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 #43, in which Ike continues to not get his comeuppance for being a little shit.
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.
But I Thought Dead Was Dead!
As the issue opens, we begin with Ike’s strange Abraham-related dreams. Ike and Abraham’s relationship is a weird one to say the least, as Ike has both murdered his father and apparently not murdered him at the same time (#24). We also know that Ike is somehow psychically linked with Abraham, as Gribbs explained when he beat the snot out of Ike from his wheelchair (#38), and this rather unsurprisingly carries over to Ike’s dream state.
The first panel is a reference to Abraham’s time in the dungeon of the school (and somewhat the cover of issue #24), and the third brings back the snakes both Ike saw in #25 as well as the ones Abraham awoke to find in #38, now crawling over his stabbed body. Meanwhile we also get two iterations of Zoe in panels two and four, the first resembling a stereotypical medieval executioner’s mask (or part of her Space Ghost costume) and one that resembles a zombie – both of which perhaps are clues as to what role she’s going to be playing in the near future for the seemingly once again enchained Abraham.
We had idly speculated as to the “how” and “why” of Zoe’s return back when Abraham found her, whether this was more time travel or something else (the “MGA in a time-less bubble” theory that I’m fond of, for instance). While this isn’t conclusive in any way, it does somewhat seem like a nod to what Zoe is now seeing as this is the first time we’ve seen her since her “return”. Her being a threat to Abraham isn’t inherently a surprise, but the Zombie aspect certainly is — yet, according to Nick Spencer, “dead is dead.” So, Zombie Zoe it is! Z^2!
One thing that’s also interesting about this opening sequence is that after Ike wakes up, he sarcastically thanks his father. I’m curious as to why; we know that people with abilities can transmit messages to one another (see: Irina transmitting messages to Hunter way back in #19), so is this Abraham sending Ike a vague message that then becomes Ike’s call to action for the rest of the events this issue? Last time Ike mind-linked with his father was forced while under a form of duress, so I wonder if he can do it subconsciously — and it certainly seems very likely that Abraham could send a message that he was in danger from a former pupil-turned-zombie.Continued below
Still, of all the ways in history that dads have prevented their sons from masturbating, this has to be the weirdest.
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” Here Ike is quoting one of my favorite books, “Animal Farm” by George Orwell. I’ve had to explain this book to so many people in my life at this point that I’ll hardly pass up another one!
“Animal Farm” is George Orwell’s most famous novella that details the rise of Communism. In it, allegorical animals on the titular farm rise up against their human oppressors and take over, establishing a utopian society in which all animals are equal. Yet very quickly some of the animals (the pigs, to be precise) begin to take further power, bribing some animals into complacency with ribbons and sugar while forcing other animals to do the labor for them while they rut about. As such, the leftover animals can not tell the difference between their former masters (the men) and their new masters (the pigs).
So while Ike is not exactly subtle in his disdain for what Casey is doing here in her campaign, the “Animal Farm” quote adds a nice added bit of poignancy to it. There’ve been many hints throughout the series that the role of the student is more intimately linked the role of the staff, in that students become teachers (such as Future Jade, or even Casey becoming Clarkson) and so on, and the “Animal Farm” quote certainly puts a poetic little knife in the back of that.
Ms. Dagney and the Library of Dreams, Part 1: Wow-Mo
Now we get to the heart of the issue. Not only did we have Ike’s opening dreams, but this issue gives some rather big dream sequences for us to chew on. And as always is the case with “Morning Glories,” the blending of dreams and reality is often very murky, as we’ve seen in the past (#10 comes to mind almost instantly).
So now we have Ike in the library with Dagney, which somewhat calls back the last time we were in a more ethereal library (#28), let alone the last time anyone spent considerable time in there (#31). But if #28 taught us anything, it’s that there is some kind of power in the library — whether it’s something waiting to be activated, or something that is brought by someone like Dagney. Ike utilizes a similar method to that which we’ve seen in the past, that of simply opening a book and chancing upon the “right” page in order to obtain answers, which is what happened both times we saw Hunter in the library previously — but where Ike’s scenario differs a bit is that here he gets to spiral into several strange dream/memory sequences (either option work, honestly; it’s hard to be sure).
Dagney’s remark about sending a message could also be similar to the discussion we had earlier about messages being sent in dreams (especially given dialogue at the end of the scene), or she just sent him a regular message. Take your pick. That, and you have to wonder if she brought him in here of her own accord or someone else’s; Dagney tells Ike she can’t give him any answers, but he can find them in the books — which certainly opens the question up of why Ike would be brought to the library at all, especially since it leads him on a path to help Casey. Is all this being set up?
