Act 6 Act 6 Intermission 1, Part 3 of 5
Alternate post title: The Wonderful World of Strider Malaise
I’ll finish A6A6I1 before next 4/13, I promise. I’m setting this goal because this act (screw calling it a sub-sub-intermission) ends with a scene that I’ve been looking forward to covering for a LONG time now and I’m worried that whatever content comes out on Homestuck’s 11th anniversary might clog up my brain again.
Dirk is out of the loop both literally and figuratively.
Also, just like last time, I’m quoting all of Dirk’s conversation with Arquiusprite in images instead of text.
Picking up from where we left off, it’s time to see what Dirk is up to. He’s flying through the outer reaches of the alpha session just like the three different versions of Jack Noir, contacting Arquiusprite as a last resort to figure out what the hell is going on.
With these three lines alone, it’s already clear that the Condesce’s plan for what to do with Dirk is working exactly as intended: she has no use for him whatsoever and used Jade to warp him as far away from the action as possible. Kind of sucks that this guy is shafted for so much of Act 6 Act 6, but I guess that’s just what the empress thinks of him.
Here, Arquiusprite does what he does best: providing bizarre trivia on things absolutely no one asked about. This is what he does for most of this conversation, which is hilarious for the reader but painfully useless for Dirk.
Back when they all lived on Earth, Dirk and Roxy were acutely aware of the Condesce’s brainwashing and subliminal messaging on Jane, which included phrases like “CEASE REPRODUCTION”, “OBEY”, “SUBMIT”, that sort of stuff. So why does Dirk have no idea that the Condesce might have taken control of Jane’s mind? It could be that it’s been long enough since Jane accepted the truth about Betty Crocker that she and her friends forgot about the witch’s wrongdoings (except Roxy of course), or maybe that “CEASE REPRODUCTION” is a bizarre message to get out of context. But it’s probably most likely that Hussie stopped caring about Jane, shafting her akin to the trolls dropped like dead flies in Murderstuck, which is not good.
Arquiusprite begs to differ though. Just as Equius’s arousal by highblood (or any blood) dominance got the best of him in his untimely clown murder, Lil’ Hal’s artificial intelligence superiority overrides any usual morality when judging Jane’s villainous state.
As Arquius pretty much explains all the stuff I just said, he subjects Dirk to more of his splinter-imposed self-loathing that we thought for sure was over now. Dirk is in constant fear of the idea that he, too, could one day throw away any regard for human morality (or more fundamentally, not being a smug obnoxious narrator). With every time Homestuck^2 shows us more of the bad version of Dirk, his pesterlogs in Homestuck hurt more to read. And no, I am NEVER going to refer to this masterwork of a webcomic as “Homestuck 1”. It feels so wrong and I’d really rather think of Homestuck as its own thing separate from all the other media.
Most conversations so far in A6A6I1 had this crazy cool-looking scenery in the background, but here Dirk is flying through the black realm of nothingness throughout all these panels.
Want to know something I absolutely hate? I hate that I remember Arquiusprite’s monologue about how fascinating it is that humans lactate (which continues far beyond this screencap) so well, because it’s cited again and again whenever fans debate about troll biology which is a really common debate subject for some bizarre reason. Debates about things like troll biology, the kids’ skin colors, or random minutia of Sburb have led me to have quite a few passages from the comic ingrained in my head far more firmly than I am comfortable with.
Dirk can’t stand to keep learning how much he has in common with Equius. He’s freaked out by it in a possibly meta way like his fellow Strilondes, because Equius is one of several trolls that served as a sort of predecessor to a later character like Feferi with Jane or Nepeta with Calliope. Through the course of Homestuck, regular Dirk only rarely dips into the realm of meta awareness, but his splinters are a way different story. Arquiusprite even brings up the possibility of more characters merging with dead trolls, perhaps foreshadowing the existence of Davepetasprite^2.
Dirk tries to change the subject back to important things, and after a few more failed attempts he finally gets this information out of his sprite:
And here’s where Dirk and Arquiusprite finally talk about something important: Dirk’s legendary teen ancestor Dave, or so it seems at first.
I’m showing every panel of Dirk’s conversation with Arquiusprite because these panels of Dirk flying have a really cool sense of desolation.
Turns out Arquiusprite was actually talking about Davesprite, and brings up his often overlooked backstory. Dirk reminds us that despite everything he’s still a teen version of Dave’s bro when he says he genuinely thinks of Cal as a friend followed by bitterness at the way he’s been treated by some.
As Arquius makes clear, in the pre-retcon timeline Hal and Davesprite beat Real Dirk and Real Dave to the punch of the fabled brotherly reunion. Davesprite’s side of the reunion is happening entirely offscreen, just like basically all the cool stuff he got up to in the beta session, to make him like a forgettable side character instead of a second Dave.
