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 #41, an issue that I can describe with a single song. And will, at the end of the post! No, not that one.
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
Just in case you forgot, here is your reminder that MGA Study Hall LIVE! is in fat returning to NYCC — which is next week, holy crap. I should probably put together a power point or something.
I will be there moderating, alongside Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma 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 get Nick to explain the rules of Tower Ball; who knows?
The panel will be on Saturday afternoon this year, which is hopefully more convenient for most of you, and here are 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 that 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!Continued below
And, if you like having fun, please join me at The Third Annual Image Comics/Multiversity Comics NYCC Party on Friday, the night before! It’s a 21+ event with a $10 donation to the Hero Initiative at the door to get in, but it should be a great time. And those of you who I’ve met at cons will know that if you get me drunk at a party I will tell you how “Morning Glories” ends! Don’t you want to know?
Hope to see you there. In the meantime, we’ve got annotating to do.
Meet the Fosters
As the issue opens up two years ago, one thing we learn right at the beginning of the issue when Guillaume talks to his step sister Macey (named after and resembling the real life “Morning Glories” superfan and runner of the MG TinyChat Macey) is that the foster families are “in on it” with Abraham. It’d been up for debate before as to what form of role they played in Abraham’s plan, whether they were unwitting participants or active members, but now it’s become a bit more clear: they’re aware of the situation.
It’s an interesting development, because we still know so very little about what most of the kids were up to when they left Abraham’s camp. We know what happened to Zoe and Hisao through flashbacks, but none of the Truants have shown us what their family life was like – or if they even really had one. Guillaume is incredibly candid with Macey, suggesting a certain amount of knowledge passed between them, but Macey also doesn’t seem aware of what Guillaume’s trials entail in any specific way. It would seem that the foster families that Abraham reaches out to are given as little information as we are, most likely to protect them given what happens to Irina’s “parents” in issue #21.
Still, we’re slowly seeing that Abraham’s network is much larger than we realized. Where the Academy seems like a focused front with every member of their team centralized mostly to the school (despite occasionally going off campus), Abraham’s agents exist all around the world as sleeper cells. It’s interesting to see how the two players in this battle interact in that capacity, how they use the tools available to them, and it’s interesting to ruminate on what their use of assets says about each of them.
The recurring theme of survival does crop up again, however, as Macey urges Guillaume to survive. Not that he hasn’t or doesn’t seem like he’s going to, but given his purposeful failure later in the issue it does represent an interesting parallel to the sentiment.
If the photo that Guillaume is using to remember his lost love looks familiar, then good — you’ve been paying attention. First appearing in issue #24 when Ike puts his drunk father to permanent rest, we now very little about it other than it features 10 year old versions of the Truants and another young unidentified blonde kid, who has since appeared mostly as a misdirect (like in #37) with no discernible identity – yet.
Guillaume also has a poster of Tahiti 80 in his bedroom. I guess that makes sense.
The Word of God
In this issue we learn all about Towerball, a game which I imagine many fans of the series are going to attempt to learn how to play in time to hold a tournament at a comic convention. And while we won’t get into that aspect of it here (saving that joke for the next section), one important aspect of Towerball is that all the games are fixed for one team because the Headmaster says so – and Guillaume, with help from Jun, wants to prove that this is something that can be overthrown.
This is an interesting aspect of the game because, if we consider the infinite and almighty power of the Headmaster, we can see his decree in parallel with a lot of the parables about God that have been featured throughout the series – specifically in regards to the role of God telling someone to do something and them being forced to do it without question. It’s a frequently recurring aspect of the series, something that became particularly prevalent when the Truants entered into the scene and a lot of the theological aspects of the book went into overdrive, but the logic we have for God is that He is infallible and can not be proven otherwise – so to do so would inherently lead to potential disaster.Continued below
The question then becomes, if the Headmaster is our analogue for God on the school campus, what exactly happens if we prove him wrong? There are theories out there about what the consequence could be to prove God wrong, but one of the most relevant one that it would mean the destruction of reality; if God created reality in his infallible image and we prove this to be a fallible concept, it destroys the logic and reason that went into creation and therefore unwinds creation as a construct itself (something that would go very well with the discussion held in issue #40).