Actually, a lot of the opening dialogue to this scene is suspect — Dagney’s remark about “putting books where they belong” could be just as sly as Ike’s “Animal Farm” remark earlier. In this book it’s very hard to tell when someone is or is not being sinister. But I’m digressing from what I aimed to talk about in the first place.
Also, now is as good a time as any to remind you that real power comes from reading in the first place. Butterfly in the sky… I can fly twice as high…Continued below
So in the first sequence, Ike sees a young version of his father and Gribbs as employees of Wow-Mo (first seen in #33) as they apparently find and place potential future students in homes for whatever purpose the school is attempting to undertake — essentially setting up the long con that is the existence of this school in the first place, and a practice Abraham would apparently keep on practicing even after he left and/or was removed from employment. We also see some sort of ceremony over Baby Ike as they wear the familiar Volto Losanghe masks first seen in another of Ike’s visions (#25). We also learn a bit more about how Wow-Mo/MGA gets their kids and sets them up to be candidates for the school, which is all kinds of weird and creepy in retrospect.
Also, fun note: Abraham is basically wearing the same outfit as Ike is in the past sequence here. Ike’s got a brown cardigan on instead of a blazer, but brown is brown and they’ve both got red ties over white shirts. Like father, like son.
Whatever is going on here isn’t entirely clear, but there are a number of things that are pretty apparent. First of all, we begin to understand what Abraham’s role used to be a bit more, as someone who may not be Father of the school but certainly has a high-ranking and important job to perform. Abraham is decidedly in a position of power, and while the whole scene does sort of subtly nod to the idea that there is someone even above him, he’s definitely at the top of the food chain in this sequence.
Secondly, it’s also probably more apparent now why Abraham would strike out on his own and/or have the funds in order to be able to do such a thing. Wow-Mo clearly provides a good deal of resources and Abraham is obviously in rather deep towards what the mysterious actions are all about. While there may come some kind of schism in terms of how Abraham and Headmaster want to treat and utilize the kids (just like in that “Schism” comic where the X-Men broke up, probably!), it’s clear why Abraham would know how to set up his own camp to do the same thing as the school in a different place.
But the question really is, why does Ike need to see this sequence? Perhaps he needed to see the ceremony; clearly they were performing some kind of ritual on him as a child, but we don’t know what’s happening in this scene or if it even works — as Abraham says, “I don’t know if it works so far from where he belongs,” whatever ‘it’ is. Not only that, but Abraham makes remarks about Ike needing to “remember” things and how as he gets older he’ll start to forget, which is our only potential answer as to why Ike is seeing everything that goes down between his father and Gribbs and Brett — even though he still doesn’t have the context for it, or even any idea of what Wow-Mo is.
Yet Gribbs and Abraham murder Brett, and if Abraham’s pulling out of the knife (the same one used to stab him by Ike in previously seen sequences — #11, #24) is any indication, there’s a ritual to that to. Wow-Mo is pretty prepared for redundancies of this kind.
Also: the question arises, who is Brett the father of? But I’m sure we’ll find that out. Out of all the Glories, none of the girls are missing a father in their life, though it’s also possible they’d never know in the first place, and the Truants are in the same boat in that Brett’s seemingly not a match. But I’m sure his daughter is in the book somewhere. Megan’s name is literally mentioned in the pages of the book, and I’m a dope who stinks at re-reading. That said, Megan is certainly being built up a lot: from her first appearance in #3 to Abraham crying out for her in #25, Megan is growing in importance. I’m curious to see how that will eventually play out when she learn who she “really” is.
Ms. Dagney and the Library of Dreams, Part 2: Old Man Ike
As Ike wakes up under a table (I’m still kind of wondering about that — she treats him as if he just woke up from a heavy night of drinking, and I’ve gotten drunk and fallen asleep under tables at parties before, but in this scenario she would’ve put him under the table herself, so why?), we get a bit more info on the library. Apparently it’s full of books written by “you,” by which I imagine Dagney means the students and not Ike specifically. This does, however, echo a sentiment first stated by Future Jade when she told Hunter that the school was built by him back in #25, so I think either option works.
