The next storyline is So A Date At The Mall with five parts, covering almost all the remaining comics.
So A Date At The Mall part 1
Dan Shive is making a sensible self-care decision to go back to greyscale. The colour comics had grown on me a lot, but I understand this decision.
Anyway we now have three dates lined up: Elliot/Ashley, Sarah/Sam, and Justin/Luke. Hey, they’re all dating outside their little friendship group! That’s neat. *Looks askance at Harry Potter.* (of course I’m a filthy shipper type who totally ships within established character groups but whatever)
So we open with Elliot and Ashley’s date. But Ellen and Nanase are also on a
date mystery solving expedition, and Diane’s driving them somewhere, which turns out to be to Charlotte’s house (where the shit went down with the uni students earlier). Those are our two storylines for now.
I thought the mystery would be directly about Pandora, but actually it’s about a spooky cloaked figure. I have no doubt that Pandora is involved somehow though.
Dan Shive is really tearing into his past writing decisions again. I understand the impulse!
We get some more discussion about how Ashley prefers not to be labelled bi, or indeed anything else. ‘Labels’ is such a complicated mess of a topic, and this is hitting the same notes as most such discussions. I do find it interesting that this is effectively contrasting with Tedd who was really delighted to discover a word for their gender feels. I guess it suggests this comic isn’t going to take A Position but rather show a variety of people feeling different ways, which is probably the best way to approach it.
Speaking of labels there’s a brief appearance of the unfortunate sexual/romantic-split discourse, applied to Ellen. It’s really not that simple and I hope this doesn’t stick around too much longer.
I like how Elliot’s default assumption is that Ashley doesn’t want to go to the bookshop because she has magic powers. It would certainly be consistent with the comic so far.
It’s revealed that the shadowy cloaked person is receiving instructions from a white glowey person who appears to have a beard and moustache. From the dialogue and past precedent, cloaked person is looking for Tedd’s mum, or failing that, Tedd…
I guess I’m wrong about that, because wraithy person is going to the mall where Elliot and Ashley are. While the ‘castle of commerce’ is clearly the mall, and ‘with potential mate’ refers to Ashley if ‘the young man’ is Elliot, I have no idea what ‘German dark’ means. An anagram?
Oh and also some more transformations happen but this is El Goonish Shive so what do you expect?
So A Date At The Mall part 2
So like I had a trans headcanon for Tedd from like five minutes into the comic but now I’m thinking maybe I should have had one for Elliot too.
Aww and now it’s time for (one-side transformed) dressing room makeouts. I’d feel too worried about being interrupted to actually do that in real life… plus pretty worried about going into womens’ dressing rooms in general because, you know, trans.
But anyway, Catalina and Rhoda are there for the same reason, aww :>
So A Date At The Mall part 3
We get the details on when Elliot visited Tensaided as Cheerleadra, which was previously a one-panel comic. Point being, Tensaided has said he’ll contact Elliot if there’s a Cheerleadra-requiring emergency.
OK, explanation for ‘German dark’: Elliot’s surname is German for ‘dark’. That’s… rather contrived but at least the mystery didn’t last too long.
Apparently the mall cops (it’s weird that that’s a thing in the USA; I’m sure there are security guards at shopping malls over here but I don’t think we think of them as being like cops) have a procedure for when spooky magic shit happens.
The cloaked figure turns out to be a
gryphon griffin of some sort. This alludes to a previous single-panel joke. This new griffin turns out to be a lesbian! A+! And her name is Tara!
We get a better view of white glowey guy. He’s probably an immortal.
I like Ashley.
So the white glowy guy seems to be trying his level best to get the griffin to smash Elliot into paste.
And finally one of the two forgetful immortals who have been following the protagonists around shows herself! With aplomb!
We finally learn their names: Helena and Demetrius.
So evil white dude departs but not without blowing Elliot’s secret identity in front of the whole mall. Welp.
Tensaided continues his streak of ‘actually being a mostly decent person’ by not being a giant transmisogynist. High bar there.
So A Date At The Mall part 4
Now for the bit where everything gets straightened out, probably.
Apparently there’s something up with Nanase. I’m assuming it’s because she’s related to Tedd’s mum.
Oh and Diane is a ‘potential vampire hunter’.
