WCO #231: MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck (Act 6)

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(For the rest of this multi-part review, check out my thoughts on Acts 1-4 and Act 5.)

You’ve got to hand it to Andrew Hussie. They guy seems to go out of his way to be as alienating as possible. Just when it seems like the story’s gaining traction, he’s all, “Nuts to that sh*t. Time to roll with something that makes even less sense.” When MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck started, it bore a lot of similarities with its predecessor, Problem Sleuth, as a parody of an adventure game, complete with confusing inventory systems and glitchy controls. But then, all of the sudden, it became this complex world-building mythology, with multiple planets and a core system of light and darkness anchored by two planets with two moons.

And then Act 5 rolls around. Hussie introduces a bunch of abrasive new characters with orange horns that were so myriad that they seemed impossible to track. Oh yeah, and they’ve got their own alternative world and a complicated system of romance. Clearly, Hussie has disappeared straight up his own butt, right? Well, that maybe so… but the gamble paid off, and Homestuck became more popular than it ever had been before. At least with the costume stores supplying gray facepaint to all the troll cosplayers out there.

When we get to Act 6, then, the question isn’t, “So, what’s Hussie going to do to answer all these puzzles and mysteries?” It becomes more, “What sort of ridiculous bull is Hussie going to make up just to needlessly confuse and deliberately obfuscate the story even further?”

There are drawbacks to being this experimental, though. At some point, the mythology can get too top heavy, and the characters the readers learned to love over the course of the story get lost in the shuffle. Hey, Losties: remember Lost, Season 6? The experimental one that discarded the format, explored all new characters with a sideway universe where the cast had different adventures because they were living in a parallel world?

Me neither.

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Hey, remember all those great characters from Acts 1-5? Remember John, the bespectacled protagonist who’s cheery and brave despite the weirdness of the game that surrounds him? Remember Karkat, the grouchy troll who periodically drops his facade when his friends depend on him? Remember Dave, whose devotion to appreciating everything ironically often turns on him with hilarious results? Remember Vriska, the maniacal psychopath whose single-mindedness can often be quite charming?

Well forget all that because here’s a whole new cast of characters who aren’t as likable! These four are known collectively as the “post-Scratch kids.” We’ve met them before; they’re the kid versions of the parents, grandparents, and guardians of our first four heroes (John, Rose, Jade, and Dave). Only they’re not aged patriarchs and matriarchs; rather they are all at the cusp of puberty. There’s Jane, a straight girl who pines for Jake, a bisexual boy who pines for Dirk, a boy who does not reciprocate the love of Roxy, because he is gay. Sorry for boiling things down to a fanfiction writer’s outline, but … these are their defining characteristics. Like, their entire story revolves around who’s hooking up with whom.

In a previous review, I mentioned that comparisons have been made between Homestuck and the James Joyce novel, Ulysses. One of the points made by a pundit at PBS was that Ulysses is an endurance test, and buckling down to actually finish reading the novel is considered some sort of accomplishment. This implies some sort of obstacle course, like the ones on Ninja Warrior. You get pretty far, past the log run and the Leaping Spider, and you’re almost done. But then there’s the rope climb at the end. You have no upper body strength. Your energy has been sapped from the lactic acid build-up from doing the ledge crawl. Yet you push yourself forward because the end is in sight. In Ulysses, this would be Chapter 18, Penelope, which is a stream of consciousness run on sentence.

It is super unreadable.

Is Act 6 the proverbial rope climb? Did Andrew Hussie deliberately switch focus to Jane, Jake, Dirk, and Roxy simply because he needed to erect a monolithic obstacle with the express purpose of taxing the readers’ patience? I ask because, as characters, these four are kinda boring. Well, except maybe Roxy, who does have a character arc where she goes from being a comedic souse to a confident leader. That said, if Hussie had cut these four characters out of the story, I doubt they — and the mile long chatlogs devoted to documenting their romantic subplots — would be greatly missed.

