Cookie Fonster Critiques Homestuck Part 22: Psychic Snaps and Computer Explosions

Introduction

Part 21 | Part 22 | Part 23 >

Act 5 Act 1, Part 2 of 7

Pages 2071-2154 (MSPA: 3971-4054)

It’s that 3-D glasses guy again.

The fourth character in the list of trolls for us to meet is that dude who always wears 3-D glasses for some reason. Like I said when I got to his first appearance back in Act 4, Sollux Captor is one of the most memorable characters in Homestuck. His glasses, teeth, and paired horns give him a memorable appearance; he has powers ranging from visions of doom to eye beams and object levitation; he heavily symbolizes Homestuck’s theme of duality and bifurcation; he is the best friend of the trolls’ protagonist, and has been in relationships with both a very plot-relevant character and with a character with even more tangential treatment than him despite her important assigned role in troll society; and he has certainly done his share of things to the comic’s plot. But despite his numerous gimmicks, Sollux is merely a supporting character. Andrew Hussie specifically made him be a secondary character, while I feel like he could be so much more, like there’s an empty spot for him on the character tier ladder right up there with Karkat and Vriska. And despite all the stuff I said, he’s still an enjoyable character nonetheless. As grouchy as he tends to be, he is very well-meaning, trying his best to avoid the awful things that he doesn’t know are fated to happen.* He puts the game in teams so that there’s a chance of some team winning and thus saving the world like Aradia purported, tries to shut off Sgrub when she reveals that the game will not save the world like she implied, and heavily disapproves of the idea of feeding ghosts to Lord English. Not to mention that he’s humorous at times, with dialogue somewhat like that of Dave. When he becomes blind and his mind mutations shut off like a brain tumor unintentionally removed by force, it’s almost like a happy ending for him. I wonder if he’s still into programming, if that’s something you can even do in dream bubbles.

* What’s weird about that is this is that the Doom aspect is speculated by many to deal with stuff like irreparable fate, which Sollux has visions of and yet really doesn’t want to be an agent of it like Jade and Aradia are. Then again the Mage class could mean pretty much anything as far as we’re concerned because it’s so unclear, not to mention that god tier titles are said to be meant to challenge people. I’m not too big on classpect speculation like that, though I think I will put some footnotes on it now and then.

After Sollux does a bit of the usual character introduction fuckery (in his case accidentally breaking one of his beehouse mainframes), he converses with Terezi. He recruits her as leader of the red team, and the two discuss Sollux’s knowledge that the trolls will all die, but he will die twice, and also become blind at some point—prophecies whose mysteries linger all the way through [S] Cascade, which is when the last bits of his prophecy are answered (i.e. the circumstances of his second death). Also, they talk about how Aradia used to be really fun to talk to, but no longer is, which serves as support for the idea that she’s a ghost or something. Even though Sollux is stated to be best friends with Karkat, his interactions with Terezi are far more constructive and friendly. Their exchange consists largely of friendly teasing, like this passage:

TA: ok ii diidnt 2ay anythiing about a red team, or even that there were two team2, but fiine. 
GC: OBV1OUSLY YOU W3R3 GO1NG TO S3T UP R3D 4ND BLU3 T34MS COM3 ON 
TA: you dont know what iim goiing two do, 2top beiing a2 though you can read my miind. 
TA: iit2 not a power you have, your 2trength2 are beiing bliind and triickiing people about 2tuff.
TA: and ii gue22 beiing generally 2avvy and pretty decent at other 2tuff, but that2 why iim piickiing you and not 2ome other fuckiing 2chlub from retardatiion row.
GC: SOLLUX, PL34S3
GC: YOU 4R3 MR 4PPL3B3RRY BL4ST 4ND 3V3RYON3 KNOWS THOS3 4R3 YOUR F4VOR1T3 FL4VORS 

which is very much unlike the heated arguments he and Karkat descend into. Homestuck has a few male/female pairs like this, who tease each other a little but are good friends with zero romantic tension. For some reason dynamics like this are pretty appealing to me. I think Jane and Dirk are another pair of this kind.

Aradia kicks the body of the frog on top of the temple, and then she converses with Sollux. Their exchange quickly goes into the sad side, with Aradia telling about how they will inevitably fail the game, without any sentiment toward that knowledge. This is the very point where the trolls’ arc first descends into gloomy land. Despite how much of a drag it is talking to her, Sollux is still pretty close with her. I think this has to do with the fact that they once were in a relationship [2019 EDIT: “the fact”???? holy shit past me was ALL ABOUT dumb double standards], and also because she has emotional oddities he can relate with because of his depressive mutant brain. Amidst some gloomy dialogue we get this memorable line:

AA: s0llux i actually w0uld like it if you were happy 
TA: ok. thank you for 2ayiing 2o. 
AA: y0u seem sad and angry all the time
AA: what d0es anger feel like
AA: i f0rg0t 

Aradia goes on to clarify that despite what she said earlier, she lied through omission about the game (much to the likes of another character whose job it is to cause what is predestined), and that it will not save the world but rather cause a larger flurry of ominous events like the so-called Great Undoing. Sollux decides to abort this whole plan, even though Aradia says that nothing can be done to stop it.

