WCO #231: MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck (Act 5)

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(This is Part 2 of the massive Homestuck review. Click here for Part 1, covering Acts 1-4.)

I get it.

I totally get it. The appeal of the trolls, I mean.

When Andrew Hussie’s MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck started out, the characters could be best described as perhaps being tied to one personality trait. John is nerdy, Rose is gothy, Dave is cool, and Jade is sunny. They’re pleasant enough protagonists, but they’re pretty much video game heroes. Whether you’re Master Chief, the marine from Doom, Mario, Sonic, or the guy from BioShock, the main character is typically a stand-in for the player (or in this case, the reader). There has to be enough wiggle room for you to, in a way, become that character.

The trolls are different. I have a weird feeling that when Hussie started off Chapter 5, he was intentionally trying to tax the reader’s patience. We’ve been following the same four characters for four whole acts, when all of the sudden they disappear and are replaced by twelve all new characters that we hadn’t been invested in at all. Now, as an avid reader of fantasy novels, I’m pretty used to chapters where we abandon our main characters for long stretches to flesh out and establish new characters and communities. I have a feeling, though, that when this act came out, long time readers were throwing their hands up in disgust but about, say, the fifth troll introduction.

Yet, at the same time, the trolls ended up becoming the most visible symbol of Homestuck. I remember distinctly when the initial supporters (usually posting some variation of “Wake up, boy”) gave way to the cavalcade of troll fan art and cosplayers. I’d read some Homestuck before, though I’d stopped before even the end of Act 1. And I remember scratching my head, thinking, “Wait. This is the same webcomic?”

All the same, I totally get it.

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(NOTE: The following review will compare Homestuck to friggin’ James Joyce and George Bernard Shaw. For readers with low tolerance for pompous malarkey, discretion is advised. Then again, PBS and Tor Books’ Mordecai Knode made the same comparison, so nyeh!)

That’s because the trolls have what John, Rose, Dave, and Jade (whom I’m told are to be referred to as “Beta kids”) lack: personality. And they’re full of surprises. Initially, we’re on the Beta kids’ side with finding the trolls to be a bothersome nuisance. Why wouldn’t we? They’re called trolls, and their Pesterchats — already somewhat annoying — tend to be order of magnitudes longer than when the Beta kids are messaging among themselves. They’re hard to keep track of, what with their being twelve of them, each with an online handle and an abbreviation of that handle, and a few looking visually similar. (Initially, distinguishing Terezi from Vriska from Kanaya from Aradia was hella confusing.) Their messages have weird spelling quirks. (One replaces all “B”‘s with “8″‘s and another replaces “H”‘s with “)-(“, for example.) And they start off looking like antagonists to our heroes.

In the end, though… they’re still kind of annoying. But, thanks to the strengths of their personalities, I ended up liking them. A lot. Even more than the Beta kids. And I know I’m not the only one. This was a hell of trick for Hussie to pull off. Find a way to make the readers hate the trolls, but them turn them in the comic’s legit breakout stars? Seriously an amazing trick. Give the man a pina colada.

How does Hussie do it? Well, I’m going to focus on one troll as an example: Equius. He’s not one of the main ones. Karkat, the leader, gets the most air time and pretty much is the one most in contact with the Beta kids (many times with Jade). The murderous Vriska, who may be the most complex of the trolls, also shows up a lot thanks to her association/flirtations with John. The blind justice-minded Terezi is also pretty major, guiding Dave and providing him inspiration for his comics. (The fourth Beta kid, Rose, has a troll following her around as well. Rose tends to split from the other three to do her own thing, and frequently Kanaya finds that she’s fairly ineffective. Kanaya isn’t exactly minor, but she’s nowhere near as prominent as the first three.)

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The rest of the trolls sorta fade into the background, including Equius. In fact, Equius may be the most minor of the trolls, getting the least exposure outside of the one guy who’s, like, an Aquaman pastiche. However, Equius may be my favorite, as he’s the best example of how Hussie sets up expectations only to knock them down flat. When we first run into Equius, he’s a troll that’s looming in the shadows. All we see are his cracked glasses and menacing silhouette. Hussie even expresses distaste, trying to put off the introduction of Equius as long as possible. This guy… he’s got to be a big deal, right?

