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 #47, in which Ike throws a party and everyone has a great time.
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 “Burning Fields” 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.
The Breather Episode
As we march on to issue #50 (in three issues!) this issue seems singularly focused on realigning the board as to where everyone is and what their mindset is before whatever upcoming confrontation (the election, the science fair, Towerball) heralds the seasons end. Based on definitions found at TVTropes.org, I was debating whether this issue was a Breather Episode or a Filler Episode; both seem somewhat applicable, as this issue more than any other seems specifically focused on reminding us who is doing what where without actually pushing the book all that much more forward. We know that the night of the party is important because the text specifically says so, but it seems that its importance is derived more as a catalyst than anything else; a few characters finally interact, and everything seems to be at a breaking point as to the aforementioned upcoming events.
With that in mind, annotations for the issue are a little bit limited. There’s things we can glean from some character interactions, but for the most part this issue is essentially setting up the chessboard. So with that in mind, let’s table it:
|Character||At the Party||In the Story|
|Casey||Schmoozing||Preparing to run in the Election|
|Hunter||Covering the party for the paper||Informing the student body of events|
|Jade||Not present||Still tied up in the basement|
|Ike||Hosting||Readying Casey for the upcoming election|
|Hisao||Not present||Still dead|
|Zoe||Not present||Being the Second Coming in Marrakech|
|Irina||Not present||Trying to kill the Second Coming in Marrakech|
|Vanessa||Meeting Casey||Working on a Science Fair Project to communicate outside the Academy|
|Ian||Being a creep||Preparing to use his weird Scantron machine|
|Akiko||Not present||Hanging out with Fortunato|
|Fortunato||Not present||Still recovering from Daramount and Ian’s beating|
|Jun||Begrudgingly present||Preparing for Tower Ball and killing Jade|
|Guillaume||Not dancing to Kitsune||Preparing for Tower Ball, trying to keep Jun from killing Jade|
|Andres||Ogling dancing girls||Informing the student body of events|
|Hannah||Yelling at Andres for Ogling dancing girls||Informing the student body of events|
|Esi||Trying to figure out what’s going on at the party||Informing the student body of events|
|Pamela||Under the table||Just Pamela-ing about|
We also get to see Future Vanessa and Ellen interact, which would imply that there’s an importance to this interaction, Vanessa’s science fair project and what can be done with the walkie talkie device in the final few installments of this season. But we’ll get into this in a bit.
Like an unplanned crossover with “Forgetless” (Nick Spencer’s mini-series circulating the events of a life-changing night club/party), the central action of this issue finds the student body of Morning Glory Academy dancing the night away in an abandoned storage facility on the outskirts of the campus grounds. And if the opening few pages filled you with a sense of deja vu, it’s to be expected: we last saw this shed back in #36, when Ian and Vanessa’s respective parents were escorted through the door by a particularly snide-looking Daramount. The AV Club even makes mention of this on the first page, and notes that there could be more to the facility than what Ike is showcasing — but this of course begs the question: with what Ike has set up here, have they really gone through the same door that Dr. Simon and Dr. Richards went through? Why would an abandoned storage facility need two guards, or a carpet laid out past the door?
We know that at the Academy things aren’t always as they seem, and sometimes a door can open to multiple places. That’s the thing about doorways, especially in sci-fi books; where you may assume that walking you through a doorway brings you to one specific place, it’s not unreasonable for it to take you somewhere else. For example, if we look earlier in the series (#12) we’ll see that going through a doorway can bring you to the campus from a seemingly unrelated locale — and when the events of #12 were given additional context (#16) it made the passage through that doorway all the more confusing. So when we look back at #36, what little we can see of the entryway seems to be in conflict to the set-up as we see it here; gone is the long hallway, instead replaced by something ostensibly abandoned that can fit all the mainstays of a successful night club — and if our theory that the Academy is on some other plane of existence then we can accurately count for the discrepancy, as the Academy Staff would certainly know how to enter the campus grounds through multiple doors and entryways.
Additionally, the reason this location’s different interiors becomes suspect is because if this were just a storage facility it would ostensibly present no exit — a storage facility is just a building, it’s not something traditionally used for passage. If Casey’s speech about going home this issue has any direct relation to what Hannah mentions about potentially leaving through this building via however Drs. Simon and Richmond, I would imagine that the road to the exit is hidden somewhere in the doorframe.Continued below
Also: apparently, despite all the weird dumb shit I got up to in high school, I lived a fairly tame and sheltered life because none of my friends and I ever ended up going to something like this. Geez. Kids today, am I right?
My Whole Life is a Darkroom
While the main focus of the issue centers around the party, we do get a couple external vignettes peppered throughout the issue as well. The first that we get is with Akiko and Fortunate, as Akiko lightly laments that she can not party with the corporeal and Fortunate continues to avoid questions as to why Ian beat on him. And while the scene is short and closed off with a nod to Beetlejuice (which Akiko uses as a shorthanded reference to her being trapped in a location, unable to leave), one thing Fortunate says has a fair deal of relevance that’s worth keeping in mind.