This passage is very interesting to read after the Striders’ extremely memorable post-retcon reunion (which I’ll probably have so many words to say about that I’ll have to dedicate an entire post to that scene). It’s one of many hints that the pre-retcon timeline isn’t quite how things were meant to go, and also a hint at Dirk’s inner insecurities about his young ancestor which we don’t get from his perspective anywhere near as much as Dave’s.
Reflection on emotional scenes aside, I have one last thing to say before the spritelog glitches out: Arquiusprite is so fucking funny.
Next up, we have what would be the coolest-looking selection screen yet if it weren’t for glitches that block out all options except the leftmost one with Dave and Jade. Hussie is having a lot of fun toying with the concept of selection screens and will continue to do so until near the very end of his comic.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Dave’s mayor buddy is the same mysterious exile we knew since the start of Act 2.
JADE: her imperious condescension has duly noted your ridiculous tantrum
JADE: now take your welsh sword
JADE: since you have obviously been identified as the one who must deal english his fatal blow we will need to make sure you are battle ready
JADE: and you do not seem very battle ready to me dave
JADE: show me what you can do
DAVE: wait since when could you use a sword
DAVE: whats up with that dumb sword
JADE: i will not hear another word of such appalling slander about this fine weapon
JADE: its colorful and its silly and its a sword
JADE: end of story
JADE: as for why i can wield it, i surpassed the need for a strife specibus quite some time ago
JADE: havent you climbed any more god tiers over the last few years?
JADE: what were you even doing on that meteor
DAVE: yeah no
DAVE: i climbed a few yeah
JADE: what badges do you have on your kiddie camper handysash?
DAVE: which ones do you have
JADE: i asked you first
DAVE: show me your badges and you can see mine
DAVE: i want to scope out this universal specibus badge that sounds pretty cool actually
JADE: we both know neither the kiddie camper handysash nor the badges sewn onto it are real objects
DAVE: oh yeah
DAVE: its pretty easy to forget sometimes tho
I love these occasional moments in Act 6 Act 6 where characters remind us that the video game mechanics from the early acts didn’t stop being a thing or anything. The only difference now is that they break the fourth wall (or a variant thereof) a bit more blatantly than before, like here when Jade reminds Dave that all those game mechanic things aren’t real objects.
John in the background is part of a stable retcon loop we’ll see from his perspective a bit later.
This is a crazy fun style of panels more akin to a typical graphic novel than most of Homestuck prior. I bet it’ll translate really well to book form once the books get to this point.
DAVE: i think were getting sidetracked by the kiddie camper shit
DAVE: are you really suggesting that we do an actual sword fight right now
DAVE: like for training purposes
JADE: why not?
JADE: our empress can hardly have a knight with such rusty combat skills in her service
DAVE: will you cut it out with the evil jade baloney
DAVE: im not going to fight you
DAVE: my rooftop dueling days are OVER
JADE: en garde!
DAVE: even if we just went balls out jackass BANANAS with our swords here i mean realistically how much appreciable advancement in my battle skills would even result from that
DAVE: are you actually thinking this through or just going through the vaguely nefarious motions that come with the territory of being evildog!jade
Dave’s refusal to go along with Jade’s swordfight training contains a hint at his side of the much-anticipated Strider reunion, when he loudly proclaims to be done with all those hectic rooftop puppet battles.
JADE: im gonna go through the vaguely nefarious motions of kicking your ass in a minute if you dont put up your dukes!!!
DAVE: yeah you probably will
DAVE: youll probably annihilate me worse than my bro used to
DAVE: dont you have all of your dogs insane powers and like
DAVE: god tier space powers on top of all that
DAVE: how exactly am i supposed to compete with that
JADE: by using your time trickery!
JADE: come on dave do your timey thing
JADE: get creative, make lots of copies of yourself or something… outsmart me!
DAVE: ok here i go
JADE: dave, just try a little time travel to get this fight started
JADE: see look, one of your time doubles is surely predestined to come from a few minutes in the future and appear behind me for a surprise attack, riiiight about…
JADE: no wait
JADE: dave why is your future self being such a wet blanket
Much to Jade’s confusion, Dave was not predestined to participate in this Lord English training like he was with all those time loops in the beta session. This says a lot about the story’s themes of predestination: the Condesce’s plans don’t match one bit with what is destined to happen, because she’s a rogue villain rather than a natural force of paradox space. Jade is unaware that Lord English’s predestined defeat is one of those plot points whose resolution comes from outside canon, when adult John convinces teen Dave and the others to come with him and fill the gaping plot hole through his natural leadership talent alone.
