Cookie Fonster Critiques Homestuck Part 27: Memo Madness and Universe Failure

Introduction

Part 26 | Part 27 | Part 28 >

Act 5 Act 1, Part 7 of 7

Pages 2543-2625 (MSPA: 4443-4525)

Supposed to be serious one-person business but ended up becoming a barrel of laughs.

This last part of the trolls’ arc kicks off with Karkat starting a memo system for the trolls to read, but not respond to. He rambles about the stupidity of time travel, but the other trolls from the past and future respond anyway to talk about how stupid the his memos are. Even Equius, who never laughs, remarks this:

CCT: D –> Do you realize that here in the future, this bulletin has come to be regarded as something of a joke 
CCT: D –> A lengthy piece of comedy, often quoted amongst ourselves in private moments of levity

Aside from loads of laughter, there’s a few things in the memo I’ll comment on. First, Sollux responds to the memo during the Vast Glub, which I think serves to give us a scale of time for the events in the troll session. Second, Equius calls Karkat a “tactical midget”, a rare possible hint at the heights of characters, though it’s debatable whether this actually means Karkat is short. Also Karkat bans his own future self from responding to the memos; make of that what you will.

After that Terezi communicates with Snowman via chalk some more. She calls Snowman “dark text lady”, which is interesting because, how does Terezi know what color text she types in? Karkat starts yet another memo, and this time, Eridan, Vriska, and Tavros all interrupt his explanation of Operation Regisurp to further comment on how stupid the memos are and/or to ask for help with their relationship problems. Also in the memo is an exceptionally memorable funny bit which I remember laughing at in my first read:

CCG: FUTURE ME, DON’T YOU FUCKING DARE WEIGH IN ON THIS, I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING. 
CCG: IF I WERE FUTURE ME, WHICH I GUESS I AM, I WOULD READ THIS AND BE ALL OVER IT, LIKE DAMMIT KARKAT WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING. 
CCG: GET TO THE POINT. 
FUTURE carcinoGeneticist [FCG] 0:20 HOURS FROM NOW responded to memo. 
FCG: YEAH PRETTY MUCH. 
CCG banned FCG from responding to memo. 

Tendency to ramble about nothing is something Karkat has in common with Dave. But while Dave seems to think of rambling as part of his personal brand, Karkat doesn’t like his own rambling tendency; he wants people to seriously listen to and follow what he has to say, and wants himself to get straight to the point rather than do what he does. Later in the memo, Tavros tells Karkat his situation with Vriska and explains it in a way that makes it sound hilariously weird:

PAT: uH, yEAH, aNYWAY, 
PAT: sHE TRIED TO KISS ME, 
PAT: wELL, sHE DIDN’T TRY, sHE ACTUALLY DID, 
PAT: aND THEN, kIND OF DROPPED ME, 
PAT: aND ALSO WE ARE WEARING COSTUMES, 
PAT: wOW, i’M NOT EXPLAINING THIS WELL, 

Vriska a bit later in the timeline derails the memo to fuck with Tavros some more, and Karkat realizes why everyone laughs at his memos. Before he gets back on track his future self closes the memo. Then we see it from Tavros’s perspective: Hearts Boxcars tries to command him to kiss Vriska, and Snowman commands Vriska and then tells Terezi that she has to destroy the queen’s ring.

The start of the arc’s concluding portion.

The last 59 pages of the trolls’ arc are what I think of as its concluding portion. Here’s a rundown of what happens there in order:

  • Karkat way in the future gives us a rundown of what the trolls’ session was like for him and ends up having a casual but cathartic conversation with Kanaya;
  • in the middle of the troll session or something Karkat and Terezi talk about a lot of stuff;
  • an animation concludes the flashback arc and recaps the troll session with a montage;
  • and Aradia narrates the conclusion of the trolls’ session.

Most of the trolls’ arc was showing how the trolls’ session began, but only in the last bit do we see learn about the middle and end of it; even then we don’t quite get the full picture, because in Act 5 Act 2 we learn how exactly the trolls created a universe with the frog breeding mechanics and whatnot. OK, time to go over it in more detail.