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These kids briefly become interesting when they morph into Strawberry Shortcake characters. I had hoped that this new status as candy-colored ambassadors of joy would be their new status quo. Alas, it was short lived. We are introduced to a long sequence where the four of them revert to their original teenage states, crashed on beds like regretful lovers after a barely remembered night of polyamory. The four became mired in a tiring splitscreen relationship chat where the characters spent what felt like an eternity talking about their dumb feelings. Fortunately, this seemed to be but a backdrop for the universe-shattering business happening directly above their chatlogs.

Act 6 also introduces a new set of trolls. (There are also combined trolls that are ghosts of dead trolls stitched together by Gamzee, who has becoming a character of importance in this Act. I think that’s all I’m going to say about that.) These characters are a little more fun to hang around than the post-Scratch kids, though most are rather forgettable. The only one of note is Meenah, a tough cookie with shades of Vriska but is generally more chill. She grows up to become the Batterwitch, a dictator who conquers Earth with the help of the Insane Clown Posse and Food Network star Guy Fieri. At this point, I have no idea if Hussie is having an “LOL Random!” moment, or if he’s parodying such things. It’s a friggin’ rabbit hole of irony and post-irony and post-post-irony.

I just don’t kkknnnooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww….

The other trolls are basically palette-swapped and personality-swapped versions of the original flavor trolls. Which means that, by and large, most are way too nice. New Vriska (Aranea) is charming and helpful, even manning a psychiatry stand like Lucy does in Peanuts. New Tavros (Rufioh) is an object of desire by all the other trolls. Perhaps the funniest is new Karkat (Kankri), a smug, sweater-wearing dork who spouts social justice bulletpoints in the most self-serving way possible.

Incidentally, the prevalence of trolls makes it somewhat difficult to keep track of who’s dead and who’s alive. Not that it matters: the dead resurface as ghosts dream bubble memories. Actually, it may be more accurate to say that it’s tougher to figure out who is where and who’s doing what. By the time characters star appearing out of nowhere at the end of Act 6, all attempts at trying to track and catalog the movements of these characters has long been chucked out the window.

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Thus, it should be no surprise that the best parts of Act 6 are when the pre-Scratch characters (the OG kids and trolls) show up. Reading Act 6 — with its often long, tiring chatlogs — can sometimes feel like being forced to sit down and read through a college textbook. But then, hey, the pre-Scratch characters show up to remind you that once upon a time Homestuck was actually fun. It doesn’t matter that their own stories have become a convoluted mess. Like, why is John unstuck in time again? Who cares! It’s John Egbert, the always welcome enthusiastic go-getter!

These characters are stuck in the intermissions… though even that becomes a joke. One of the best gags Hussie pulls in the story is a bait and switch. Act 6 Part 4, for example, begins with a long flash video, something that we’ve come to expect from Homestuck. The trick is that this video is the entirety of Part 4. When we click over to the next panel, Part 4 has ended, and we are treated to a lengthy “intermission” starring the pre-Scratch characters going on their adventures.

So what’s the plot of Act 6? Well, the post-Scratch characters live in a null world, that is one where the conditions have prevented the creation of a new world as it happened with the pre-Scratch kids and trolls. The pre-Scratch kids have to take a long three-year journey through time and space to get to the new universe (which they spend sorta goofing off and getting adventures in dream bubbles and whatnot). The post-Scratch kids, though, have to set conditions up in their world in preparation for the arrival. But there’s also another player out there, the villain of the session, who… who, uh… OK, I admit to being totally confused as to why Calliborn is the bad guy, but we’re to accept that he’s the antagonist in the same sense Jack Noir, Gamzee, and Lord English were from previous acts.

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It’s rather befuddling how neutered the stakes have become in this act. Maybe it’s because the sequence where Jack Noir becomes a demon dog was accompanied by a kicking, pulse-pounding synth-tune. Or maybe it’s because the sequences where Gamzee was stalking dark corridors to dismember his friends had the deliciously oppressive atmosphere or a slasher flick. Dave, ever the voice of the audience, addresses the stakes at one point:

“what kind of villain is someone you never met who hardly did anything evil to you or your friends directly or even to anyone in your universe for that matter other than through some vague insidious influence who even is this guy and why should i hate him”

So… wait. Hussie himself knows that the villain motivations in this act aren’t very compelling? Was this … was this a commentary on how video game end games can be rather tedious and repetitive? Or … is the absurdity of the villains, where one is Guy Fieri, two are ICP, and one is a demonic Betty Crocker, an admonishment to the reader against taking any of this too seriously? is the obstacle really just an obstacle, a social experiment that Hussie put together to test reader devotion? Or it is all a crazy plot hook, in the sense that there are now so many loose threads that the reader has no choice but to read the story all the way until the end to conquer that proverbial rope climb to bear witness as to how Hussie wraps it all up?