A confrontation is coming in the next three issues. This is inescapable, and Ian has almost explicitly said it multiple times, let alone in this issue. That said, we also known that Ian has a very unrequited fondness for Akiko, and Fortunate seems to imply that all things considered Akiko could prevent it — which is interesting. Akiko certainly lacks the ability to communicate with others, and I’m not sure Fortunate is up to being a conduit, but I don’t know how else it could happen; there’s no one else that seems to acknowledge her presence, though she hasn’t really gone out of her way to try. That said, she does view herself as Fortunato’s current guardian, so if nothing else perhaps she will find a way to save him.
In a way, I’m reminded of the finale to Season 1. In issue #23 when Akiko interacted with David, Fortunato saved her. Perhaps we’re do to somewhat seeing the inverse?
Best Friends Forever
The other major not-party sequence we get is with Casey and Vanessa, and it’s only really important because Future Vanessa explicitly says it is important. It’s almost fourth-wall breaking, in a slightly unusual way for the series; it’d probably have been simple enough to pull the two together and show that a spark is kind of triggered here, but no, Vanessa flat out says that this is an impactful sequence.
Part of it is obvious as to why, and again Vanessa spells it out: because of her friendship with Casey, she eventually goes back in time to meet young Lara, who brains her with a rock and strands her in the past to grow old in a cell. This opens up all kinds of unfortunate implications, as Future Vanessa mentions she is aware of Casey’s existence as Clarkson, and is somewhat implying that Casey set her up (since Clarkson takes orders from Hodge, and Hodge would ostensibly know that Vanessa needed to be sent back in time to get stranded). That’s unfortunate.
That said, there’s also a lot of benefit here. We assume that in the grand scheme of dichotomies for cliques that Irina was Casey’s “equal,” but really Vanessa makes more sense. The two of them are smart scientific students who contain strong leadership qualities (Vanessa was the defacto leader when Irina was out in the woods blowing up shrines or whatever) and their bond seems natural; that they’re both doing their best to defy the laws of the school right now (Casey’s election, Vanessa’s science project) makes Vanessa’s comment about “kindred spirits” ring true. And if we really want to dig into it, though — and of course we do because that’s what this column is about — that “kindred spirits” remark is interesting.
Look, I’m not trying to say that everyone at Morning Glory Academy are actually ancient reincarnated dead people and their souls are stuck in cycles because that’s the kind of stuff that becomes the foundation for creepy religions. I will, however, at least offer a nod to the continued references to cycles, the inclusion of Samsara as an ideological support system and the references to people being drawn to one another throughout time as a way to at least give this remark from Vanessa a bit of added value. Everything that’s happened before will happen again; it stands to reason that certain people will come together as well.Continued below
The ABC’s of School Elections: Always Be Campaigning
All parties have to end, and sometimes they end by having someone totally bring down the overall vibe — hence, Ike ushers Casey on stage to make her speech. Casey delivers unto us her usual platitudes; Morning Glory Academy bad, leaving good, yadda yadda yadda — and between both totally killing the mood (and ignoring Hunter, who apparently is not as over his crush as he thought he was), Casey allows the table to turn and Isabel to make her grand entrance.
Isabel is a tough character to get a read on. By default we’re being trained to dislike her; even if she makes good points, the fact that she is Casey’s adversary means that we have to go against her. That, and the fact that she appears to like the Academy, which we have also been equally conditioned to view as bad. Both of these things are interesting to me: it stands to reason that, all things considered, there’s no reason that Casey isn’t the bad guy and Isabel is the opposite. She mentions having fun with fellow students (apparently having parties in the dungeon), and she actually knows the name of more than ten other students. Casey, conversely, just wants to tear everything down. Is that fair? Yeah, her parents were murdered, I get it, but this is a school that is training a weird brand of students to do something spectacular — do two dead parents by default make them the bad guy? (Ok, yes, it does, but bear with me.)
What I really want to know is: why is Isabel so loyal? What did the school do for her? Is it possible that if Casey got that treatment, she’d view the school differently? And is that not a fundamental debate in parenting anyway, of nature vs nurture? The role of parents is huge in this story and obviously Casey had a very emotional connection to hers, but what about Isabel’s parents? Where are they? And with their absence (at least to us), what role can we assume the Academy played in raising her to the point where she will not only go out into the world to bring in a rabble rouser someone like Casey (because remember, Casey is only at the Academy because Clarkson and Isabel pushed her) and still come home and want to defend it?
Perhaps the more relevant question is… who is Isabel really?
All that said, a thing of note:
Why Pamela’s Dislike of Isabel is Pretty Important, All Things Considered
Lets get this out of the way: all of the characters in this book are fairly complex and rounded out as people, but Pamela? Pamela is nuts. Maybe we’ll get an origin story some day, but as far as I can tell Pamela is basically MGA’s Joker, if Joker didn’t need a Batman to exist and just wanted to do crazy stuff all the time.