And then… well, like all the trolls, Equius has a pretty embarrassing hobby. Terezi spends her off hours hanging stuffed animals from nooses. Karkat is into romantic comedies. But Equius? He’s based on that one piece of “art” that Hussie found which I was first introduced to in that one fantastic TNG Edit. It’s the one where a horse-man flexes his muscles while sitting on someone while saying, “I LOVE BEING STRONG.” And… he pretty much sweats profusely and demands towels when he witnesses feats of strength.

So Equius is introduced as being a monster to be feared. When the curtain is pulled back, though… he’s just gross. He’s also pretty capable of some heinous things. At one point, he gives a dead girl a robot body, but programs the robot to fall in love with him. But, toward the end of Act 5, he’s sorta swung over to being … adorable? Especially since we see him treat cat aficionado Nepeta with a sense of tenderness. It ties into a theme that’s reiterated often in Homestuck. Although everyone’s faced with death, destruction, and the end of the world, characters from alternate dimensions and other timelines are always popping in to tell you that things are going to be OK. Equius is pretty much that in character form. Hey, he might look terrible at first, and maybe his is terrible, but get to know him a little and he turns out to be alright.

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So how to explain what happens to Homestuck in Act 5? Those of you who’ve read Homestuck know that it’s not that easy to condense. The comic goes from being more of a game parody in Acts 1-4 to creation myths, the apocalypse, and Christ allegories. Emotions get ramped up. There’s romance, drama, epic adventure, and a big mess of gory murder. At some points, it demands you to take things seriously, while at other points, you feel rather foolish for not having a sense of humor about things. The storytelling becomes frustratingly unlinear, as if Hussie had just finished chain-viewing Lost and said to himself, “I wonder how I can make things even more confusing.” Whole character journeys are represented in barely seen vignettes, and pesterlogs become a test of patience. It’s almost as if Hussie is daring the readers to jump ship, but instead picking up more readers (and accolades) in the process. In a way, it’s a little like what Pete Abrams tried to do in Sluggy Freelance with “Oceans Unmoving”… only without the annoying space moose and with characters that you actually care about.

But let’s talk about the art! Hussie’s works have always used classic video game imagery. I mean, it’s a webcomic, and what’s a webcomic without video game references, right? But Hussie is the kind of guy who’s always searching for novel avenues of humor and nostalgia, and I think he knows that Final Fantasy references are getting played out. He does something I’ve never seen before: he replicates the effects of a scratched CD-ROM. (It’s actually a major plot point, but it’s something I’ll probably hold on to until my “Act 6″ review.) This was a revelation… that you could somehow feel nostalgia for the beats and patterns for a video game glitch.

I know in my previous review, I mentioned that Hussie’s playing a big prank on the reader. (And, frankly, there are parts of Act 5 that do support this idea.) I meant that you were meant to take parts of the comic seriously, and that in itself was part of the comedy. A cosmic joke, if you will, about how inherently silly life is, yet how that silliness builds up to great global ramifications. I didn’t mean to imply that it was disposable, trivial, or otherwise inessential. it was more along the line of how Joyce fans defend Ulysses as a great piece of comedic prose, and not a giant, humorless gobstopper of paper better served to balance out a particularly finnicky table. (Having never read Ulysses, I can’t weigh my opinion either way. At least, not until the webcomic finishes. Seriously, reading something without pictures? BAH!)

This sequence is a visual representation of that. While the video was going on, I was was amazed that a long, buried part of my psyche, one embedded in the collective consciousness of gamers everywhere, was being dredged up and that I was pleased as punch to see it. Seriously, in a world where 7 in 10 webcomics used be be about video games and video game nostalgia, how come no one’s come across this very same gag before? This must’ve been how our parents (or grandparents) felt the first time someone put the now familiar “record scratch” sound effect on a TV track. But, taken on its own… it’s just a pretty silly Flash video depicting what would happen when a CD-ROM skips. In other words, it is both profound and profoundly silly.

Seriously, guys, the entire point of Act 5 is *SPOILERS!* that the universe was created by twelve 13-year-olds playing a game. You can dissect that for its religious symbolism (Oh, look! All these teens correspond to a sign of the Zodiac!), but the reality is that the entire concept is really very silly. Especially when you factor in that one of them’s a juggalo.