If we bring Problem Sleuth back into this, and I still consider Homestuck to be Problem Sleuth, but bigger, you can sorta see where Hussie is going with this. Problem Sleuth culminated in a universe-shattering climax with a Final Fantasy final boss fight that spanned time and space and multiple versions of several characters. Interestingly, major plot elements did get tied up, some at the very last second. As the characters gather at the same place toward the end of Act 6, it looks to do something similar, only on a far grander scale.

Here’s the thing, though. While reading through Problem Sleuth, I don’t remember being bored. Heck, while reading Homestuck Acts 1-5, I don’t remember entertaining the idea that taking a nap might be preferable to reading Homestuck. But here we are at Act 6, and I was bored out of my skull frequently. I’d hoped that this review would’ve been up much earlier. The distractions of the holiday season did much to contribute to my tardiness, true. Yet, I can hardly be blamed for my attention waning as, though unfocused eyes, I struggled to parse chatlog after chatlog, where uninteresting Mary Sues waxed unendingly about their romantic problems in unreadable syntax.

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Innovations that once seemed creative how felt tedious and overplayed. Meenah is not that bad of a character, but compared to the pre-Scratch trolls she seems rather one-dimensional. Which makes her not the best reader-indentification character when she introduces the world of the post-Scratch trolls via the medium of JRPG. It’s not something we haven’t seen before… the world of the original trolls was expanded the same way. But it’s a little frustrating when Meenah really has nothing interesting to say, and when 90% of the characters introduced have no relevance to the rest of the plot beyond a gag within the same scene.

Still, Homestuck does contain some innovate fourth-wall breaking layouts, and it never does anything egregiously bad as to make you lose interest. As I mentioned in the very first paragraph, part of me does respect Hussie for tossing out the playbook and trying out new characters, new concepts, and new levels of meta-commentary. It was just a bit of a chore to get through.

And who knows? Hussie has managed to stick a landing before. Maybe, once the finale of Homestuck comes out, I can look back at this and laugh and laugh and laugh. “Oh, Hussie,” I shall say, mirth catching in my throat, “you’ve done it again!” Or maybe it’ll be like Bard Quest again, proving Hussie is fairly good at absurdist comedy but not that good at writing an ending. Or maybe it’ll be like Lost, Season 6? Some people liked it. Some people hated it. Lots of people talked about it.

Let’s find out, shall we? Let’s meet up again here at the Webcomic Overlook in three to a hundred months so we can discuss the Homestuck finale.

Rating: 3 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 January 27, 2014, in 3 Stars, action webcomic, adventure webcomic, comedy webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.

  1. Reading through the review, I just kind of nodded my head, going “yeah, mirrored my reaction to the comic.” I was one of those tumblr Teens obsessed with the Homestuck, and Act 6 was when I was officially drawn out of the comic, and forced to scurry to new garbage to occupy my time (that became reading half of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure in a month, which was not particularly healthy). It felt like Act 6 was Hussie’s attempt to say “not letting the fame get to my head, I’ll play ball with these fans” and messed with the fandom. Usually I applaud creators trying to deceive peoples expectations, but not when it gets in the way of storytelling.

  2. Wait, you had trouble understanding why Caliborn is such a big villain, El Santo? It’s….it’s pretty obvious. He’s Lord English, the dude going around obliterating the souls of countless innocent ghosts and destorying the horrorterrors who, while maybe not exactly good guys per se, DO seem to play an important part in the universes and DO provide a pleasant afterlife-like place for the dead. He’s the guy who was the boss of Doc Scratch. He’s wreaked the kind of destruction the Condesce could only dream of doing. He played a key part in brainwashing Gamzee and Kurloz along with Doc Scratch (though that isn’t to say Gamzee is blameless, because he’s definitely not–English is just to blame in leading him a certain way with his natural destructive/rage-filled nature), and in a way, is basically the cause of a lot of the havoc that’s gone on in the series. Granted, the Caliborn we’re following isn’t Lord English YET, but he IS on his way there, and really, I’d say that both Caliborn AND his future self are the villains here.