Dagney also chastises Ike a little bit for focusing on the mystery of his father and not the bigger mysteries. This both says a lot about Ike (in that he’s too self-obsessed to care about the mysteries beyond those that directly relate to him) and is perhaps a wink and a nod to the readers in our ability to look at one thing and not understand it for what it is…
…which I’ll do right now! What’s interesting to me is that there’s a sequence for Ike that’s ostensibly “missing.” The book jumps from Dagney handing Ike a book to a different scene (which we’ll touch on later) before coming back to Ike hurling on the floor, potentially because he was coming out of another book-created dream sequence. Perhaps Ike just vomits because he’s getting too much information, as Dagney says “the truth can be disorienting,” but if Ike did have another vision there then I’m curious as to what that sequence was — or, if we’re supposed to believe that he sees Oliver Simon watching him and talking about a Tesseract? I’m not sure.
Anyway. In addition to the first vision we saw, Dagney treats Ike to a morose look at his future where he meets Old Man Ike.
Old Man Ike was an unidentified figure we saw back in issue #25 when Ike’s reality was initially distorted by Abraham’s weird truths, but many people assumed based on the purple ring in his hat that it was Ike (so well done, all of you). Now we get some confirmation of that, as Ike appears to grow up to be just as if not more alone than he’s always been.
We also get the return of the barking dog first seen in Ike’s original vision, but also when Abraham awoke in Morocco in #38 — yet this scene ostensibly takes place at such a distance in the future that it seems hardly likely it’s the same dog. But, with time being as askew in this series as it is, let alone the healthy and frequent use of visual metaphors, perhaps there’s more reason for the dog to be there than we suspect; given the undetermined location of Ike’s meeting with his future self, the dog could be a greater, perhaps even ethereal guardian of sorts, like some kind of literal alarm system.
This of course isn’t the first time that a member of the cast has met their older self, which appears to be a recurring event now. Jade met herself in the future, and Casey met her time-traveling self; we also know an older Vanessa is somewhere in the grounds of the school. I can only imagine when we’ll start to see the other members of the cast meet other iterations of themselves.
What’s interesting is that, not only do we meet Old Ike, but we actually get to learn more about Young Ike — even more than what we saw of him previously. As Dagney says in the beginning of the issue, Ike used to just be “Isaac,” and seemed like a sweet enough kid; Dagney apparently thought he would be MGA’s first student (and not Logan Eisma), but “He” had different plans. But does the He in this scenario refer to Abraham, whom we know Dagney had some kind of relationship with in the past, or is it the Headmaster — and if it’s the Headmaster, does that explain why Abraham was forced to abandon a young Ike at Coney Island, which was just one step of many that led Ike down a harsh road (#24)Continued below
What Old Man Ike continues to reiterate to Ike/for us is the dire stakes of the future. Most of the time when we travel forward into the lives of the students we see some form of destruction or dismay, never anything particularly sunny, with a ruined school being most prominent. And while future Jade seemed slightly optimistic when we met her, Ike’s future-self seems positively pessimistic; more than anything else he tries to convey to a continuously sarcastic Ike that everything is going to be horrible, and not just because he loses his air and gets liver spots on his face. Old Man Ike even warns Ike that he’ll die alone (which is weird since he is seemingly alive in this sequence, so how would he know) because that’s how bad everything has gotten for him.
But is it really all that bad for everyone? After all, we know Ike is a narcissist. Everything Old Man Ike says only relates to Ike, which is the opposite of what has been the case where we met other older versions of characters. For Ike, the motivation still seems self-centered; Old Man Ike speaks of a woman that Ike has to help, though it’s not stated who, but the motivation doesn’t seem entirely altruistic. Ike will obviously interpret this to mean that he has to go help Casey, which is what he does, but I’m not sure that’s who he needs. Though maybe it is — she is most likely, after all. It’s not the person he’s thinking about when he wakes up though.
The sequence ends with Old Man Ike saying, “Best two out of three?” This could be a reference to the amount of dreams Ike has had so far (two that we’ve seen, both offering him esoteric hints of his purpose), or it could be a hint that there really is a way to prevent the destruction inherent to the future that he hasn’t come across yet.
Lastly, given the the general atmosphere the book has about future generations taking on the sins of the past, the whole thing starts to get the same vibe as “20th Century Boys,” which Joe Eisma has stated multiple times is a huge influence on his work, Nick Spencer claims to not have read, and I just finally read it so all I want to do is talk about it (and also makes me believe Nick has to have read it). “20th Century Boys” is a sprawling generational epic in which the games children played in the past return in a nefarious way in their present, turning from a schoolyard play of “good vs evil” into an evil mastermind attempting world conquest; yet the book jumps between a few different eras in the characters’ lives that we see the past, the present and the future interact in very unique ways — ways that are not dissimilar to what we see here.