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Homestuck was already no slouch in turning the webcomic format into a crazy mixed media experiment using videos and simple point-and-click interactivity. With Act 5, Hussie more or less redefines what it means to be a webcomic. It’s almost a fulfillment of the future promised us when we first laid our eyes on Argon Zark! Entire story arcs are unveiled by clicking on links embedded in the images themselves. Mini-stories unfold in the margins of the banners. The flashiest effects happen when Homestuck turns into an RPG.

There are whole sequences where you take control of a troll character, and you walk around the room making small talk with other trolls. Now, this could be one of the most gimmicky gimmicks imaginable. However Hussie makes it work because 1.) we get to see the characters in their animated JRPG designs that are a refreshing break from their short, stocky “symbolic representations,” and 2.) the character and plot developments that unfold during these mini-games are pretty essential.

Incidentally, this also means that this comic is definitely not for everyone. I know a lot of people who have zero patience when it comes to the tedious RPG dialogue boxes.

Also somewhat experimental? Those damn pesterlogs, which have stretched to the length of a goddamn book. They’re probably the number one complaint I’ve heard from lapsed Homestuck fans. After all, they signed up for a visual experience, not long stretches of prose that you periodically have to highlight to read. Personally… I kinda like them. In fact, it’s both a throwback to an earlier era and also a glimpse into the future. (Which, weirdly, kinda ties in with the Beta kids’ hipsterish obsessions toward archaic entertainments.) What do I mean as a throwback to an earlier era? Think George Bernard Shaw. While you can watch a performance, most of us have come across Shaw’s works in written form. Perhaps in English Lit. Now, when you read the play, the dialogue is the main driver for plot and character development. Arms and the Man reads a lot like a Pesterlog, and vice versa.

As for what I mean by a glimpse into the future? As I mentioned in my first review, Homestuck is the sort of work that defies categorization. It’s not quite a comic, not quite a blog, and not quite a book. It is something new. Something that can only exist on the internet, where videos, images, and prose exist side by side. We’re in a time in history where we’re still trying to figure out the best way of presenting information on the internet. Webcomics are in the same conundrum. Old formats meant to work on the newspaper page or in 22-page issues may not be the best way to view things online. Can Homestuck be pointing the way to what comics will be?

(My answer: “It’s getting there.” Seriously, I’m still kinda smarting that the most Flash-heavy panels wont work on my cellphone or my iPad. Plus, the cookie-enabled bookmark is kinda neat, but it doesn’t work when you’re viewing the comic on your laptop one day and on your desktop the next.)

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There’s another nifty trick that Hussie pulls off with the pesterlogs. I mentioned the little quirks that Hussie tosses into the troll dialogue to show that they are, in fact, quite annoying. Yet, these serve an incredible double duty. For example, say you come across a line that includes “D –>”. This is an emoticon for a bow an arrow, which is a sign that our old friend, Equius, is the one whose speaking. It’s also a subtle reminder of his personality trait: the bow and arrow is associated with centaurs, whom Equius admires for their strength. Or, say, you come across dialogue where the troll talks (or types?) with alternating lower caps and upper caps. And from time to time, there’s a “hOnk”. That’s an indicator that you’re reading dialogue from Gamzee, the aforementioned juggalo.

It feels surprisingly authentic, like something you’d potentially come across on online message boards. I guess I shouldn’t be shocked, but man… have you seen how online interactions are depicted on TV and in movies? A-puh-puh-palling. I think Hussie should be contracted out as a consultant for those shows. There’s a lot to be mined from just the way letters are capitalized and sentences are structured. Karkat, being the hothead leader, types in ALL CAPS. Of course. Easy. Tavros, who is meek and peace-loving, is a little more subtle. His dialogue is halting, starting and stopping in short fits, and while mostly in CAPS the first letter is lowercase. This implies someone who’s a little uncertain when it comes to public speaking.

