mess of questions.
Now, those of you with keen memories will remember that in #20, we saw the first class of students ever to attend the school. While the most prominent was Logan, Joe Eisma’s son, there were two other kids visible — a young boy and a young girl. At first I thought it possible that one of those was meant to be Isabel, but it’s not likely; the school has been open for 14 years, so if Isabel was one of the first that would make her and them 19. But that doesn’t seem likely as the kids are so supposed to be 16, and we should also keep in mind that the Academy has been getting kids while they’re quite young anyway, so obviously Isabel is now a prime example of that.
What does that mean for her? Unsure. She’d have to have been there for at least 11 years and she’s clearly a team player now; she went off-campus for two years to help push Casey towards applying to the Academy. If nothing else, she’s certainly in league with someone on staff, if not Hodge or Daramount directly. But she’s been there for such a long time that it’s hard not to view Isabel as someone beyond brainwashed by the Academy, to the same extent that the real Jun was — and he was also recruited by the Academy at an early age.
So I guess the question is: why do some kids get recruited young, and others get recruited when they’re in the high school range, like our Glories were? Is that a change in Academy policy, or does it denote different things that make different kids special in different ways?
Also: “the less you know of her, the better.” Uhm. Foreboding much?
Alright. Lets get to the elephant in the room.
What Is Reality?
The big question of this issue, as posed by a not-as-distressed-as-we’re-used-to Oliver Simon, is “what is reality?” Over the course of issue in increasingly complex fashion, several theories are posed, shot down and challenged. More importantly, though, they all inherently tie back to ideas of reality that had been explored in the series before. This comes to a head when Oliver brings up a quote from Planck, the man behind quantum theory, which was then used by Bell for his theorem – which in turn brings us all the way back to the early days of “Morning Glories” in which it is established that all reality is non-local, ie, reality is the result of direct interaction between two objects.Continued below
If we are to assume that the book lies to us consistently (or rather that it hides its truths deep within fiction — remember that bit about answers?), then reconciling most of what Oliver says seems to skew in a different direction from what the school says. The school promoted Bell’s theorem, but Oliver – who refers to the teachers as “captors” ‘accidentally’ – tries to instill in the children the notion to challenge all of this, that this is only a half-truth or perhaps something done to pacify the student body, or at least cause them to not challenge things so much. (Which, by the way, is exactly what “The Answer” is trying to do.)
Oliver explicitly asks that if reality is based on consciousness, “what then, does a universe operating under those rules look like? How can we save ourselves from this dilemma?” It’s a bit of a run-around in what he’s obviously trying to ask, but if ever there was something that seemed like an apt metaphor for life in the school, it would be this.
The question of when/where Morning Glory Academy is, let alone its purpose, is something that has always been in question. It seems to exist at the wrong time period, in a place that requires some kind of special access to get into that doesn’t exist on regular definitions of geography as we understand it. So when the book challenges us and asks “what is reality,” it’s not just so we can talk about Philip K. Dick and Planck and the multiverse; it’s help to foster that a revolution.
Both Simons are seemingly trying to do the same thing, although not in ways that tie directly to one another’s plans. Ian has his newspaper, and with it he challenges the actions of the school and tries to pull back the curtain of what they’re doing. Oliver, on the other hand, is brought in to educate the students, and uses this opportunity to try and dissect what the school is. They’re essentially two sides of the same coin, working together almost by accident.
That they’re doing this certainly allows us to talk about the relationship between father and son, which is a pivotal aspect of “Morning Glories,” but that they don’t seem to care or like each other does kind of make that a curious element to the book. Ian has a distaste for many people, but his father seems chief amongst them; Oliver just seems indifferent to Ian. Yet they still have the same goals, which is the disestablishment of the school and its regime and stopping them from doing… whatever it is they’re supposed to be doing.
So, I can’t help but beg the question in this scenario: who do we believe in more? In the same way that reality is given its existence based on how we observe it, so do these characters and their motivations. We can see what both of them are trying to do — but in the end, whom do we trust more? Ian, who is trying to go the whole vox populi route with his newspaper yet wants to wipe out another guy from existence because his crush never loved him back, or Oliver, who has physically experimented on people, on children, and created weird “clone”/”robot”/”cylon” people before being picked up by the Academy and used as a teacher?
Who do you trust?
Of course, one particularly resonant line is when Oliver mentions “we determine their state, rather than them determining ours.” Yes, this ties into the discussion about what reality is, but it also seems to tie into the school’s role as an institute of academia, very much playing into the “us vs. them” idea of students vs. their teachers. You may also remember that some of the students at our school appear to have powers which are extensions of their consciousness – Casey’s jedi mind tricks, Irina’s projection and levitation, Ian’s dreamwalking (typo’d as Ike in the print edition — blerg); it all takes place in the mind, but in “Morning Glories” it is never the less real. So “how can we save ourselves from this dilemma”?