Sollux tells Terezi and Karkat that they aren’t playing the game anymore. Terezi clears up that she let Karkat be the leader, but her exchange with Sollux is cut short when he gets into another argument with Karkat. Karkat gets so angry that he runs one of Sollux’s viruses, thinking it was just a fake program he made to mess with him. Sollux warns him not to run the code, but Karkat doesn’t listen. He blows up his computer. What a calm and happy friendship.

Dead Crabdad about to get prototyped.

It’s explained that the virus Karkat ran caused every troll’s lusus to die and then get prototyped. What’s weird about that is that only Karkat’s lusus has a death that’s clearly tied in with the virus running, namely the computer explosion the virus caused. What’s also weird about the virus is that it’s much later revealed that for whatever reason, in the timeline where the virus wasn’t executed Gamzee killed almost all the trolls, which is probably worse than what the virus caused. Sollux regrets sending Karkat the virus, and decides to delete all his viruses he had made in order to garner Karkat’s favor. This gives a pretty negative light to their dynamic. One of Sollux’s viruses is something he found on a server in the Furthest Ring, which executes when the universe ends, and which he doesn’t know ties in with Lord English himself. It’s mentioned that Sollux regularly duels his lusus (who is grumbling about Aradia’s sudden presence) on the roof; it would be pretty badass to see one of those duels live—Sollux’s two duels with Eridan immediately come to mind—but we don’t. Then Kanaya poses for a teaser. It’s shown that she lives in the trolls’ version of Jade’s tower, which is next to an underground volcano and a second set of frog ruins. 

Before we go on and meet Tavros, I’m going to pause and say some stuff about what I’ve been reading. This recent stretch of pages has been some rather somber material. Aradia tells us in her own ominously deadpan manner that the trolls will fail massively somehow, and Sollux talks about his regular depression. Karkat has an angry argument with Sollux, which unlike their previous conversation doesn’t end with reconciliation, and culminates in him refusing to listen to his best friend’s sincere urge not to run that computer virus. The virus leads to massive doom, at least as far as we’re concerned at this point, with Karkat and Gamzee both sad to see their respective lusii dead. This is my third read-through, where I know pretty well how the story goes, and yet, it makes me kind of sad to read all that.

I’ve said in earlier posts that my previous two read-throughs didn’t really have scenes with much of an emotional impact on me, and this one has scenes that most certainly do. I think you need to fully peruse Homestuck to get the full emotional effect. Even in my second read, I skimmed over some less important stuff, and didn’t really stop to think much about what I read. Maybe taking notes (i.e. what you’re reading right now) as I read helps me collect the thoughts and get the impact I need. The update in which Dave ranted about his upbringing to Dirk, which was posted well after I got through my second read and became fully immersed in the story as it updated, filled me to the brim with emotion. For some reason the ending of Problem Sleuth was also pretty emotional when I read it, even though it’s generally a pretty silly comic. I read Problem Sleuth on and off over the course of six months or so, around roughly the same time I did my second read of Homestuck which took something on the order of a month (my first read took two months).

I think what I’m saying in this two-paragraph tangent above is, you gotta really read something to get the emotional impact it desires to get out of readers, and the last several pages have a latent impact that is released only when you fully read them. Let’s move on.

Remember how hilariously awful this dude was at rapping?
Well, guess what. He’s in a wheelchair.

Tavros Nitram is in many ways unlike most of the other trolls. While most of them have their ways in violence, trickery, or anger, Tavros is soft-spoken, impressionable, and pacifist. You can’t help but feel incredibly bad for him at times—look at that wheelchair he’s sitting in. We saw in Acts 3 and 4 how miserably bad he is at trolling, but later we saw how he generally tries to be friendly, but is awkward in doing so. Many readers think of him as shy, but I’m not sure that’s a good way to describe him. No shy person would be this eager to troll Dave, or ever think to admit to having feelings for Jade. He says pretty much everything that’s on his mind, which leads others to think he’s kind of weird. A great example is when he rambles to Jade about his weird self-esteem theories, the same conversation in which he shamelessly hits on her after proudly revealing that he killed her grandpa (who he thought was a nefarious senior interloper), and is surprised when Jade, who doesn’t even know his name, rejects him. He can be pretty smug at times, like when he talks about his self-confidence stuff or when he turns out to be right while others are wrong, but at the same time he lets everyone walk on him.