It reminds me of something from Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. (I’ve already referenced Joyce and Shaw, making this the most pretentious review I’ve ever written.) In the book, there’s a scale between “reality” and “meaning,” where photorealistic images are close to “reality” and text is close to “meaning.” Somewhere in the middle is the “picture plane”. By using emoticons, caps, and other characteristics formed in the crucible of online discussions, it seems to me that Hussie’s straddling that fine line that separates simple images from test. After all, you can’t sound out “::::)”, but you know that, when you see it, you’re seeing words from the spider-like Vriska.

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Speaking of Vriska, I quite enjoy the awkward romantic relationship developing between her and our main character, John. I have no idea if it will last: she’s the sort of character who has multiple available options (from both sexes). However, there’s just something there that feels genuine. She and John are opposites: she’s a violent psychopath who has crippled a friend and he’s a mellow, happy-go-lucky dude. But there’s something cool to how they open up to each other online that makes you want to root for them. Like, John already knows that the other trolls find her extremely dangerous, and he knows first hand that she’s done a lot of killing, but there’s something about her dangerous nature that intrigues him. Meanwhile, she knows that he’s saddled with these human emotions of sympathy and kindness, but that makes her want to open up to him about her guilty conscience (as well as a deep-seated need for someone to love her). I’m not going to say that I’m a total shipper and I’d ragequit if these two don’t end up together in the end. However, it’s kinda sweet… and it’s weird expecting this out of a comic where the characters look like Muppet Babies most of them time.

(I know, I know… “symbolic representation”!)

That’s why I get the trolls. When the characters were journeying by themselves, the characters were hardly interacting outside of the Pesterlogs. (Shoot, when John and Rose are actually in the same room together, finally, Rose is asleep. When she wakes up, John has rocketed off.) But with the trolls, there’s sense of community. There’s fiery passions, suspicions, love, anger, and betrayal from characters who are in close proximity to each other. That behavior spills over into their interactions with the Beta kids. I suspect that’s why the Beta kids were a little leery of the trolls when they first came into contact. Their way of communicating was a product of their close-quarters interactions. (Hence why their Pesterlogs are incredibly epic.) They type not just to share information but also to share emotion. I’d go on and on but I’ll bet someone has already read a friggin’ college dissertation about this already.

However, there is a downside: Hussie makes things so complex that pretty much all the casual readers have no choice but to jump ship. Hey, remember how, when Inception came out, people were raving about how complicated the movie was? Like, there were actual charts out there, published on blogs, to help people understand the who dream-within-a-dream thing.

Those chumps were amateurs.

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I was up until 2 a.m. last week reading Homestuck. No lie. I tweeted about it, and I got a response, saying, “Why would you do this?” I’ll tell you why. It wasn’t necessarily because I was enjoying myself (though I will say that it’s wasn’t totally unpleasant). It’s not unlike those fantasy books I mentioned waaaaaaaay up in the second paragraph of this 3000+ word review. I have this fear that if I put the book down, I’m going to forget all those plot thread that I’d worked so hard to try to remember. And, Good Lord, there is a lot to keep track of.

I guess it’s my own fault, as I forgot my own rules. After all, is it all that important to know how Rose has accumulated her group of reptilian and amphibian followers? I don’t think Hussie tells you. We just see her at her laptop with her crew of blanket-swaddled followers. It doesn’t matter how she got to that point but that she got there in the first place.

But then we get to long, expository segments about the the ancestors of the trolls, and that’s where I start to get impatient. I think my problem is that while previous segments were anchored by characters we were invested in, these parts are told by a boring pool-ball-faced guy who really doesn’t have much charisma. Granted, the images are pretty epic and I have no doubt that all this is going to pay off in Act 6, but I can’t deny that I merely powered through this section with growing irritation and disinterest. That may have been Hussie’s intent, as Homestuck is rife with meta-gags meant to ruffle and unhinge the unwary.

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Still, that part was at the end of Act 5, and by that point I’d invested so much time and emotion into Homestuck that there was no way I was quitting now. Act 5 started off as Tenchi Muyo!, morphed into Genesis somewhere in the middle (or maybe to you anime buffs out there, RahXephon), and then stretched itself out into the damn Silmarillon. Much of the goofy pop culture gags from Acts 1-4 have been wiped away and replaced by ruminations of the cosmic. Like Scott Pilgrim‘s Bryan Lee O’Malley has said, “It has things to say.”