I would pose that Ian’s paper certainly has something to do with it, but keep in mind that there are various wheels turning and plates spinning of students trying to accomplish different tasks. Casey is trying to become student body president in order to directly interact with the Headmaster; in the next issue, [REDACTED] will be [REDACTED] with [REDACTED], and so on and so forth. The kids, as they say, aren’t alright — but when everyone is trying to accomplish similar goals with different means, it’s becoming clear that the only way to save ourselves from this dilemma is to act. You have to observe.Continued below
Oliver Simon asks “what is reality?”, but like with most things in “Morning Glories,” it’s not so much the answer that is important, but rather what can be gleaned from the process of understanding. In this case, it’s less about truth, but what we can make from our answer.
And then there’s Ian
This issue is many things, but first and foremost it is a spotlight on Ian Simon. Ian’s a character whose never been quite a mystery as he always seemed rather obviously and adamantly arrogant, but this issue goes a bit further to illustrate just how much so – and how dark he really is.
The reason this is at all troublesome is tied directly to the last page. At this point in the series very few people seem to understand or comprehend the Cylinder, yet Ian seems to not only recognize it (referring to it with emphasis as a beast, which seems fairly noteworthy — and the previous panel being a direct nod to the cover of issue #6 and the finale of issue #27) but also understand it based on his final line. The last time we saw some major interaction with the Cylinder was when Casey touched it back in issue #29 and ostensibly reset things after Irina launched the kids into the future. We know this caused some kind of disturbance on Casey’s past that destroyed some memories, but we have no real idea how.
Thing is, we don’t really know how it works. Casey seemed to know when she came back to the school, but we can’t be sure since her memory was wiped. But if Ian knows then clearly there’s a gap present here somewhere; it’s possible, for example, that this is what Irina used to mess up time in the first place — and if that’s the case, then obviously Ian knows about it since he is part of her crew. Ian was with her when Irina got Vanessa out of school jail and then shot Zoe, so it’s possible that his connection to the Cylinder is through that.
And now Ian wants to apparently use it for his own purposes, resetting aspects of the past in order to have a direct effect on the future. The notion of time has been very fluid within the series so far, but if the Cylinder represents a form of time manipulation that can be harnessed then that opens up a brand new array of questions regarding its purpose and why the school would have it, let alone why they would use it. Ian’s reasons are obviously very petty, but we know that people can manipulate the time stream for their own ends – Hodge, for example. Is the Cylinder what she has been using?
The irony of the whole thing to me is that the name Ian is of Scottish origin for “God is gracious,” and aside from learning that there are many Ians that we are graciously given supposedly by someone who fancies themselves a god, Ian himself turns out to be quite a prick. Not to mention, of course, that in resetting time and enacting his plan against Fortunato, Ian is inherently contradicting himself; how can he write a story on someone when he is wiping them out of existence? (Unless that is just him trying to put everyone off his trail — “Yeah, I’ll write the story. No, don’t write it. I’m telling you, I’ve got it. I’ll do it tomorrow. No, honestly. Just, let me do it at my own pace, yeah?”)
Of course, just because Ian knows about the Cylinder and can get in front of it doesn’t mean he can manipulate it. It has been implied that the Cylinder can be utilized via a machine, yes (see: issue #6), but we also know that it picks up on the interaction from specific people, like Casey. With Ian standing in the door like he does, there is no reaction from the Cylinder. It may not like him. His plan may be more difficult than he thinks it will be.
So where did Ian learn about this, or from whom? Was it Irina? Is the Cylinder a bypass to the time travel we’ve seen previously, such as what Casey did in Plato’s Cave, or an extension? Last time the Cylinder was used to “fix time” everyone noticed, although it took a toll from Casey; will anyone notice what Ian sets out to do here?Continued below
Your Helpful Guide to “Morning Glories” Fan Cameos, Part 1
As of late, Joe has been trying to fill up the background characters of the book with more and more faces of fans who have been supporting the book since its release. You can read more about how you can get into the book right here, but in the meantime, here is the guide of who pops up in Issue #40!
Page 12: Jennifer appears in panel 2, discussing the Many Worlds Interpretation
Page 21: Nix returns for the second time at the right of Panel 1
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.
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 Issues: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19,#20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25, #26, #27, #28, #29, #30, #31, #32, #33, #34, #35, #36, #37, #38, #39
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