    I honestly disagree with you on most of this review, like the Alpha Kids not being interesting or their stuff being unreadable (though I definitely agree that Roxy is the best among them). But hey, different opinions make the world go ’round, and I’m good with agreeing to disagree on this. By the way, I hope you and yours are doing well, sir, since I’ve kinda been away from the site for a while. :>

  3. The trolls that were introduced in Act 5 are the post-Scratch trolls. The ones introduced in Act 6 are pre-Scratch. Yes, I know it’s confusing because the kids are the reverse.

    Other than that, and goofing up Caliborn/Lord English (and I don’t agree that he’s not that great a villain; at the least he’s FAR more interesting than any of the other characters introduced in Act 6 except maybe Meenah, admittedly a low bar to pass, and he’s better at pointing out how boring, tedious, and self-aggrandizing the story has gotten at this point), you pretty much summed up most of my posts over the time I’ve been reading HS; I started reading not that long before the pre-Cascade hiatus, and I’ve been disappointed by the experience of reading as it comes out since then. I haven’t posted since Act 6 Act 4 and haven’t read anything since a fairly short distance into A6A6I1 (the part where John briefly drops in on Rose and Terezi on LOLAR and explains things more completely than they’ve been explained to that point).

    • The trolls that were introduced in Act 5 are the post-Scratch trolls. The ones introduced in Act 6 are pre-Scratch. Yes, I know it’s confusing because the kids are the reverse.

      Whhaaaaaa—!?!?!?!?!?!

      • Yeah. Meenah and her gang was doomed to failure, due to Karkat performing the ectobiology(cloning the players). This anomaly, by the way, was orchestrated by Doc Scratch and LE.

  4. To answer oneof your hypothetical questions El Santo: Hussie always planned for the Alpha session, there’s wuite a lot of things foreshadowing the 8 player session.

    I don’t really agree with the review overall… but I can see why would ACT6 bore you so much. It is intentionally yet needlessly convoluted, Most of the pre.scratch trolls are just there for a joke or some foreshadowing, and to make, at most, one crucial plot related thing, and the post-scratch kids… yeah I can see how so much stupid teen drama would put someone off. I too was bored by the ACT6ACT1 and ACT6ACT2(though I think it picked up quite a bit in ACT6ACt3) and cherished whenever an intermission came along,but… I was still quite intrested in the post-scratch kids and the pre-scratch trolls, I really enjoyed discovering their backstories in the Meenah walkarounds, and I eventually DID get invested in the stupid romance shenanigans(the split screen ACT after the tricsters was one of my favourites). I don’t know if it’s objectively bad storytelling, but I still love the change of pace and focus ACT6 brings.

    Homestuck is convoluted. For some that’s a plus for others it might be not. But the most important thing about it,is that it’s internally consistent. It IS definitely going somewhere and if you really dig yourself into it you might be able to find out where it’s headed.

    On the subject of why is Caliborn the ultimate boss of Homestuck: he is Lord English(obviously) and LITERALLY everything is his fault. Everything.(If you want specifics Ican link you to some quite nifty theories).

  5. Looking back at Act 6, I reluctantly have to concede that you may be right, in that the ratio of faffing-about to payoffs was higher than in previous arcs. That being said, the things I liked about Act 6 I Really Really liked. I dug the heck out of the sprawling JRPG segments, I thought Homosuck was pretty dang funny, but what I really want to talk about is

    SPOILER

    SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

    John Egbert. You said “Like, why is John unstuck in time again? Who cares! It’s John Egbert, the always welcome enthusiastic go-getter!”

    But in Act 6, John spent most of his time being emo. I believe this was Hussie’s response to all the fans who thought the writing for John was ‘unrealistic’. They complained that John was always the same happy-go-lucky dork, and that he seemed more traumatized by fruit gushers in Act 1 than at the death of his dad. ‘So you want character growth?’ cackled Hussie in his evil lair, ‘here you go!’ And so we got teenage-brat John, and it sucked.