What things? Well… to go over that would probably require more than even the three reviews and 10,000 words total that I plan to write on the friggin’ “Ulysses of the Internet.” Your best bet is to go to a comic convention, pull aside some grey-skinned cosplayer with candy-corn horns, and hear from them first hand.

Or, you know… the Internet.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

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About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on September 10, 2013, in 4 Stars, action webcomic, adventure webcomic, comedy webcomic, fantasy webcomic, sci-fi webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.

  1. “Arcadia” There might be an extra “c” in there. Othervise, great review, I really like how you focused on the trolls specificaly, it’s nice to see these themes and characters from someone else’s perspective. Just a warning for the future, if you suspect, that Hussie is intentionally screwing with you, he is.

    BTW, on a scale of 1 to 10, how much was your mind blown by Cascade?

  2. All I think about when I hear the word combination “Home” and “Stuck” is this tweet https://twitter.com/UtilityLimb/status/189922031851143169

  3. Hmm.

    I don’t quite get your claim about the kids at the beginning of the review when you compare them to personality-less stand-ins like Mario and Master Chief. It’s clearly not the case, and you even pointed out in the first part of the review how well their personalities are fleshed out by their interactions and dialogues. I think perhaps what you mean to say is that the kids lack ~character~… or at least we haven’t seen it shown in the context of ~real adversity~. This sounds crazy to say at first because in the course of Acts 1-4 they literally experience what is quickly becoming Apocalypse for Earth and have been cut off from almost the entire rest of humanity… but if you step back and look at it, you realize that most likely, the four kids were already fairly isolated. There’s almost no mention of school or other friends, or even much of anything else that is happening in the world: despite all that’s happened, the four of them are still together and even their guardians are joining in them in this new strange world (albeit there is concern that Dad has been kidnapped by imps), and it’s only towards the end of Act 4 that we start seeing glimpses of the tests that will try our kids in the near future (see: Dave facing down his own corpse, Dream John discovering Dream Jade’s sacrifice, Dave and Rose in the alternate future in which John and presumably Jade are both dead).

    By contrast, the trolls exude both character and personality right out of the gate at least in part because of the awful nature of the world they come from, both in terms of physical danger and terrible morality. It would be one thing if the kids were strangely violent and psychopathic in contrast to living in a relatively peaceful world; seemingly flawed character traits like Equius’ bigotry (colored in the context of blood color as a caste instead of skin color or some other factor we would use in our world) are made more complex by the fact that his entire society is geared towards promotion of that bigotry. Not that it excuses his actions or character, but it makes it more difficult to hate him for his flaws because, well, he’s a 13-year-old who doesn’t know better, and in fact he’s been raised to be worse instead of better. Even then, it becomes obvious through his interactions that despite his beliefs, the knowledge that there may be something wrong about the way of life he’s been brought up to believe nags at him and confuses him. Unfortunately, his failure to overcome those flaws becomes his (and many of the other trolls’) undoing.

    Really, that’s what Act 5 is all about, even for the kids. As the game becomes chaotic and unclear, we really get to see what their characters are like. Dave’s coolkid persona starts to unravel when confronted with his own losses and limitations; Rose starts becoming withdrawn and making increasingly dangerous decisions from her frustrations; Jade’s chipper personality is chipped away at as the control she once had over the situation is stripped away and her patience is worn down by the trolls; even John has to start facing difficult questions in the form of his relationship with Vriska and how he has to deal with coming into long-term contact with someone who isn’t a friend right off the bat. That theme of being able to make friends despite distances and differences is still there, but it’s more complex and interactions aren’t always successfully resolved well for everyone. Of all the troll conflicts, only Karkat at the very end of Act 5 is able to resolve the problem through friendship instead of violence– which, between his established character and how much he grows over the course of Act 5, it’s little wonder he frequently tops Homestuck character rankings.

