interlude

So the last arc, things were looking up. Nice character drama, feelings jams, people getting together, sloppy makeouts. But there are seeds of the next arc: the two ‘immortals’ and the mysterious ‘father’.

Following the end of the arc, there’s a bunch of boring guest comics (why are guest comics always shit, regardless of the webcomic? it’s incredible) followed by some Q&As ft. Amanda and Lisa, which are kind of interesting but I don’t really have anything to say about!

Hidden Genesis

The first sub-arc of Hidden Genesis is also called Hidden Genesis, but the first sub-sub-arc is a series of three comics called The Fateful Duel.

Two people are having a DBZ-ish fight in an arena of some kind. One of them is floating in the air boasting about her power; her name is apparently Terra. The other, who Terra refers to as Magus, says her potential is wasted.

Terra zaps Magus with a big laser thing, but Magus absconds using a magic cylinder with a poppable lid thing, and therefore does not get obliterated.

Magus shows up in a forest somewhere else. He’s now all silhouettey, and appears to be the ‘father’ character we encountered in the last arc. He looks at the magic cylinder, says ‘sabotage’, and yells a lot. Lovely guy.

We snap back to the present, where Tedd’s dad along with a couple of other government spooks are investigating the same forest. There’s no physical evidence of whatever they’ve detected, so Tedd’s dad suggests it occurred on ‘another plane of existence’. (Alternate universes and planes of existence?)

Tedd’s dad’s underlings are Agent Wolf and Agent Cranium, and I guess they might be stand-ins for Mulder and Scully respectively? I’ve never actually watched X-files though.

A small person with big pigtails and a skirt turns up. She says ‘an egg fell from his nest’ and she caught ‘him’. She says ‘his new nest is unseen’ and it’s going to be bad news for these guys when the egg ‘hatches’. She tells them to grow strong so the outcome can be entertainingly in doubt.

The government agents are all wtf.

Agent Wolf is obsessed with aliens but unaware of the existence of Uryuoms - definitely an X-files thing then. Tedd’s dad insists that they’re only here to investigate the paranormal, distinct from aliens, and that their mysterious visitor was an ‘immortal’.

The After Party

Cut to Elliot, asleep. Ellen wakes him up. He went home early, but she stayed behind to cuddle Nanase. :>

She and Nanase didn’t talk much that night after they started smooching so Ellen’s expecting Nanase to call later that day. Elliot warns her that Nanase may be scared to enter a relationship bc of the risk of discovery by her homophobic parents.

He’s right.

Nanase is in the comic book shop. She’s justifiably annoyed at Justin for not letting her know that she’d been outed to her friendship circle, but mostly worried about talking to Ellen.

We learn that she has a magic spellbook that gains new spells as she uses magic and gains experience points, videogame style. Uh, ok! She’s used the fairy doll spell so much that she’s gained a new spell, which lets her determine at any given moment ‘exactly how can see [her] and how many are looking’.

It’s time for Grace and Ellen to start attending school. Also Tedd is really creepy again about running into Ellen and Nanase cuddling on the sofa. Apparently seeing two women together drives them to imagine them in sexual situations but this conflicts with Nanase being their cousin. ffs.

look like. I want Tedd to be happy. I want Tedd to be able to deal with their transness in safetly without disgust and ridicule from those around them. I want them to leave behind the façade of geek heterosexuality.

But that doesn’t make it OK for them to constantly make sexual remarks about their friends in this way? And I really hope Tedd’s arc is going to see them move away from this kind of thing, and regret it, because it’s so frustrating.

Apparently when Susan de-zapped, she lost most of her hair dye except the ends of her hair. While she didn’t like it at the time according to Ellen, we see her happily swishing it about it in front of the mirror. But then she has another flashback to the time she caught her dad with the other, blonde woman. She loses her good cheer, and dyes her hair black again.

Cut to Ellen. She’s going about her day - playing computer games, watching TV, doing housework - with Nanase’s fairy doll near her at all times.

[cw: parental abuse]

In Nanase’s room, she’s examining her spellbook. She sees something new, but is interrupted by her mother. Her mother has a go at her in Japanese for not studying over the weekend - so we’re having the overbearing Asian mother who forces their child to overwork themselves trope again? :/

Anyway, it looks like Nanase has a much younger sister with black hair. Her mother has a go at her for not having enough enthusiasm for studying even though she has a 4.0GPA (which, though not familiar with American education, I believe is very difficult to maintain). Nanase finally snaps back, demanding why her mother cares if she only wants Nanase to be ‘a homemaker’. Her mother responds only by saying she gets none of the cookies for dessert.

Her sister sneaks her some cookies though. cool sister.

Once finally away from her mother and not threatened with study, she can astral-project over to Ellen, only to find she’s fallen asleep. She wakes her up and gets sneezed on for her trouble.

Nanase has gained an upgrade to her fairy abilities: she can use a marble to scry on her original body. Useful.