With that in mind, when Pamela reveals she doesn’t like Isabel it’s important. It’s important for two things, both directly related to Isabel and inherently conflicting:
1. It proves that Isabel herself isn’t a bad person. Casey remarks that she figured Pamela would like Isabel because they’re potentially similar, but Pamela doesn’t see anything like herself in Isabel. If we can acknowledge that Pamela is kind of crazy and that the things she does are bad on purpose (aside from baking brownies), then it goes to show that Isabel is therefore not bad.
2. It also proves that Isabel is dangerous. I realize this potentially contradicts exactly what I just said, but keep in mind: Pamela loves the school beyond rationality. There is nothing more important to Pamela than the school, and Isabel represents a threat. We can reason that Pamela doesn’t exactly see things as lucidly or clearly as you or I (and we don’t understand anything), but Pamela wanting Isabel taken down when Casey has done nothing but promote that her campaign will lead to the deconstruction of the school is interesting to me.
Essentially: Pamela should see Casey as the villain, but she doesn’t. Pamela loves the school and Casey hates it, but Pamela still throws in support for Casey. Is it roomie camaraderie? Maybe. Is it vanity? Perhaps. But if you ask me, Isabel seems dangerous — and Pamela’s reaction to her confirms it.Continued below
Can You Dig It?
Gribbs and his goons crash the party, and all hell breaks out in the form of a riot as Ike basically steals a move from Rogues leader Luther (see: The Warriors) and pelts a bottle at Gribbs’ head. Of course, the point of this is for the fallout to come down on Isabel, which is smart; as Ian points out, it paints Isabel in a very bad light and furthers Ike’s endeavors to prop Casey up whether she likes it or not.
And while it’s a small moment, it’s a wonderfully cathartic one. Ike and Gribbs have always had a difficult relationship (to put it lightly), but it’s nice to see that even when someone tears him down as brutally as Gribbs did, Ike doesn’t let that stop him from being a bit of a bastard himself. I know Future Ike spelled out doom and gloom for the rascal, but dammit, I think we can still hope for him.
We end this month’s issue as once again Ian pulls out his strange machine and teases the capabilities it contains. From his initial stalking of the Cylinder (#40) to his digging out this strange Scantron out of storage (#42), the book has been slowly building to some kind of confrontation involving the machine — but really the importance of his machine has been hiding under the surface of the book since the first issue when Brenden came across it before his untimely death. The seeds planted for whatever it is that Ian has up his sleeve are certainly well-documented and seem almost on the outskirts of the other conflicts (despite this being his science project).
This again calls into question the power and purpose of the machine. We have no idea what it does, yet it’s seemingly always there; it’s there as the series began, and now as we reach the halfway point it seems to be referenced more and more frequently. But what does it do? And perhaps more importantly, what is its relationship to the Cylinder? If our first image of it was in conjunction with this strange machine (#1) that can alter time (#29), unearth Hell (#5) and kill wantonly (#6), to what extent does the Cylinders power relate to this Scantron device (if at all, as it was in storage after all — unless it was in storage for a reason post-Irina’s failed insurrection).
The bigger question we have to ask as of this issue, and to which I’m very unsure of the answer, is: what does Ian gain by Casey winning the election? Ian claims that he can use the device to help Casey win, but certainly there are easier ways to rig an election. And what does Ian gain by helping Ike? Ike’s actions directly relate to his interaction with his future self (#43), but Ian is motivated by selfishness, hatred for Fortunato and longing for Akiko (#40); all that happens if Casey becomes class president is that she gets to meet the Headmaster, and there’s seemingly no reciprocal benefit in this for Ian as far as positioning Casey for this encounter goes. Everything Ian wants relates to bringing Akiko out of a coma and winning her heart, and Casey’s quest to dethrone the Headmaster and burn down the school don’t seem like things that can help him on his quest.
So as we are on the precipice of a big finale, Ian has essentially revealed himself to potentially be the most dangerous person in the room. From what we know about Ian, his plans tie to the abilities of the Cylinder; it’s perhaps undeniable that his Scantron holds some strong importance to the Cylinder as well. But with a singularly obvious motive yet no apparent logic or hat tip towards his plan of attack, whatever Ian is planning is all across the board, and is therefore that much more likely to be something to fear.
As I’ve mentioned before, the Morning Glories Wikipedia is now live, featuring copious notes and annotations. While I’ve not written anything particular for it, I’ve contributed a few inklings here and there, and some notes are sourced for this very column in a cleaner database friendly fashion — so I guess think of it like this column, but with less “me” and more straight-up presentation of materials. Should be good for every time we get a name and are wondering if it has been mentioned before. (I particularly like this entry, myself.)Continued below
In further things you should be following, the Morning Glory Academy Study Hall podcast is live and updated with tons of episodes for you to listen to, including commentary for the fourth arc ‘Truants.’ You can find them streaming here on Multiversity Comics (see below for links) or on Podomatic and on iTunes. For those unaware of its purpose, this is a podcast that I do with Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma in which we discuss each individual issue at length, offering up commentary tracks to go alongside your reads. It’s pretty much the best.
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, #41, #42, #43, #44, #45, #46
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, Live at NYCC 2014