First, Karkat way in the future starts a memo in which he gives an emotional speech recapping how the trolls’ session went. He has the following to say about it:

FCG: HONESTLY THE LAST FEW WEEKS HAVE BEEN A BLUR TO ME, JUST NON STOP YELLING AT MYSELF, HAGGLING WITH PAST AND FUTURE KNUCKLEHEADS, KILLING MONSTERS AND SOLVING PUZZLES, CYCLING THROUGH ALL THE GATES AND PLANETS LIKE A HUNDRED TIMES, ZIGZAGGING DOWN TO THE BATTLEFIELD, OUT TO THE VEIL, OVER TO PROSPIT, BACK TO DERSE, AND ON AND ON AND ON LIKE THAT UNTIL WE THOUGHT WE WON. 
FCG: BUT WE DIDN’T WIN. WE LOST. 
FCG: WE LOST AS HARD AS FAT GUYS FALL. 

which is just one passage amidst a whole description of failure. At one point Kanaya responds when Karkat goes into the topic of 12th Perigee’s Eve (the troll version of Christmas). They go on to discuss a lot of things: what Christmas was like for them, that the trolls somehow failed to win the game, Kanaya’s avoidance of getting entangled in time travel memo bullshit, and also romance. There’s a few portions of the memo worth commenting on. 

  • Karkat hints at Sollux and Feferi being a thing.
  • Reading Karkat and Kanaya casually discussing memories of alien Christmas is weirdly heartwarming, especially because Karkat says it was his last happy memory.
  • Kanaya’s refusal to respond to all those memos tells us something about her character, how she strays from such crazy nonsense like that.
  • Karkat openly talks about his black romance stuff about black romance (like his suspicions that he may be his own kismesis) but refuses to talk about his red romance *coughTerezicough*. This makes me wonder if hearts is the most important quadrant to trolls, with how it’s treated so privately, especially by Karkat—his half-hearted denial of a relationship with Terezi is practically a running gag.
  • They also discuss magic, how Karkat wouldn’t consider there to be any magic in the session, yet at the same time would. I like how he references ICP’s miracle shit and jokes about Gamzee’s obsession with miracles.
  • Overall, Karkat drops his perpetual anger when talking to Kanaya, which makes for a heartwarming exchange.

Next, Terezi at some point in the middle of the game or something flies up with her dragon wings to her built-up house. She and her sprite sniff each other, and then she talks to Karkat. First they discuss the thing of exiling Jack and destroying the queen’s ring. Karkat sees Jack as a friend much more than Terezi does, which is definitely because of the blood color bond. Then Terezi brings up how she found out Karkat’s blood color:

GC: 1T W4S WH3N 1 GOT CLOS3 3NOUGH 
GC: TO SM3LL 1T UND3R YOUR SK1N 
GC: PL34S3 K4RK4T, DO NOT PR3T3ND TH4T YOU FORGOT 4BOUT OUR L1TTL3 MOM3NT
CG: WHOA
CG: YOU MEAN
CG: DURING
CG: FUCK.
CG: OK SHHHHHHHHHH SHH SHH SHH…
CG: LET’S NOT TALK ABOUT THIS, NOT HERE. 

If that doesn’t scream Karkat/Terezi … I think Karkat’s so paranoid about others knowing about the little moment because he doesn’t want to be seen as how gooey and lovey he probably was with Terezi. Also, Karkat mentions that there are 48 Alternian zodiac signs (sneaking in a hint at the Sburb session that created the trolls’ universe), and Terezi talks about how she became blind and how each person has a different event that causes their dream self to awaken. The ending of the conversation is the most memorable bit:

CG: WAIT 
CG: TEREZI 
CG: PLEASE DON’T TELL THEM ABOUT MY BLOOD.
CG: I WANT TO TELL THEM, I MEAN I WILL TELL THEM.
CG: LATER
CG: ONCE THEY RESPECT ME AS A LEADER.
GC: OK
GC: 1 W1LL K33P TH4T S3CR3T 1F YOU K33P TH1S ON3 1 T3LL YOU
GC: WH1CH 1S TH4T
GC: B3TW33N YOU 4ND M3 K4RK4T
GC: 1 TH1NK TH3Y 4LR34DY DO
GC: BY3!
GC: ❤
CG: BYE

gallowsCalibrator [GC] ceased trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]

carcinoGeneticist [CG]
 ceased trolling gallowsCalibrator [GC]

carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling gallowsCalibrator [GC]

CG: ❤ 

carcinoGeneticist [CG] ceased trolling gallowsCalibrator [GC]

If that doesn’t squeeze a “d’awwww” out of readers, nothing does. Read that passage above, and think of Karkat’s persistent denial of having a thing going on with Terezi. Everyone can see it. When Karkat isn’t infuriated by one of the many many things that sets him off, he’s pretty adorable. Terezi constantly teases him about being so cute, and Karkat likes her as someone who legitimately respects him, making for a constructive relationship which would go in some interesting directions as Karkat witnesses her going through a whole bunch of awful stuff, but I’m getting ahead of myself again. After that page is an option for a password page where John is asked to ruin that moment by writing “you don’t need him” on the wall. I don’t think we know whether that had any effect on Terezi’s relationship with Karkat, but I hope it didn’t and only the subsequent note John wrote on a shred of a Nic Cage poster did, because otherwise it would change too much stuff. Anyway, Terezi then flies up to Skaia, not in a sound page, but in a Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff page.

Then comes the only sound page in the trolls’ arc, [S] Make her pay. This one’s worth a bullet summary:

  • In the past, Vriska uses a psychic double reacharound (Vriska -> Tavros -> dragon lusus -> Terezi) to blind Terezi;
  • In a montage, a bunch of trolls fight monsters and Sollux duels Eridan;
  • and robotic Aradia appears and beats up Vriska, finishing the cycle of revenge after a long pause.

OK that was kind of short. The flash has an interesting mix of guest art styles. They range from photorealistic to cartoony to video game-like. Those rapid switches between art styles are sometimes pretty kickass when the rendering is suddenly very realistic (like renderings of the dragon lusus or of robotic Aradia), but can be a bit jarring when they flip around a lot. A flash where the art style flips around very much is [S] GAME OVER; many readers find some of the guest renditions of characters in that flash pretty strange and not in a good way, and I agree with that. I think I remember feeling rather shocked by the last section of the flash (Aradia beating up Vriska bloody) in my first read. I also like how in the montage section, some of the trolls have paired up: Karkat/Jack Noir, Karkat/Terezi, Equius/Nepeta, Sollux/Feferi, Tavros/Vriska. The last pair is interesting because in the flash, they really seem to be enjoying themselves flying around the planet.

Exposition montage time.

Aradia, commanded by Diamonds Droog, skips to the end of the troll session. She expresses desire not to be bossed around, which is interesting because it contrasts with her ghost self’s mindless obedience of the voices commanding her to do whatever’s destined to happen. Aradia, in her no-nonsense manner, refrains from absurd arguments in her narration memo, and explains the conclusion of the troll session.

First, lots of Aradiabots from doomed timelines gather to help in the trolls’ boss battle against the black king. One quote from her is interesting:

FAA: by the way if y0u didnt kn0w already 
FAA: a future self returning t0 the past fr0m a d00med timeline will always be slated f0r imminent destructi0n herself 
FAA: its 0ne 0f the rules 

because it may cause worries about Davesprite, who came from a doomed timeline, and because it seems to have been forgotten about entirely. She explains how the black king battle went, and how despite full preparation, clever psychic tricks, an impossibly lucky roll of the dice (indication that Vriska will probably come back to life somehow), and thousands of Aradiabots, the trolls only narrowly succeeded against the king’s fearsome nightmarish powers. Hussie considered showing the black king battle in an animation but decided it would be too much work. There was an advantage to not doing it in animation: later on we would learn more things about how the black king battle went down, like Gamzee’s powerful attack, and what Vriska’s lucky roll did (matching her up with Bec Noir).