    Incidentally, it’s also why I like Doc Scratch more as a villain: that congenial boringness belies a wickedly manipulative being who is responsible not only for the suffering of trolls as a whole, but also personally is involved in pushing those differences and testing and even breaking relationships (seriously, look at every single conversation he has with the trolls and even with Rose and Jade, and keep in mind what he is able to do with a conversation despite the fact that nobody who talks to him trusts him). Sure, he also is responsible for some of the more cruel narrative tricks in the story (although the whole concept of him “taking over” Homestuck to the point of even redesigning the entire website to fit his green felt decor was amazing), but this too is part of his M.O.: he is a prankster and a scoundrel, and I think embodies a large part of the vibe you were getting that Homestuck would end in a giant prank on the reader themselves. Fortunately, though it certainly had a climactic finish, the story itself is far from over…

  4. Yeeeep, like your last review I find I agree with almost everything you have said here. Well said.

  5. I think the introduction of Equius is put off in that link you have more because of the stuff plastered on the walls… Also, to correct you on Understanding Comics, “reality”, “meaning”, and the “picture plane” (which here refers to completely abstract representations with no resemblance to anything whatsoever) are presented as three legs of a pyramid; the picture plane is not a “middle ground”.

    What struck me about the scratched disc was the many levels of interconnection between you, the reader/player of Homestuck, and the many players of Sburb, and how one affects the other; Terezi is the cause of the scratched-disc effect, which is in turn fixed by Doc Scratch. It’s like what I said about Wayward Vagabond in the comments to your last review taken up to eleven, and it bends all the way into a möbius double reacharound in Act 6.

    Also, I would call Feferi, Nepeta, and pre-(SPOILERS!) crazy Gamzee more minor trolls than Eridan or Equius, though not by much. Karkat, Terezi, Vriska, Kanaya, Gamzee, and to a lesser extent Aradia, Tavros, and Sollux are the stars of the trolls, and everyone else is just window dressing to fill out the twelve, although Feferi’s ancestor may be the most important of all, especially in Act 6.

    • Thanks!

      Regarding the Scott McCloud discussion… yeah, I see the pyramid. However, in the preceding panels before the one I linked, there was a discussion of a more linear scale with images on one end, words on the other.

      For some reason, that one stuck with me and is a more elegant solution. Especially since if you look at that pyramid I linked, there’s little variance in the vertical plane. I know that abstract art is pretty much at the top, but that sort of thing almost never happens in comics. (I notice Beanworld is pretty close to the pinnacle. Which is kinda weird when you realize that Peanuts is near the bottom. I don’t think that there would be that much variance between Marder and Schulze.)

      So yes, admittedly I was wrong on the hard definition of the “picture plane”. I just wasn’t sure what to define that dotted line drawn on the pyramid between pictures and text, and “picture plane” seemed to be the best way to define the group that are primarily images.

    • Wait I have more. Act 5 was the point at which I really started getting into Homestuck, and I think it was as much because of that complexity as anything else, but I’m weird like that and like having things I can over-analyze over and over.

      I agree with you that the kids are relative cyphers compared to the much more fleshed-out trolls. Part of my problem with Act 6 (for which you should expect spoilers ahead, though not big ones) is that the Alpha or post-Scratch kids are even more milquetoast than the earlier ones. Roxy’s alcoholism is entertaining, but Dirk is a borderline Mary Sue and Jane and Jake are just boring. Really, despite being the ostensible protagonists of Act 6 they’re easily the least interesting or even important characters, lenses through which we watch the plot actually advance around them, spending the first five sub-acts just waiting for the beta kids to show up.

    • I like Hussies claims that he basically created Meenah the way he did be Fef was so minor and pointless. It is interesting, as a plot device she has importance (what with communicating with the horrorterrors and all), but as a character she barely exists, so it is hard to place her on a scale of “major” to “minor” character.

  6. Ah, yes. I liked Act 5 very much, as well. I agree that the trolls have a lot more character development per screen time than the kids do, and there are a lot lot lot of good moments in Act 5, including that one line by Karkat that goes with that Universe-Frog image you put there.

    That thing tugged my heartstrings hard, I say.

    And Hussie’s meta and extra-comic efforts are indeed respectable. I didn’t play through all the games, but they are part of what makes me feel Homestuck should be a game and I gotta check that Kickstarter thing again and see if it is what I want to see or not and then throw money at it nonetheless. Point in case, some of my favorite (and best remembered) passages are from the act finale animations(I don’t recall the names, but usually they go as “Ascend” or “Descend” or “Rise”; and they are AWESOME).

