(From MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck. Click for full-sized scrapbook.)
I’m surrendering. I’m still not as heavily invested in Homestuck as I am in The Order of the Stick and I still have numerous issues with it, but I’ve become just as anal about it (partly because, while OOTS is updating now, it’s still very slow), and I’m stuck (no pun intended) with it for at least the rest of the act. I’ve been remiss in not talking about numerous recent developments: Scratch’s tale of the troll ancestors and today’s update, also known as “Better Living Through Moirallegiance”.
First things first. Scratch dropped two bombshells on consecutive days: first, that the troll ancestors were, once upon a time, the actual players of the game, on a world a lot more peaceful and a lot less cutthroat than the Alternia we’re familiar with, but weren’t made of hardy enough stuff to complete the game and agreed to scratch it, creating a hardier, stronger race that could complete the game – a race shaped by Scratch every step of the way, with the former players moved into the role of ancestors to the new players, but with no memory of their former lives.
I could say a lot about this, but it should suffice to say this bit of human-nature mythologizing: It is implied that the history of the troll people would have played out exactly the same way as it did before without Scratch’s interference. Moreover, it appears that Scratch’s interference was limited to historical figures, not the course of evolution. In other words, Scratch created a culture that was hard, grueling, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short, but the underlying nature of the people may have been the same peace-loving people that failed to make it in the game the first time around. Given that multiple trolls have given signs of being worn down by having to play the roles society has given them, to the point that Feferi, the heir apparent to the throne of Alternia, had fantasized about overturning the race’s caste system, this appears to be quite interesting.
(Yes, Order of the Stick isn’t the only webcomic that can have deep, literary themes. I’m warming to it here, people. I’m going to be wearing oversized bull-horns and a Hero of Breath God-Tier hoodie to cons before you know it.)
Despite the former players’ amnesia, Karkat’s ancestor, the Signless, saw glimpses of his former life, which leads to the second bombshell: he proceeded to preach a message of peace and harmony that led to him being hanged by the authorities, with his memory to live on underground as the Sufferer. In other words, Karkat’s ancestor was essentially troll Jesus (with Kanaya’s taking the role of the Virgin Mary), which I guess makes Karkat the second coming of Jesus. And he does sort of bring on the end of the world, and in an odd way, the birth of a new Eden…
(As an aside, Homestuck is positively riddled with symbolism of all kinds from all sources, to the extent I started having a problem with it when I reviewed it, but I have to tip my cap to Hussie’s ability to re-appropriate existing imagery for his own purposes. Take Karkat’s symbol, taken from the symbol for the constellation Cancer. Hussie derives it from the irons the Sufferer was hung in, which then takes the same importance among the Sufferer’s followers the cross has for Christians, who ensure it’s applied to Karkat as his symbol. Hussie managed to take a pre-existing symbol and derive it from an element in his own story almost seamlessly. As Eric Burns(-White) might say, Hussie gets a tasty, tasty biscuit.)
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that, after Hussie’s self-insert forcibly wrenches control of the story away from Scratch (with a result that many are interpreting to be Scratch’s death) we get what amounts to a flashback to the gathering of trolls in the immediate aftermath of Vriska’s death… and Karkat, who has spent several real-time months hiding for dear life from Gamzee’s rampage, and now with three other trolls by his side, proceeds to subdue him as only the second coming of troll Jesus can: parenting and friending him all the way, by himself.
Now, I may jest about this, but Karkat is hardly a Mary Sue. Although he is the leader of the trolls, and arguably keeps them together far longer than they might have otherwise, his character has been primarily defined by his perpetual bad mood and self-loathing. (I swear he isn’t a Mary Sue, honest.) Karkat finagled his way to the leadership role of the trolls the same way the trolls do everything else, through back-biting and treachery, and his impulsiveness is arguably the reason for everything bad that has happened, is happening, or will happen to the trolls. And while he himself is arguably more human-like than any other troll, as hinted earlier, he’s not the only one who’s worn out by the trollish way of life. Karkat may seem more like a Sue from a troll perspective than a human one, but even there more of a deconstruction of the type.
Finally, at the end of Scratch’s tale, we discover who “Aradia”, Scratch’s captive, is: Aradia’s ancestor, Lord English’s Handmaid, and the other influence in Alternia’s evolution. Her last act is to recruit the last ruler of Alternia (who ultimately kills her) to serve as another of English’s servants, “carrying out his work in the places he cannot reach.” There’s a frighteningly plausible theory that this means she becomes Betty Crocker, namesake of the food empire, surrogate mother of John’s Nanna and Jade’s Grandpa, and scourge of John’s life.
Despite the promises of both Scratch and Hussie, we still have some time to go until the end of the act; I wonder if Hussie was legitimately tired of how the Scratch interlude was proceeding and decided to abort it early. But that doesn’t mean Hussie was entirely averse to giving us some bang for our buck for the end of the interlude, and now the remainder of the act can proceed in a more natural fashion, until the end-of-act flash is ready. I may have a longer experience with Homestuck fandom than I thought.