Ellen acknowledges her fears over her mother and asks her point-blank if they’re going out. Nanase replies that it’s up to Ellen: if they were to go out, Ellen would have to keep their relationship a secret to avoid outing Nanase. Ellen is like, well, yeah, I realise that and it’s all cool so Nanase facehuggers her.

Then a wormlike alien grows inside Ellen and bursts out of her chest before slowly killing the cast of - oh? oh. ok. i’m glad that’s not what happens.

In The Shadows

We pick up the thread of Tedd’s dad (his name is Mr. Verres which we’ve known for a while, but I’ve been calling him Tedd’s dad for so long I don’t care to stop).

There’s an Uryuom assistant, who insists to Agent Wolf that she’s not an alien, continuing the X-Files joke.

We learn that the ‘Immortals’ exist in a ‘spirit plane’ where they have enormous power, but vastly less in ‘our plane’. There are also rules that immortals are expected (by other immortals) to follow: they’re supposed to only ‘guide and empower’ mortals on the physical plane.

Tedd’s dad takes Agents Wolf and Cranium off the case, and implies he is replacing them with some immortal agents - presumably the two immortals we encountered earlier.

Magus is floating above a building, griping about his situation. A bunch of scary ghost things show up. Actually it’s only one ghost with a lot of eyes and mouths. Magus calls it ‘Chaos’, but it thinks that’s a boringly uncreative name.

Chaos is only interested in unpredictable outcomes, and refuses to give Magus more info on the immortals protecting Elliot because it would make the outcome ‘too obvious’. Magus apparently needs Ellen to shoot Elliot with her transformation beam - so that would have a different outcome than Elliot transforming with the gun in Tedd’s basement? Or transforming under his own power? OK. Chaos obliquely encourages Magus to follow Ellen around.

As we’d probably guessed, the little girl from the forest earlier was Chaos. She manifests on top of a building.

The New Students

The format of the comic changes: rather than two lines of panels, we now have full-page portrait strips with varied panel shapes and sizes. The individual strips stop having titles as well.

Time for Grace and Ellen’s first day at school. Elliot fusses over Ellen. Nanase is grinding spellcasting to unlock new spells. Tedd worries Grace will leave them for someone else. Ellen and Grace meet up. They discuss some logistics: what to tell people, etc. They get to school and get the administrative crap out of the way.

They run into Diane, the Official School Mean Girl. She is shocked that they both know Nanase.

There is some frantic whispering about what they’re willing to divulge which unfortunately attracts a lot of unwelcome attention. Justin helps them act casual.

Susan Draws the Line

Meanwhile at Moperville North, the students are adapting to the new uniforms. Susan arrives about as dramatically as possible, wearing the boys’ uniform. She’s pretty pissed and ready for a confrontation with the principal. An unnamed student overhears and decides to tell everyone as loudly as possible. So Susan hears a lot of positive whispers. She’s happy.

She gives a speech into getting the Principal to relax the uniform policy. The other students are not happy that she’s not going to push for abolition of uniforms altogether. Rather than go with this, Susan says she doesn’t think the President would capitulate to that. The rest of the student body immediately abandons her, again throwing around lesbophobic slurs.

To be honest, I don’t think Shive is giving students enough credit here, though I realise this mostly to give Susan more to be pissed off about. And I’m really uncomfortable how Susan is basically the only ‘feminist’ here, though I guess that’s not implausible. But yeah basically: the drama dial is turned way up and there’s a lot of shouting.

To wit, an unknown student with freckles yells at everyone and calls them jackasses for being so nasty to Susan. Unfortunately, the Principal shows up. He tells Susan that there will be escalating consequences if she doesn’t wear the appropriately gendered uniform.

Susan is furious, especially when Sarah gets away with wearing her beret on cuteness grounds.

The newly introduced student is named as Catalina, a member of Susan’s feminist group. She refers to Tedd and Elliot as ‘males’, and is generally energetic and overly affectionate. She assures Susan they’ll work out a way around the uniform policy after school.


Now for an interlude about students and labour organising prompted by this arc.

Thinking about it, a suitably organised and coordinated student body could force the issue on uniforms. Much like labour organising, individual students can be punished, but trying to punish the entire student body would basically shut down the school and be self-destructive to the teachers. The teachers could try to force students to give up: encouraging individual students to break ranks and wear uniform, detaining the entire student body after school, and most likely the students wouldn’t be willing to go through that for the sake of wearing whatever clothes they like.

I wonder if there are any schools where students have managed to get the school to give up its uniform policy? If they exist, students’ unions don’t tend to act like labour unions prior to university level, they’re mostly there to help out individual students. Even at university level, students’ unions often function more to give students something on their resume than to actually coordinate the student body collectively wield power.