    But then, there was the glorious F-Yeah moment where John faces down his boredom, rediscovers his love of Nick Cage, and generally undoes all of the ‘character development’ that was forced on him. And I was ecstatic. Hussie gave me what I thought I wanted, then made me hate it, and took it away, and I was happier than I was before.

    And that’s why I love this thing.

    • That’s why I like John. Sure he had his tantrum moment, but it didn’t last long. Most of it was off-screen probably. Kinda sad that the story felt fit to break off John and Vriska, though, since for some reason I really can see the guy sorta going for the crazy girl. (Though, yeah… I can totally seem him getting a little freaked out when he finds out she’s a straight up murderer. Still, after the things he’s seen, man….)

      • The sinking of the John/Vriska ship was another instance of Hussie throwing what the fans wanted back in their face. The two were reunited . . . but didn’t get along. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed either, but I respect what it says about about life being messier than how fanfic writers portray it.

        Oh yeah, Caliborn. I’m not entirely sure he’ll actually end up evil in the end. He obviously started as a jibe against HS’s critics, but he has evolved into a seemingly less-awful and more-sympathetic being. It’s that duality again, mocking something at the same time as celebrating it.

  6. I’ve never read Homestuck, but reading your reviews of it makes it sound like a horrible, awful, product of absolute insanity (I’m not using hyperbole, I mean that it literally sounds like something a mentally deranged person would make).

    • It is crazy, but Hussie has enough control that it feels more deliberate and assured that other attempts. Something like, say, ironically crappy webcomics (“Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff”) gets integrated into all levels of the story, so it’s not just a tossed out random gag, It actually becomes a recurring theme that is sorta delightful when it shows up. (Which shows that it’s more deliberate, since Hussie doesn’t do overboard with the SB&HJ moments.)

  7. Reepicheep-chan

    I thought the whole JRPG intro to the pre-scratch trolls was kinda clever in the sense that it gave the reader control over how much or how little time they spend giving a shit about guys who do not matter. Basically Araena and Meenah are the only one you need to care about even a little and the rest you can gleefully ignore while blazing through the rpgs bits as quickly as it allows. Or, if you *want* to know a bit more about them, you can take your time and chat it up and get some bits and pieces of their characters that you can spirit away and use to construct elaborate fanfictions and ‘headcanons’ about. A lot of Act 6 was blatant fanbait like that.

  8. Yeah, I’m another one that Homestuck lost in Act 6. Normally I’m all for creative works being so pretentious and up their own arse that they’ve bought a condo there, but it just got boring to me. Every time there was another update that was solely 5 pages of teen-angsty hard to read dialogue just seemed that much more effort than Acts 1-5.

  9. Man, Act Six can be a fucking chore at times. It was even more of a chore to read it in real time. The first 5 acts are basically the first 2 and a half years of the comic. Considering that we now know it won’t be done by the end of year four, it’s all too likely Act 6 (and the possibly non-existent Act 7) will take up 2 and a half years themselves. The issue is that those last 2 and a half years were filled with more breaks and delays and pauses than the first couple were. So much so, that they’re integral to Act 6’s plot, both sets of characters eternally stuck in “wait” mode for something to happen. My problem personally is that it feels like Hussie has been putting off the end of Homestuck indefinitely as it’s gone on, especially now that the adventure game has given him a related project to work on and delay the current one.

    But those are all minor problems – as a fan I can’t be annoyed with them because they’re all signs of just how crazy successful this comic is for what is ultimately about as avant garde as popular culture can get. In turn, as a critical reader I actually find the ways that Act Six has stretched things out fascinating. Acts 1-5 are loooong, but as a reader you don’t feel it so much because they are filled with countdowns to near death experiences, new experiences around the corner. Act 6 in turn seems to try to subvert those expectations at every corner. Compare the end of Act 5 Act 2 to the end of Act 6 Act 5 Act 1×2 – one is a critical moment where all the main characters take desperate action to ensure their survival, the other is a bunch of kids waiting for their inevitable deaths. The characters have gone from being fuckups with important destinies to destined heroes who fuck up, and those guys are a lot more relatable. In that light for me the center stage that shipping takes makes a lot more sense. The original group of kids was younger and also had 24 hours to play Sburb, something they know nothing about before starting. In turn, the new kids are older, and have been preparing to play Sburb their whole lives, with no other human contact.