They were this close. It stings like bees do to make you pay for blowing up their hive.

Aradia goes on to explain that the trolls would prove their worth and stand on the frog platform ready to claim the ultimate reward until some demon would come and prevent them from doing so. I love how much the scene stings, with the inviting door ready to be opened right when the demon comes. At this point, there’s clues which could be pieced together to just as well obtain the kids’ Jack Noir or Lord English as who the demon is. I like how the clues are misleading as to what the scratch does, but reading what Aradia says, everything she says matches up with what we know about the scratch. If only I actually paid attention to the story during my first read through … anyway, Aradia’s duplicates get killed, the trolls all get taken to a Veil meteor with a computer lab, and finally the shocking part: Sollux’s glasses transition us from the trolls’ universe to the kids’ universe, which Aradia reveals that the trolls created. 

END OF ACT 5 ACT 1

That is one hell of a way to end the trolls’ arc: the revelation that the ultimate goal of Sburb, as it turns out, is to create a universe, and that in Homestuck’s reality, our universe was created by none other than those gray people with horoscope signs on their shirts and candy corn on their heads,  and that the zodiac signs were made in honor of the trolls. It also provides a surprisingly smooth transition to the kids’ arc which goes hand in hand with this revelation. I’ve heard that readers bet Hussie couldn’t effectively transition the trolls’ arc to the kids’ arc, but he did it.

Most of the trolls’ arc is devoted to (1) showing how the session started off and (2) the trolls’ backstory. A smaller portion is for, mostly through montages and exposition, events that happen through the course of the session, like the expository interlude with Operation Regisurp and whatnot. It has some notable differences from the kids’ arc. First off, while the kids are all on very friendly terms with each other, the trolls are a jumble of imbalanced quadrant pairings, abusive relationships, rivalrous friendships, unrequited crushes, separated close relationships, denied obvious affairs … it goes on. Also, the trolls have much more of a backstory than the kids do: before the story started four of them each had their own accident, and the trolls’ array of relationships was once pretty different from what it is now with several former relationships. Though many resent parts of Homestuck focused on relationship drama rather than plot going down, I think the whole trolls’ arc is a fun digression from Homestuck’s main arc. Like I said before, the trolls are Homestuck’s biggest claim to fame, and their alien culture is intriguing to read about, especially when it’s compared to human culture, which has been done since Act 4.

Now for a character rundown with what each of the trolls does in this arc. Warning: lots of words.