Tavros plays a game of Fiduspawn, a troll card game involving mechanical animals and plushes who impregnate each either and create monsters who fight each other. It’s obviously analogous to Pokemon, which is something that unlike a lot of people, I never really was into. Then he does his room exploration which is peppered with references to his paralysis; at one point he crawls into his recuperacoon and takes an hour to shuffle out, which we won’t waste watching him do so. It’s shown that way later he would get legs from some creepy troll who builds robots mostly just to break them, as Kanaya saws off his legs, making for one of many times in the trolls’ arc where the story’s like, “Way later, this stuff would happen and we won’t see most of it. OK, where were we.” The scene largely serves to give us hints of what Kanaya and Equius are like.

Then Tavros talks to Vriska, who makes an absolutely stellar first impression to readers:

AG: Taaaaaaaavros. 
AT: hEY, 
AG: Red team is going to 8ite the dust! 
AG: And I know you are on the red team. 
AT: wHOA, rEALLY, 
AG: Yeah, you totally are. 
AG: My team’s got no use for a 8oy that can’t make no use of his legs! 
AG: You were f8ed for a team of losers, full of 8lind girls and lame 8oys and cranky iiiiiiiim8eciles.

Readers will typically think, holy shit this troll is such an asshole. Tavros goes on to talk about his imaginary friend Rufio:

AT: i PROMISED I WOULDN’T TALK TO YOU ANYMORE, 
AG: Whaaaaaaaat. Promised who? 
AT: rUFIO,
AG: Omg, who’s that????????
AG: I h8 this guy already!
AT: hE’S, uHH,
AT: oKAY,
AT: sOMEONE SAID i SHOULD GIVE MY SELF ESTEEM A NAME,
AT: aND TO BE CAREFUL ABOUT WHAT i SAY, tO MAKE SURE i DON’T HURT HIS FEELINGS,
AG: Haha! So he’s imaginary! A fake.
AG: Like a made up friend, the way fairies are.
AG: Made up make believe fakey fake fakes.
AG: Who told you to do something so fraudulent?
AT: gA, 

This is the first of several allusions to some kind of friendship between Tavros and Kanaya, which is interesting because they never actually have a conversation in the comic. Vriska complains about that girl’s supposed meddling, and makes fun of him for having such an imaginary friend. She makes the fact that the blue team which she plans on joining doesn’t have any players in the game yet unlike the red team into a joke on him, just so she can turn that inconsequential fact into something to be smug about. And that’s the first impression we get out of Homestuck’s most controversial character, a fitting impression for a character so heavily debated, made even stronger by the fact that she’s talking to the very person who she jerks around the most.

Then Tavros has a friendly conversation with Gamzee, taking a nice break from the not-particularly-uplifting content we’ve been bombarded with. Gamzee gets him in the loop on the game, and they start an awful rap-off which is left to the reader’s imagination (for now).

I feel like I haven’t been putting enough artistically pleasing panels in these posts, so here’s one for you.

Terezi goes to the woods to meet the lusus she never had, in a visually pleasing sequence with nice fire effects. We get exposition about how Terezi’s lusus taught her to get around by smelling. The lusus hatches out of her egg, tipping a doomsday scale and getting killed by a meteor before getting prototyped so she can talk to Terezi. It’s a shame we don’t get more than minimal dialogue between the trolls and their lusus sprites; Kanaya’s and Terezi’s are the only ones who have talked on screen. I guess that’s another thing the trolls’ arc glosses over. Then we switch to yet another troll.

It’s another troll introduction panel, what do you want me to say?

Aradia Megido is my zodiac sign troll, and it’s actually pretty cool having her as my affiliated troll. She has an exceptionally unique role in the trolls’ side story, and goes through several different forms as the story progresses, each with its own personality, which is almost unique to her. She started as an ordinary girl, but then she turned into an apathetic ghost who does nothing but follow the orders of voices of the dead to do things that no sensible person would do, analogous to Jade but more extreme. Then a creepy guy with a thing for her turns her into a robot who has programmed feelings for him but otherwise acts about the same, orchestrating events to go the right way. Then she blows up and becomes alive again, sort of like how she originally was, but with a newfound interest in death that gradually becomes her most prominent trait, and with time powers and fairy wings. What else is there to like about Aradia? She almost has a poetic way of speaking due to her status as a ghost without emotions that cause her not to sink into sadness when speaking of bad things happening. This means that the moments in which she gives exposition (most especially the conclusion of the trolls’ arc) really shine. Another thing to like about her is how dutiful she is, doing all she needs to do in order to make things go right. She takes sole control of managing timelines and ensuring whatever mistakes the trolls make won’t happen. After becoming a god tier she is still like that, but in a good way, guiding people through the afterlife and stuff like that. Overall, she definitely sticks out among the trolls.