    Act 6 was when I first started reading the updates serially as they came out, so I can’t really speak much more about how that experience differs from the earlier acts. But I wonder if my more excited take on the act has to do with reading it all as it happened, so there wasn’t really any space for boredom since an overly long update was just more stuff to go over before the next update. Either way, this is one of many things this week that’s made me excited and dismayed the finale is off in the future. I look forward to seeing your final review.

  10. I actually was pretty fine with the Alpha Kids. Their romance arc was pretty needless but their overall story zipped by comparatively; reading it archivally instead of serially has many benefits here (while Act 5-2 was good both for archival and serial readers). Where I myself disdain the comic is the fact that all our favorite characters have lost their depth. Vriska is back to being her Hivebent self, and Tavros is just as submissive as ever, John really doesn’t have any character definition anymore besides being apparently an audience surrogate, Rose and Kanaya focus on nothing but their personal problems, and Jade of course was fine until she was inexplicably turned evil. Dave is the only one whose character arc from Act 5 actually continued into Act 6.

    • How do you think the 3 years locked up in very closed enviroments/untold amount of time spent being DEAD should’ve affected them? I’m not being sarcastic here, I’d actually would like to know what do you think should’ve happened.

      • Uh, not to revert back and ruin their character arcs in Act 5. I was fine (but disappointed) by John getting over Vriska. I was not fine with Karkat becoming angry ranty for no reason Karkat again. I was not fine with Tavros, who learned to stand up for himself even if it cost him his life, immediately go back to being subservient. I was not fine with Vriska’s complete abandonment of the things she learned in Act 5 before she died, and going back to treating Tavros like she did in Hivebent. I was not fine with Gamzee being IMMEDIATELY unpacified just so he could become… whatever the hell he is in the plot now, I guess a clown that appears in every other panel and doesn’t say anything but HONK anymore. I was not fine with Sollux and Aradia disappearing for thousands of pages, only to return as weird pirates and Aradia having a fixation on death that didn’t even make sense in character. I was not fine with Rose being given alchoholism as a problem just so Hussie didn’t have to write a working relationship between characters (look back on the comic, tell me one actual happy <3 couple ever physically shown). The reason the characters reverted back to nonsense was because Hussie knows that's what the majority of the fandom wants– Trolls the Sitcom.

        • Ok, so you wanted their character arcs to progress unhindered, that’s understandable, that’s how most stories work afterall. But you still don’t take into account that they’re a bunch of hormonal kids locked up in VERY tight spaces for 3 years with literally nothing else to do but introspection and nothing. I think it’s only realistic that such a long period of inaction wouldn’t just not help progress, but actually regress as characters. And being dead I think is enough excuse for the trolls, and even then you can see their character arc advance(talking about Vriska and Tavros here) not long before the Giga-pause hit! Aradia always had a fascination with dead things, remember, she wanted to be an archeologist. Gamzees character arc needs far too much space to explain, plus I barely understand it, but the theory I submit to is that it mostly revolves around him being a pupet of everyone and never acting for himself. Rose (and Terezi) are likely manipulated by Gamzee and his Ragey stuff(under the instructions of LE) into doubting themselves conviniently “blinding” them by the time they enter the Alpha session. Sollux though I have no fu*king idea.

          • While there are story-related justifications for the characters regressing like they have done, that still doesn’t make it right. I think the entire notion of the timeskip was a major mistake. It took the characters we cared about out of the action for many thousands of pages, and left them with nothing to do in the meantime. Maybe it’s not the timeskip itself; maybe it’s the intermissions that did it? What would Homestuck be like if the kids were almost completely unshown during Act 6 until they finally arrived? They would have undergone pretty drastic character development, but not having seen any of the events, it would have been much more interesting, in my opinion.

          • Except not really, if we weren’t shown ANY of the changes as they happened, it would’ve been like Hussie pulled the entire thing out of his ass. Not seeing it wouldn’t improve it one bit, quite the contrary. Also you didn’t answer my first question what SHOULD have happened instead? So far you only listed what you were unhappy with, but without any reasoning or alternatives.