  • Karkat is of course the lovable protagonist of the trolls. We get some pretty good insight into his character: his skill in influencing others, his worries, angry fits, and what he’s like when he’s not frustrated by something. He starts the memo system which leads more to arguments and relationship counseling than his leadership intentions, bonds with Jack Noir because of blood color, and leads trolls in important tasks.
  • Gamzee is pretty much just the juggalo dude who is somehow chill with everything, whether it’s things characters do that others find annoying, people thinking he’s stupid, or even a friend temporarily dying. He notably doesn’t want to know how the world actually works, preferring ignorantly connecting everything to mIrAcLeS.
  • Terezi has her dynamics built up with Karkat (who she constantly flirts with and teases about being cute) and Vriska (who she used to be good friends with). She’s shown to have interest in messing with others and facetiously doing things considered strange, kind of like Dave. She is so deft in trickery that she tricked the ultimate trickster (Doc Scratch) into blowing someone’s arm off.
  • Sollux has all these memorable gimmicks and depressive tendencies but doesn’t get that much screen time. Unlike other characters who have some knowledge of the future, he tries to prevent what he knows from happening, rather than following through with it like other characters do. His interactions with his fellow trolls are all pretty enjoyable, each with a different flavor. I should remark that I noticed an absence of Sollux for quite a while in my first read-through of Homestuck; there’s a stretch of about 300 pages where Sollux is almost entirely absent.
  • Tavros is mostly jerked around by Vriska. She broke his legs no reason, she constantly taunts him, she builds his home with stairs even though he uses a wheelchair to get around, she tries to seduce him by roleplaying as a fairy while he plays Pupa Pan. He serves somewhat as a foil to Vriska; for example, he is emphasized to play games to enjoy the experience, while Vriska does it to win and get whatever reward there is.
  • Aradia is in a whole different mindset from all the other trolls. She was built by the forces of destiny to be the troll who does everything destined to happen, and thus does all that. Others mostly find her to be boring or insane or both; Vriska finds her lack of personal motives infuriating, while Equius finds it erotic.
  • Nepeta doesn’t do much. She roleplays, ships her friends, and is reportedly a skilled hunter. We don’t see much of her hunting in action, aside from two scenes late in the act, and glimpses of remains of animals in her cave. Fans remember her mostly for her interest in shipping, which I think is an ascended one-off gag.
  • Vriska tries to screw with everyone but is shown to lack any skill in doing so, only using cheap mind tricks. Doc Scratch plays her like a fiddle, and most of the other trolls throw burns at her and don’t want anything to do with her. The exceptions are Kanaya, who does try to help her but eventually is done with her, and Tavros, her abuse victim who can’t bring himself to hate her and not let her walk all over him. At least she is shown having fun flying around her land with Tavros in the flash and legitimately helping with Operation Regisurp, which is something but doesn’t make her overall positive.
  • Equius built Aradia’s robot body, successfully doublecrossed Vriska in setting up the blue team, and built Vriska’s arm at some point between the flashback arc and the main arc. He’s mostly just kind of creepy. His bizarre fetishes are played for humor but are at the same time disturbing; fitting for someone with “testicle” in his screen name. Also I forgot to mention how much I love his humanimal lusus.
  • Kanaya generally doesn’t get sucked into the bullshit that happens with the other trolls, and is shown to have more common sense than the other trolls, straying from such nonsense as the time travel memo bullshit. She knows bits of the future and is rather separated from the ways of society just like Jade. She has some special sources of knowledge (her clouds and Rose’s walkthrough), somewhat keeps Vriska in check until witnessing the roleplay seduction scene, and of course owns the coveted motherhoodly matriorb.
  • Eridan has these absurd genocidal plans that are played for humor. He’s shown to be pretty romantically desperate and incredibly pretentious. He doesn’t do that much in the trolls’ arc but he does exemplify what regular violent trolls are like.
  • Feferi has this huge potential role in troll society but she doesn’t do much either. She knows future stuff through her lusus, corpsesmooches Sollux, and generally has an almost peachy world view.

As you can see, all the trolls we heard from in earlier acts get quite a bit of development, many of them having interactions with each other which vary quite widely. Notably, some trolls get a lot more screen time than others. This is another difference between the trolls’ and kids’ arcs; all four kids generally get roughly equal amounts of screen time, both the beta and alpha kids. But the trolls aren’t like that. Karkat and Terezi get far more screen time than Feferi and Nepeta. Despite being a single group of twelve characters, some get very heavy focus while others are almost written out of the story, and they even diverge somewhat into very separated groups (the sane ones traveling to the new session, the ones in dream bubbles, and Gamzee). Gamzee in particular slowly becomes the odd one out among the trolls when he becomes evil, diverging away from the motives of the other trolls and joining the crew of elusive toolbags in league with Lord English, and also somehow making it to Caliborn’s session and becoming his clown companion.

I don’t think there’s much else I have to say about the trolls’ arc. It’s a long side story straying from almost any inclusion of the kids, but it covers so many interesting story concepts with amusing alien culture, humor, upsetting stuff, and a better picture of what Sburb sessions are like, that it’s totally worth reading. The last thing I mentioned may be one of the main points of the trolls’ arc: to give readers an idea of how a typical Sburb session goes without finishing the one we’ve been following.

See you next time about a week from now as I start a new sub-act with a new posting style. The new post style will focus less on wordy paragraphs and be more commenting as I go, quoting any passage I have to say about, like many people who blog their reactions to what they read as they go do. I think this post series would be quite a bit easier to follow that way.

>> Part 28: The Egbert-Serket Chronicles

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