There’s a few things of note about Aradia’s introduction page. It’s the third mention of some roleplaying accident, which is also mentioned on Terezi’s and Tavros’s introductions. It also explicitly states that the code for Sburb (which is revealed on that page to be named Sgrub by Sollux) came from the frog temple; clever readers may connect the dots from this statement and figure out that Jade’s grandpa must have made Sburb in the kids’ universe. It’s also worth noting that each trolls’ introduction page tends to show the deal with their session from their respective trolls’ eyes. In Sollux’s case, it’s stated that he developed the game and believes it to be the salvation of their race, and in Aradia’s case, it’s stated that Sollux thinks he will lead the blue team, but he’s wrong. Interesting how she knows in advance who will be on which team and who will lead. It’s almost like she planned who will be on which team, and almost like she is the leader of the trolls.

After Aradia is introduced, she gets her computer from her fetch modus. It’s stated that it’s up to the spirits to decide what she gets from her modus, which serves to show just how far removed Aradia is from having her own motives for doing things: it’s not up to her to even decide what to get from her modus, but the forces of performing things destined to happen. She then converses with Kanaya, her fellow pawn of the forces of destiny. The conversation is pretty short, and I really don’t have much to say about it. Kanaya does tell her that she (Aradia) will soon cause bad things to happen, but will help her if she needs her. Then she has a conversation with Sollux we’ve already soon, goes to the roof of Sollux’s hive, and then talks to Vriska. Vriska plans on leading the blue team with Aradia, and mentions having a present for her, as well as some of their roleplaying backstory, which we would later see onscreen in a rather nasty sequence. Aradia, as deadpan as she always is, does throw some burns at Vriska:

AG: I don’t know. Which nickname do you think would 8e suita8ly derogatory in this case Aradia? 
AA: h0w ab0ut 
AA: eight eyes
AA: minus seven 

[…]

AG: Hey speaking of which, that loser isn’t going to 8e on the 8lue team is he? 
AA: which l0ser 
AG: Your old team 8uddy! 
AA: n0
AG: Oh thank fucking goodness! Talk a8out dead weight. You made the right choice, leader! I mean co-leader. 
AA: i didnt exclude him f0r that reas0n
AA: 0r at all
AA: y0ure just n0t getting it
AA: y0u never listen 
AG: Man, now I’ve got this huge 8eefgrub lodged in my nook just thinking a8out him. 
AG: I’m going to go give him a hard time.
AG: Let me know when you’re live! Later.

arachnidsGrip [AG] ceased trolling apocalypseArisen [AA]

AA: d0nt d0 that its really childish
AA: uh w0w

Those moments when Aradia (in her ghost and robot forms) snarks at people really appeal to me because they’re rare moments of some kind of emotion for her, and because they’re still delivered in her usual deadpan tone. Plus, they’re delivered to Vriska.

After that, Sollux talks to Aradia, apologizing for getting mad at her. He says that he’s going to play the game anyway because otherwise he’ll get hit by meteors. It’s also explicitly confirmed that the trolls have a caste system based on blood color:

TA: youre goiing two giive me 2hiit agaiin??? 
TA: after ii crawled on my belly liike that all groveliing at you.
TA: liike 2ome low cla22 guy wiith… whatever color blood ii2 lower on the hiierarchy than miine.
TA: what2 wor2e than yellow?
TA: fuck thii2 confu2iing ca2te 2y2tem. 

I think it’s interesting that although the hemospectrum in a thing strongly embedded in troll culture (blood color determines lifespans, psychic abilities, and psychic invulnerability), most of the twelve trolls Homestuck focuses on don’t care about it at all. Sollux, Nepeta, Gamzee, and Vriska have all expressed disregard for the hemospectrum, considering it to be meaningless. Sollux looks out his window to see Aradia, who puts him to sleep with her psychic powers. It’s interesting how this is the only time Aradia’s ability to put people to sleep is used. I wonder if Hussie remembers that this ability is a thing, because it’s never used or brought up again as far as I’m aware.

We skip in time to Sollux waking up from his nap, when meteors are storming around his hive and he just had dreams where he envisioned lots of important things. He wakes up, accidentally eats some mind honey, and blasts out mega-powered eye beams. Before I read Homestuck, I saw a line from this scene “YOU DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE EAT THE MIND HONEY” quoted in the signature of a user in some online forum and attributed to Sollux, and I still find this line hilariously bizarre out of context, though that could be said regarding just about any line in Homestuck.

This is another decent stopping point, because this content follows up with us getting to know Nepeta. See you next time as … uh … we get to know Nepeta! And some other stuff.

>> Part 23: Unpleasant Blueblood Avenue

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