  11. I have to agree with a lot of the stuff stated here. What I will say in partial defense of Hussie is that Act 6 isn’t over yet–and may involve infinite recursion. Homestuck is split into 6 acts, but the 6th act is also split into 6 acts, and that is also split into 6 acts, and it may go on from there? Yeah, it’s weird, but it does allow Hussie to extend the story as long as he wants. Anyway, the point is that critiquing only an unfinished part of a part may not be ubervalid. Not only that, but the gigapause has presumably allowed him to do a bunch of planning and come up with tons of new ideas, rather than stringing things together on the fly. Before Problem Sleuth even ended, Hussie had brainstormed a bunch of ideas and specifically systems in Homestuck. I think with several months of writing (as detailed in his most recent blog post), we could be seeing the most interesting Homestuck we have in years.

    I also have to say: on my second archival read-through, Act 6 went by shockingly fast. This may be more due to the fact that not much happens in it, but I think the lesson here is that a second readthrough is very useful. Sure, the big reveals aren’t nearly as interesting; but the story becomes at least partially more coherent and the mechanics of the narrative (“cogs in paradox space”) became very fascinating. I think my personal favorite act would have to be Act 5, specifically Act 5 Act 2, because the stable time loops were absolute genius. There was an overwhelming sense of futility that made me hate them on my first reading, but looking at it a second time they provide an uncontroversially bad thing to fight against and something they all eventually push through. I think the emotional problems of Act 6 are the stable time loops of Act 5: they are the larger enemy, the thing everyone needs to get past for the story to get resolved. Everyone was hit with hormones, addiction, awkward romance things, personal revelations, and other standard teen problems. While this made for slightly boring reading (and here Hussie shows his weakness in that he couldn’t make it compelling), it does suggest that this is the larger conflict of this act, and that the end will show the Homestuck crew pushing past their various problems to create something new.

    And as for Lord English not doing anything to anyone except a buncha dumb ghosts: this is sort of the culmination of everyone’s reactionary behavior. If you look through the story, there are very few people who do their own thing because they decided to; instead, everyone is somehow assigned a task, and they proceed. From battling the villain because they attacked first, to playing the game a certain way because they were told to (by exiles or sprites or other players), to doing essentially nothing on the meteor or ship, the kids and trolls react rather than take the first step. Only adults take action. Vriska and Aranea are exceptions, but they emulate adults. Caliborn is an exception, but he is an odd case. John is currently an exception, but he is UNSTUCK IN CANON. The idea behind LE is that by not attacking the characters directly he can do as much as he wants, because our “heroes” don’t do anything unless provoked.

    Disclaimer: I am not defending Hussie here. Okay, maybe I am by saying that the plot is self-consistent; but that doesn’t mean the plot couldn’t be changed, or that it couldn’t be told in a different way to make the story more interesting. There are definite flaws with Act 6; I think Hussie is creating an arc that has resolution, but he hasn’t made the conflict itself enjoyable, and thus the story suffers. I think he can and will pull something out for whenever this thing giga-unpauses (8/16? 8 16-year-olds???), but up to A663 I think Act 6 will be deemed the worst of the 7.

    I spend a lot of time on the Theories Thread and Criticism Thread on MSPAForums. Please help me

  12. El Santo, I’ve just realized you’ve spent almost half a year on this project of reviewing Homestuck, mostly because people who have already read it wanted you to.

    So I’m going to be a negative nancy, and say this is too long. I’ve enjoyed this blog for years, and I’ve found a lot of entertaining webcomics through here. In my opinion, such a long review of one, single, and incredibly famous webcomic defeats the purpose of any webcomics site.

    This is your site, but I think this has gone too far. Enough with the Homestuck.

    • You’re probably not gonna see any more HS for quite a while considering it’s still in hiatus and will be for many months.

    • Don’t worry! Now that Homestuck is on hiatus, I will turn my focus onto other webcomics. I only spent so much time on it because it was one of those webcomics that I felt unfair to judge unless I read the whole thing… and with it being longer than the length of the Holy Bible, it was going to take a while no matter what.