Cambridge was, as you’d expect, pretty terrible when it came to anything around labour organising. While I was there, there was an attempt to organise a strike in support of the university staff (who do things like cleaning student accomodation) getting a living wage. They set up picket lines outside lecture theatres. If the students had actually stood together, it could have been effective at challenging the functioning of the university - as it was, probably a majority of students crossed the picket line and attended lectures that day, and a lot of shitty people wrote articles in the student papers defending strikebreaking.

That said, while I absolutely believe that there was no reason to cross picket lines and it’s appalling that nobody gave a shit about that strike, I’m not sure students going on strike from lectures is very effective, because the consequences fall mostly on the students striking and lecturers rather than threatening the interests of the parts of the university that set wages. (The lecturers should have been striking along with the students, of course.) While the university exists to educate students to create trained workers and prepare members of the bourgeoisie, financially the students are more like customers than employees? If students refuse to study, it doesn’t have an immediate effect on the owners’ bottom line.

Perhaps instead, since students’ fees are a large part of funding the university, I feel like a more effective challenge would be to get students to occupy their accomodation, but refuse to pay their accomodation bills en masse unless the university promised to pay a living wage to the workers who cleaned that accomodation? Obviously this would require coordination with the university staff to work, and require means of supporting the university staff through the strike. If a large proportion of students refused to pay until terms were met, that could seriously threaten the university financially, and they could not so well turf out the students from their accomodation en masse.

That said, in somewhere like Cambridge, getting the students to go along with that would be a challenge and then some.

OK that’s my essay done. Let’s get back to EGS.


Squirrel in the Classroom

Back at Moperville South, Diane (Diane the First, apparently) approaches the protags’ table. Ellen thinks she’s Susan at first from her appearance and mannerisms. She then suggests that Susan must have used the Dewitchery Diamond.

After some argument the others agree: she does seem to look exactly like Susan. Ellen texts Susan, but Susan says she has no family but her mum.

Tedd realises they’re in love with Grace because they’re no longer having creepy fantasies about every girl to even be near them. That is… not how I was hoping Tedd would grow out of their creepier attitudes.

Ellen and Grace go to maths class. For the first time in quite a while, the comic is now entirely in colour. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of the cel-shading. I think it looked better with greyscale cel-shading, but the colours are better-chosen than they were in the past, and I’m glad Shive is still experimenting with the art.

The teacher is called Mr. Alephnull. (’Aleph null’ or \(\aleph_0\) is the smallest infinite cardinal number. Infinite cardinals are fascinating, but also, kind of an unlikely thing to be in a surname.) Mr. Alephnull is a weirdly behaved nerd, just like everyone else in this comic.

Ellen and Grace introduce themselves. Grace lets out her fake backstory (homeschooled by an elderly woman who died) in one breath. Not sure they buy it.

Though unfamiliar with scan sheets (…they use a scanner for a weekly quiz?), Grace destroys the test with her l33t m4th5 sk1llz, and gets worried when the other students stare at her after.

Next up is history. Ellen’s alternate memories took place in a universe where Uryuom fought in the American revolution. So uh… Uryuoms took part in the genocidal colonisation of the Americas? or what? how did this alternate universe have such a similar history that not only was there an American revolution, but also a World War II?

For all the maths she’s apparently been taught at the lab, Grace has never been informed about history. Learning about WWII (through reading about it in a textbook because teaching is apparently not a thing here) comes as quite a shock.

Also since it’s come up again what is it with this comic/Dan Shive’s commentary and treating the mildest of swearwords, like ‘damn’, as some deeply offensive word?

In the toilet, Grace bumps into Rhoda, who is also in tears because she forgot her maths homework. They end up hugging each other in support. Then Diane arrives and comforts her, and even though she doesn’t know her personally, Grace too. So OK, I guess Dan Shive doesn’t want us to hate Diane. That’s good, because I didn’t.

The history teacher, Mr. Raven, is totally unsympathetic to Grace having to leave the room. He’s drawn with a bony face, greyish skin and a large angular nose. And he’s thin and wears a fancy coat and a purple scarf. I feel like it’s probably drawing on some nasty stereotype here but I’m not sure what. Possibly he’s meant to look like a vampire.

Raven takes them to the principal. He suggests leniency, but also putting Grace on a remedial course to make up for her complete lack of historical knowledge. She starts infodumping the textbook back at him with her near-perfect recall, and he accuses her of not being ignorant of history in overdramatic fashion. (Explicit discussion of the Holocaust sits very uncomfortably with these zany cartoon antics tbh.) The Principal tells him to stop being creepy and weird, and he leaves the room while cackling evilly. Okaaaaayyy…

Grace’s perfect recall only works short-term and they talk about how to deal with it when Ellen suddenly sneezes and zaps herself into Venus form. I bet Magus is behind this.

Magus is present, but apparently he wasn’t behind this, it really was just triggered by sneezing.

Grace returns to class and finds the other students supportive. And it’s the end of this arc. Next up: Sister II. Sounds heavy.