I mean, if you want an easy transition point, just think of the movie Dogma, right? In it, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are exiled from Heaven but find out about a loophole that can get them back in. However, this can not possibly be allowed to happen because if it does it proves God fallible, and if God is fallible then everything God’s done has fallen apart. It’s a weird comparison between “Morning Glories” and Dogma, I’ll grant you, but it’s the easiest parallel to make.
While Guillaume suggests that his actions are done to to send a message, it’s actually also quite possible that proving the Headmaster wrong could have larger ramifications depending how omniscient the Headmaster truly is and how the reality of Morning Glory Academy is defined in conjunction with that.
It’s also interesting to note that we now have two separate parties actively doing something to put them in the crosshairs of the Headmaster, as Casey will be running for class president specifically to meet him. Interestingly enough, both seem to be based on popularity contests; Casey’s is more obvious since she’s running for student council, but there exists a certain ranking and stature associated with sports captains as well, and it even allows for a student to choose his teammates which is an interesting wrinkle in the whole equation.
Also, if we consider the quiet insurrection of the AV Club, we have at least three parties acting independently in order to clash with the Headmaster in different ways. Makes you wonder why they don’t all just team up together, but also opens up the possibility of what could happen when their individual plans come against one another.
The Extended Towerball Metaphor
Of course, if we really want to get into it and start thinking about the idea of two teams that are so specifically defined by a singular element, it’s easy to see how this could also relate to the Academy’s continued struggles with Abraham’s camp. While we admittedly do not know which side defines the rules, there is something that you can easily extrapolate from the idea of two opposing sides where one is “destined” to win over and over in a repeated cycle.
After all, when the book introduced ideas of Samsara into the core mythology alongside references to certain sci-fi movies that display time travel in a looped format, we took it to understand that everything we see is stuck in a loop of its own; everything we see has happened before and will happen again. And is that not what we see in Towerball? Two sides, both playing a game, where one will always be destined to lose to preserve the cycle?
It’s interesting to guess which side is supposed to be which, but I guess that depends on which side you think is the “good” or the “bad” side in the Academy’s conflict. Traditionally, though, in color schemes red is used to denote that more violent or angry side, with blue equating to a cooling and calming effect. So if red is the one destined to win, how does that translate to the conflict with the Academy?
How to Play Towerball
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unfortunately there are no rules to Towerball. It’s a clever title for a game, but a game in which there is no way to play. There is a basic set-up in that there’s a field split in half, and a hoop in every corner of the field that delineates some form of “goal,” but other than that I have no idea the particulars of how to play the game — and if Nick knows them, he’s certainly not sharing. So we’re out of luck there.Continued below
Unless you like to make shit up. Which I do, and frequently!
As such, here are the “rules” that were written for Towerball for this month’s “Morning Glory Babies.” They’re mostly gibberish, done in the spirit of Whackbat, but if you can gleam any particular meaning out of it then I would love to play a game:
You’ll need to start by doubling back past the center line towards the Red Team’s goals, if only to show a complete disregard for the standard conventions of gameplay – we need to convince everyone that you don’t know what you’re doing, so you need to get it in your head to do the wrong thing first. Of course, because you can’t do that again and again or people will be on to us, you’ll also need to start holding left and on occasion let the couriers steal the ball, leading to an interplay steal and probably a three-point coldcall from the ref, which adds a ten minute delay to the game but is probably something we can use to our advantage.
Normally you’d be the Runner with the ball heading towards the goal. But seeing as we need you to fail, you’ll need to let the hurdlers intercept you on the right pass before taking a short hop over the mound by the east hoop. From there you can do a backwards overhead toss towards the upper-east half of the court, as long as it’s five meters off from the post and into the hands of the other team’s intercept squad. And if all else fails, you can always let the West Assaultman run a gamut play towards the East Strongbow so that the ball in play gets dropped in a natural two-by-four play for the runback in motion.
The Duality of Man
While I’m not sure this one needs to be spelled out necessarily, one thing that I do find interesting is the way that the Junisao Conundrum (as I will now forever refer to this as) is played off in this interesting.
Consider, if you will, issue #33 in which we learn that Jun and Hisao switched place in life and death. Consider Jun, the former star pupil, and his current turn against the Academy as he aligns himself with the mish-mash of the Truant/Glory cliques. Consider the strained relationship present between Guillaume and Jun, and how the two have come together in this scenario.