      All that said, it was only three reviews, three months, and 7,000 words or so, and thus was really not too much of my time all things considered. (Still have to finish my Sluggy Freelance review, which is about three years running right now.)

      • I’ve just missed your regular content. My quirk is that I like to read about small webcomics that might also do well with a little push in audience, and this site is pretty much one of the very few that provides content like that, rather than focusing on the few big names it’s impossible to not form an opinion on when you’re interested in comics.

        So I guess I’m a webcomic hipster now. Great.

  13. I can’t say I agree with you on Act 6, but I understand where you’re coming from. If you don’t find the Alphas interesting then the majority of the act, which is 50% devoted to establishing their characters, the setting, their friendships, problems and personalities, will be similarly uninteresting. But I have to admit that as the end approaches, Act 6 has gone completely bats-in-the-belfry banana nut crazy, but so did the last 1/4 of Act 5 part 2.

  14. Great review, you summed many of the bad things about act 6. I really have no idea about what Hussie is planning to do with all this mess. He clearly knows about all the flaws of this act, but instead of correcting them, he jokes with them. Maybe he is just tired of write the funny and complex kind of plot he once used to write, and is trying to create a more simple minded story. Or maybe the success went over his head and he doesn’t care for quality anymore. Anyway, act 6 has still good parts (I really like the intermissions with Calliborn and Meenah, and I think act 6 act 3, and some parts of act 2 were ok), but of course they are not as great as the first five acts, or problem sleuth. I still have a great sense of loyality to this story, and I am curious about the ending (I have read enough theories to say that is still possible to end this in a good way), so, all we can do is to wait for the conclusion, and hope to Hussie take his work a little more serious.

    • I’m just a LITTLE bit pissed that you would suggest Hussie dosen’t takes his comic seriously. ALL he does is working on it, you know that righ? How did you think he managed to achive to update daily? How the hell is that lazy?

      • Yeah, I have to agree with you in this case, Hussie is probably one of the most hardworking webcomic artists that I know, and he does take his job seriously, he can’t be called lazy (and I didn’t say he is). But while he takes homestuck seriously as a job, I still am not sure if he takes it seriously as a story anymore, and my argument for this is simple, he is fully conscious about all the recent flaws in the comic, and he even makes his own characters (like Calliborn or Dave) criticize his own comic. So why instead of correcting what is wrong, he makes fun of these defects? Maybe it has to do with irony… Maybe he is transforming Homestuck in a weird parody of itself, or in a parody of its own fandom, I don’t know, I hope everything to make sense in the end. But I think that there is so many potential being wasted here. And don’t get me wrong, I still like it, I just think it could be even better.

        • Ok I see your point, Hussie certainly dosen’t tries to make his intentions with the story clear. I can see why someone would feel that the author is just playing a gigantic prank on them, when it’s coated in so much “irony” and misdirection. Still, this last stretch of the story is going to be quite long so there’s more than enough time and space for Hussie to surpass all of our expectations.

  15. all i have to say os that regardless of what you think of act 6 ( though i didn’t find it difficult to read at all, but I also like reading text books. maybe you just need to be smart to get. wait. that was mean. ehh. it’s the internet. who cares? now some douche is gonna get all on my ass for not using correct grammer… “if you’re so smart why can’t you capitalize any of the words that need it, etc” I’m on a mobile device and this a paranthetical statement anyhoo. you don’t need to read this part. shut up) the funniest part of homestuck is in act 6:

    caliborn having dirk draw him “pornography” and the accompanying conversation was one of the funniest things I have ever read. it was completely depraved, and I loved every second of it. I literally had to cover my mouth to keep in my laughter for fear of waking up the whole house in the middle of the night. it was just. so. creepy.

  16. Santo, if you’d like to get into Hussie’s head a little bit there’s an easter egg in the third “game” flash of Act 6. That one where you play as… uh, New Aradia, briefly. IIRC it’s the one where you get to enter the meteor lab and see what Dave and Rose have been up to.
    After you leave that area, you see Aranea with the help stand again, but if you go back and swap back to New Aradia and then come back to the stand, Hussie will be there and he’ll talk about the new trolls.

    Kankri’s entry is particularly satisfying, personally.

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