    All that said, the Tolkien analogy stays true. When Act 6 starts and there’s EVEN MORE KIDS IN EVEN ANOTHER SESSION(oh, shush you and your spoiler crying, this is one of the most lesser ones I could give) I just gave up. Same as how I appreciate much the story and the mythos of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, but can’t stand when he starts to describe every place down to every leaf in the trees and every brick in the walls.

    As an aside, any words on The Midnight Crew? I loved the space-time themed goons, and the callback to Problem Sleuth-like storytelling was rather nice, I think.

    • In my opinion, The Midnight Crew was quite genius. I remember when that first intermission popped up, and I was thinking, “OK, Hussie wants to take some time off to get back to his Problem Sleuth roots. Fair enough.” I’d assumed it had nothing related to the story at all and just hung back for a while. But then, by the end of that arc, when he ties it up with a badly drawn image of Karkat, I was like, “Wait, what?!?! I was supposed to be paying attention this whole time?”

      I guess I’ve read so many webcomics by now that I’m very used to creators taking detours into other projects from time to time that it caught me by surprise that this was actually part of Homestuck.

      Also, the old-timey Midnight Crew theme song is pretty nifty.

  7. I like Homestuck, and I was reading Homestuck, but I was too much of a casual reader of Homestuck, so I got partway into Act 6 of Homestuck, and then I just stopped reading Homestuck. I like what I saw of all the new main characters well enough, I enjoyed reading the story of this alternate Earth and the multi-part walkaround, I laughed and I cried…but I didn’t feel a need to read on. Everything is always twisted somehow and intriguing, and I have no idea how it’s going to end, but I’m perpetually losing track of what just happened and have learned so thoroughly to not make assumptions about things, and, and…now I just feel like, like…eh, whatever. That character was a __ the whole time? Okay.

    • Hmmm… Act 6 does seem to be where a lot of people are getting stuck. And I admit, I was reading an extremely long Pesterlog between Roxy and Dirk last night… and I fell asleep in the middle of reading it. Which wasn’t a problem in previous acts (as I mentioned, I was pulling all nighters — partly to keep everything straight in my mind, but also because the comic was doing a lot to keep me interested).

      But, darn it, I’m in it for the long haul and I’m powering through this thing!!!!

      • Yeah, reading Homestuck for thefirst time is really trying(well… not for me, because I was obsessed with it by the second act), but after you catch-up and reflect back on it you’ll think “shit, I ran out of stuff to read! WHEN’S THE NEXT UPDATE?”. Ok maybe you won’t, but joining the community and trying to figure out what the actual f*ck did you just experience is a great aspect of Homestuck IMO. I know you’re a busy guy El Santo and probably dosen’t have time to dive into this to such a ridiculous extent, but if you ever feel like it, just hit up a theory blog and glare in horror at how much effort and time people put into dissecting the mithology, complex simbology, and romantic arcs of this silly comic :).

  8. I’m in dire need of the final part of this review of epic proportions.

  9. It’s cool to see you’ve stuck to your guns with Homestuck, makes me happy.

    What would you say has been the most… intense moment, Flash or not, thus far in the comic?

    One particular Act 6 flash springs to mind, but I don’t know if you’re there yet so I’ll be quiet.

    • Hmmm… I guess I’m going to have to go with that Mexican Standoff between Gamzee and Karkat, Terezi, and Kanaya. I liked how ominous it looked, with the silhouettes of the ancestors looming behind them. And then Karkat sorta waving his hands and shushing everyone one, then rubbing Gamzee’s belly to calm him down. I’ve actually checked that scene out a few times already because I like how everything came together there: the horror feel from the previous scenes that had seemed so different form the rest of Homestuck, the 360-degree rotation around the combatants, the cheeky humor, the music (which was basically “Harlequin” as if played from a malfuctioning music box).

  10. Welp, looks like Homestuck is going to end sooner than we thought. Are you going to finish the review or wait until the final gigaupdate?

    • When is the end date? I guess I can wait. I still have the last two parts to go.

      • No end date yet, but it won’t update until Hussie finishes it, which will still take quite a while. Maybe mid or late winter. If it’s not rude of me to suggest something, maybe you could finish the 3rd part of the review and do a final one when it’s over?