Jun is a complicated character, but I find it infinitely intriguing the way that he is basically a metaphor realized into a more palpable and physical state of being. He is literally forced to be two people at once, but he doesn’t particularly understand how to be either; he can’t be his brother because his brother was too pure of a person, and he can’t be himself because there is no real Jun — that person existed as an arm of the Academy more than anyone or anything else.
So who is he? Besides being the literal embodiment of dualism (the conflict between complete moral opposites), can he ever be anything or anyone of his own? At this point, I almost doubt it; he’s so fractured and broken that it’s hard to imagine he understands how to exist on his own — which, of course, brings us to our next section.
It’s Not a Fashion Statement, It’s a Deathwish
So, in helping Guillaume with the Towerball Plot, Jun wants something in return — and, as we learn, that something is to bring back his dead brother Hisao via the Ceremony. It should be pointed out that Jun is (was?) a star student at the school, one of Gribbs’ favorites and a member of the inner circle that knew certain secrets about the way the Academy works, so his knowledge of the Ceremony is greater than ours. First appearing in issue #2 and something we saw him lead and initiate in issue #18 (where a sacrifice was also demanded), it’s clear Jun has some idea of what he’s doing, even if we’re still unsure of what exactly the Ceremony does.
Of course, that Jun’s sacrifice is Jade is instantly problematic, not just because she’s a fan favorite and a main character that is alive in the future (issue #6) but because we’ve been down the resurrection road with her before in issue #34. While issue #33 showed us that a person’s being could be transferred between bodies (hence the Junisao Conundrum), issue #34 definitively stated repeatedly that dead is dead and that you can’t bring back that which is gone – and while we don’t know the aftermath of #34’s cliffhanger, we made plenty of assumptions that it involved bringing back an empty and disoriented shell since the “being” of a person would’ve been lost.Continued below
So with Jun’s plan, we run into a interesting scenario in that we know it’s doomed to fail and we’re aware of the acute dramatic irony of attempting to use Jade as the sacrifice to bring back Hisao. That Jun wants to sacrifice a person is fairly interesting as last time their sacrifice was a goat; perhaps the bigger the sacrifice being offered, the greater the task you can accomplish. Not only that, but it’s possible that Jun is aware of Jade’s attempt to revive her mother given his previous involvement with the Academy; it’s most likely coincidental, but perhaps he thinks that using her will offer them a unique entity through which to attempt to break this known taboo based on what she did previously.
By the Way
Coming up with the headers for these different sections can, at times, be a bit of a slog. I try and be cute and reference things coyly, and use the headers as opportunities for some doublespeak when I can — or, when I can, create a separate running narrative throughout the pieces I do. I’ve got to keep it fresh somehow, right?
Most of the time it’s a shot in the dark as to whether or not what I am referencing comes through, though. And while the previous section — “It’s Not a Fashion Statement, It’s a Deathwish” — is potentially obvious, I was proud of this one and wanted to elaborate on it a bit more. Consider this beyond inside baseball at this point.
“It’s Not a Fashion Statement, It’s a Deathwish” is a track from My Chemical Romance, of which Jade is wearing a shirt from in the final sequence. While what the title itself is referencing in context of the final page should be obvious (I hope; it’s not subtle), what actually ended up happening is the song itself ended up being wildly appropriate for the scene. A brief look at the lyrics reveals this, especially when you consider the potential that the song is being sung in-universe as a multi-narrator piece; that is to say, not only is the song from Jade’s perspective, but it’s from Guillaume’s and Jun/Hisao’s. Here’s a few choice pieces, to clarify:
- Do you remember that day when we met? You told me this gets harder — well, it did.
- I’m coming back from the dead and I’ll take you home with me. I’m taking back the life you stole.
- When you go, just know that I will remember you. If living was the hardest part, we’ll then one day be together.
100% accidental in terms of the lyrics syncing up, but it still works pretty well I imagine. I now forever associate that song with “Morning Glories,” and this issue. Now somebody needs to go and make one of those fan music videos with this song so I can link it with next month’s piece.
Here’s one of those videos that includes the lyrics, if you want to give it a listen/watch:
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
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, #40
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