Ms. Dagney and the Library of Dreams, Part 3: The Babe and the Blade
As Ike wakes up on the floor hours later (it’s dark out now), Dagney asks him “what did you see when your eyes were open?”, a frequently recurring phrase used in this book — introduced in #3, semi-explained in #10 with Jade’s trip to the Nurse’s office. Ike claims he saw Jade, which we know isn’t literally true, and Dagney finds this “interesting” which leads to some monologuing.
In Dagney’s monologues, we get two things of note. The first is the story of a woman put into captivity, only to have people worship her. She explains this as a story she heard that explains “the nature of the world,” though it generally seems akin to the story Casey got the phrase “the hour of our release draws near” from and what we saw in #3. While we can’t be sure where this story came from yet, we can easily see it as a metaphor; this is probably about as blunt as Dagney can be as to why Ike and the others are at this school: they built it for themselves to go through in order to accomplish some unknown task.
But Dagney relates this to another story, about her child — and to make it all kind of eerie, you can perhaps remember some of what Dagney says as what Jade heard when she was sleepwalking last issue. We can’t be sure what exactly happened, though it’s implied that she was supposed to kill the child and did not; Dagney appears to have gone through a “Rosemary’s Baby” of a scenario (and here’s a link if you do not get that reference).Continued below
Who was Dagney’s child? And what did he do, or how does he relate to the students? If Dagney’s understanding of the nature of the world is that its effectively a prison, then is it her child that built it? And is he someone we know? It doesn’t seem like it is Ike (we’ve supposedly met her) as she speaks of her child and Ike in different breaths, but the only other student we know directly related to the creation of the Academy is Hunter, and we’ve met his mother as well. So who is the monster?
Lots of questions. Still. Ike is now set up to go help Casey, either because he thinks that Old Man Ike was talking about her, or because Ike thought he was talking about Jade and this is the only way he can think of to help her. Take your pick.
Alright, lets dial it backwards to the scene of Olver Simon and Ellen Richmond that we skipped earlier. In it they talk about spying on the kids in addition to other things that they’re doing here at the school, and while Oliver Simon has seemed like a passive fool for the entirety of our knowledge of him, here he gets a bit sinister and busts out some news in order to keep Richmond interested in talking to him.
So what is a Tesseract? Well, besides that thing Loki and the Red Skull used in those Marvel films, a Tesseract is a four-dimensional geometric shape. The easiest way to think about it is this way: start with a line; this line is a one-dimensional thing. If we expand upon the line, we can create a square; the square is two-dimensional, a flat existence. If we expand upon that further we can create a cube; a cube is three-dimensional, which is the same plane of existence that we ourselves are on. And if we continue to expand upward and outward, we have the tesseract: a fourth-dimensional shape on a higher plane of existence than our own, which inherently means it can not exist normally on ours.
But according to Oliver Simon, that’s not the case. According to Oliver Simon, there is a Tesseract somewhere, and it has some relation to the school, it’s mysteries, and his plans. And since we know that Simon and other scientists like him have been working on strange things in the background of the series, the creation of a fourth-dimensional element does raise a lot of potential questions of what is going on behind the scenes at Morning Glory Academy. Sure we generally don’t know, and we assume it has to do with parents and kids, but the purpose of the school? It’s ultimate goal, what it is assumedly prepping these students for? That’s unknown.
I would wager that it has some relation to the Cylinder, though that’s just idle speculation. However, when Oliver followed his son Ian to find that strange device that we’ve seen previously linked to the Cylinder, it’s possible that that’s where Oliver found out about whatever clued him into the Tesseract in the first place. While Oliver may not have a better idea of what the Cylinder does than we do, we know that Ian has some knowledge there — so it’s possible that there’s some kind of connection going on here that we’re not particularly aware of, all things considered. Shadow factions, and all that.
Either way, I would imagine that the Tesseract is something that was a) merely theoretical between people aware of the Academy’s endgame and capabilities and b) represents some kind of power to be harnessed. What that power is or does is up in the air.
The Fellowship of the Blevins
One quick final note, but I can’t help but point out that in the past arc we’ve had our various cast members setting up plots to take down the school all on their own: Hunter’s newspaper, the looming science fair, the Towerball plot. Yet now Ike has managed to unite all the different factions working on their own under one banner, that of the Casey Blevins for President banner via a campaign that he runs.Continued below
Ike may be a bit of a rascal, but you’ve kind of got to give it up to him here for the cleverness in which he pulled it all together.
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, #40, #41, #42
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