  11. I agree with your review, but only under the circumstances for which you viewed it. You basically said out loud word-for-word my thoughts to Act 5 my first two trips through. There’s this mentality, I believe, that you need to hunker down and grind out as much of a series as possible. Scene-to-scene enjoyment of a comic is often best enjoyed as one big bite and the best ones often feel like a really good movie (i.e. Riceboy).

    But you just can’t do that to really take in what is so spectacular, so magnificent about Homestuck. It’s just too big! And if you try to push through the work you’ll get frustrated by how he changes gears every so often and how he creates elaborate backstory after elaborate backstory. You miss out on the nuance.

    On my third try to get through Homestuck (after twice being stranded somewhere in Act 6 Act 2) I took a different approach. Go to Homestuck’s bandcamp, and play one album as you read through. Spend time on each page, relax to the music. Once the album is done, go do something else. I say this all because I feel like to really grasp any bit of what Hussie is getting at–which is “What does fiction really represent?” for starters–you really have to take your time and think about things. It really is a masterpiece that depicts contemporary adolescent life, from their internet behavior to their innate worry that they will never achieve anything despite being on a path toward certain achievement. At one point in Act 6 we see four characters lying on beds knowing that they have to die any moment. What do they do? They text message each other about relationship drama. This is Andrew Hussie trying to depict what he sees as the youth internet culture, from its ironic elements to its social-justice parroting to its vanity and, moreover, depicting kids obsessed with relationships but only in their status, not what that status actually means. Homestuck is ultimately a webcomic about and catered to a generation that nobody else wants to serve.

    So I definitely implore you to give it another go some time down the road. With Hussie moving on to game design, I don’t believe we’ll ever see something like Homestuck again. Hussie is someone who “gets” the contemporary youth in ways that’s indescribable: beyond the self-conscious meta-meta-meta analysis lies an ineffable truism about young people in the social media age and questions regarding why they exist and their purpose in life.

    • I really like the points you make here, because you’ve really captured in that second to last paragraph the quality of Homestuck that really makes me feel like it’s a work of capital “L” Literature in a way that not only very few webcomics but really very few works of media in any genre today approach, even though we’re inundated by it on a daily basis.

      I hope though it’s not a unique thing that Hussie does. When I first started reading Homestuck and caught up with it towards the end of Act 5 – that 5x confrontation was the update up the day I caught up – I was really impressed with it but also perhaps greedily thinking about what would come after Homestuck. I mean, after reading Homestuck and Problem Sleuth right in a row it seemed only probable that whatever Hussie could think up of next could only end up being some kind of new religious document on the scale of the Holy Bible. While I’m excited for the video game, I hope afterwards he’s still willing to take all sorts of weird new risks instead of maintaining his Homestuck licenses and descending into faygo drenched obesity before selling Homestuck to Disney in his old age to retire to his ranch and uh I’m not gonna describe what he’d hypothetically do to the horses but I think the point is clear. My sense of humor has been warped by Homestuck to consist only of pointlessly elaborate jokey metaphors. uh

      Anyways, I guess the point still stands that no matter what Hussie does next that I think Homestuck most definitively is the coming of a sea change in webcomics. I’m surprised Scott McCloud hasn’t yet posted any of the innumerable times he’s probably spent looking at Homestuck in glee and horror watching as Hussie effortlessly fulfills all of McCloud’s wildest dreams about the future of comics, before making them entirely irrelevant in an instant. Homestuck’s formal inventiveness is great because it sets a new template for storytelling, like everybody’s raving about Breaking Bad and Mad Men doing these days (though I’d be the dick who says Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was Joyce to their Dickens like 40 years ago). The tools are all there right now for where a team of like a writer, artist, musician, and programmer can collaborate and create a story in the same kind of pure internet serial format and draw really dedicated audiences. It’s only a matter of time before someone, most likely even Hussie himself, takes the time to make the HTML5 frameworks for this kind of stuff as reliable as Flash is and make it accessible to all the phones and tablets. It could even be done directly as an app, but I think it would lose a lot if it didn’t have an inbrowser format.

      In conclusion, now that I’ve stated that, anybody here got bigger balls than hussie?

  1. Pingback: WCO #231: MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck (Act 6) | The Webcomic Overlook

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