It occurs to me that despite the size of the cast and the animeish art style, they are now all very recognisable and distinct designs, and have pretty distinct characterisations? Which is a cool feat.
Tara’s wife’s name is Andrea.
So Elliot accidentally modifies their superhero outfit and gives her bigger boobs so like idek. Boob jokes are boring.
(I wish I had bigger boobs.)
And another cat escapes from a bag. Also, another monster shows up.
So A Date At The Mall part 5
And to round out the revelations, it turns out Tara is from the pre-Scratch universe!
No honestly how are you going to do ‘the first half of this universe’ without it sounding like a Scratch.
Oh wow, ouch, Diane, what a nasty thing to say. Hugs for Charlotte.
The monster’s a spider thing. I had better start dusting off my Vriska jokes. All of this effort to build it up as sinister will probably mean it’s perfectly nice, given precedent. Though I guess this spider could be responsible for Andrea being trapped in this world.
The spider turns out to be a hairy guy in glasses with extra arms. That’s… anticlimactic. But he’s a vampire, which is what I was increasingly expecting over the last few pages given the discussion of vampire hunting.
Given the previous vampire we encountered, I’m no longer expecting a redemption arc for this one. His power, apart from the bonus arms, appears to be summoning various bladed weapons into his hands. Not unlike Susan, actually. He also appears to be able to summon old-school spherical bombs with string fuses. Presumably that classic ‘cartoon bomb’ look has some basis in an actual weapon, but I don’t know what.
Andrea and then Tara pwn him, in any case. Though honestly I think my first reading, just plain ‘guillotine’, sounds cooler than ‘tiger eagle guillotine’ as an attack name.
Looks like Elliot can pick up the phone in the pocketsless Cheerleadra form by poking their belly button. Aww.
Also for magic purposes, apparently Cheerleadra has a different ID than Elliot.
An explanation for the Moperville magic build-up: it’s supposed to flow into the other side of the universe, but something’s blocked it.
Presumably the griffins have a magic shortage.
There may be a vampire conspiracy. So that’s presumably one of the next arcs. Also an arc: working with the griffins to figure out the magic clog.
How long until Elliot installs Pokémon Go on theirself huh.
Another upcoming storyline is revealing to Diane that Susan’s absolutely definitely her twin sister.
And of course, finally, the white immortal is up to something too. A kid called Abner is reporting to Sirleck (the old guy possessed by a somethingorother) on the orders of the white immortal, who goes by Voltaire. So the white immortal is involved with the whole Sirleck thing, but they’re probably separate agents. Also, imitating Abner, Voltaire drops Raven’s name to Sirleck. So that’s a thing now.
Given this arc was called Pandora’s Box, I’m surprised how little Pandora has actually featured. But the end of the arc firmly establishes that Sirleck is lined up to be the next villain.
Most significant is probably the one about Dan Shive’s pronouns, which someone helpfully sent to me earlier on in the comic.
This one inspires a physics tangent. Dan Shive writes “Light is made of massless photons, but Ellen’s beams have a push to them”. Light also has a push to it - photons also carry momentum depending on their energy (proportional to their frequency). As they are massless, the relationship between mass and energy is different, but they still have momentum!
That said, photon pressure is really really tiny and only becomes important in space (where sunlight can be used to maneuver spacecraft, and causes force and torque that other spacecraft may have to correct; the Kepler mission had to use photon pressure for stabilisation after two of its gyros failed). So if Ellen’s beams were made of light, they’d either be so high-energy that they’d set stuff on fire, or have negligible pressure.
Apparently readers wrote in to tell Dan Shive the exact same thing, ha.
Another correction Dan Shive had to issue based on write-ins that I won’t need to comment on.
Surprisingly Dan isn’t much of a reader. I’ve heard dreadful things about the misogyny of the Dresden Files books, but maybe they’re not as bad as all that.
Useful note on canonicity of EGS:NP. The next post will be a review of the remainder of the EGS:NP comics.
I didn’t mention it last time, but at some point Dan Shive has gotten into Steven Universe, which I’m not at all surprised about. I still think SU is great (if flawed, but what isn’t?).
And that brings us to the end of Pandora’s Box, the final complete arc! But this readthrough is not yet done. First I need to cover the remainder of EGS:NP, and then I’ll cover the first few comics of Sister III.