DAVE: i told you
DAVE: im not time traveling
DAVE: i think im giving it up for good actually
Dave responds to Jade’s frustration with a shocker line: he’s giving up time travel for good. At this point, it simply seems sad that Dave is forsaking heroism, but soon he’s about to give a surprisingly good argument about why he now feels this way.
This graphic novel art style is SO COOL, why is it so cool???
Now it’s finally time for an extremely memorable Dave ramble about time travel and heroism that I’ve been excited to analyze for a long time.
DAVE: im serious
DAVE: the thing is
DAVE: being a time guy
DAVE: like actually MASTERING time travel
DAVE: im pretty sure what that involves is
DAVE: learning to never use it
DAVE: see its like karate
DAVE: its more like what they SAY about karate
DAVE: that you learn it so you dont use it
DAVE: but i mean we all know the truth about karate is if you know karate then obviously in reality you use it all the time
DAVE: like doing lethal fuckin crane kicks and sweet karate chops while walking down the street just cause you can
DAVE: its a god damn no brainer thats what you do with karate
DAVE: but see with time travel
DAVE: all the stuff about learning it so you dont have to use it is true
DAVE: theres no good that can come of it
DAVE: you can crunch the logic on the loops all you want
DAVE: but all youre doing is painting yourself into a corner
DAVE: creating inevitabilities you have to rehearse and enact or face death for yourself or everyone you know
DAVE: and sometimes facing death is the very inevitability you have to rehearse
DAVE: and then you wait and wait knowing its coming and knowing it has to happen
The first part of Dave’s monologue is an attempt at an honest explanation of why he doesn’t want to time travel anymore that continuously falls back into Dave’s trademark dissection of media tropes, which is something Hussie has used him as a vessel for since the Act 1 pesterlog about the apple juice scene from Little Monsters. Dave has a hard time keeping his thoughts about media tropes to himself, even when he’s supposed to be training to fight a green skull monster.
DAVE: how do you think it made me feel when we were gathering up all those frogs
DAVE: and i knew the whole time in a little while you would have to watch me get shot
DAVE: but i couldnt say anything or it would mess it all up
Dave then takes a moment to put a traumatizing light on a callback-overloaded scene that took place entirely on the website banner in the Doc Scratch intermission, which is a good demonstration of why he feels learning to time travel is just like what they say learning karate is like.
DAVE: all cause i thought it would be cool to be marty mcfuckin fly
DAVE: but instead of shredding johnny b goode on guitar to get my parents to bang
DAVE: my crowning performance was doing a funny dance while getting pumped full of lead
DAVE: then i had to leave everyone behind and get into the delorean and return to the 1980s
DAVE: but the delorean was actually a big purple moon
DAVE: and the 1980s was me accidentally reaching god tier and living on a shitty meteor for a while
DAVE: and i guess rose was doc brown
DAVE: doc brown accidentally reached god tier too
DAVE: ok i guess this is where the analogy falls apart but you get what i mean
JADE: sorry dave, you lost me there after the part where i shot you
DAVE: ok lemme start over
JADE: omg, no!
And then Dave falls into an absurd Back to the Future metaphor that he quickly gets carried away with, which is again reminiscent of his early conversations with John about movies. Unfortunately for him, Jade doesn’t know anywhere near as much about movies as John or Karkat, so the analogy flies right over her head. I can only imagine all the lengthy, intelligent conversations about movies Dave had with Karkat during their time on the meteor.
JADE: the fact is youre going to have to rely on those powers if you want to stand any chance against a lord of time
JADE: it is safe to expect he can only be challenged by someone with a similar command over the aspect
DAVE: why is that safe to expect
DAVE: where are all these presumptions coming from
DAVE: if you can use swords why dont you take the welsh cueball sword and fight him yourself
DAVE: i bet you could fuck him up
DAVE: youre probably even more extra strong now that youve succumbed to the bark side
DAVE: did you ever think about that
JADE: dave i am perfectly aware of the awesome powers granted to me by the bark side
JADE: it does not matter
JADE: i cant be the one to wield your sword against english
JADE: it has to be you
JADE: it is the will of the empress, and thats final
Dave is quick to find a loophole in Jade’s instructions: since Jade can now use whichever weapon she wants, there’s no reason she couldn’t go ahead and kill Lord English. I can see why the Condesce wanted Dave to do it though. Jade is controllable using the Condesce’s lowblood psychic powers and thus useful for her schemes, so she can’t let Jade risk her life fighting Lord English. Instead, the empress leaves Dave to do the task as per standard prophecy.
DAVE: the empress can suck it
DAVE: i have no intention of fighting him
DAVE: and this isnt even me pulling more lame self aware reluctant hero junk
DAVE: i am just straight up not going to do it
DAVE: see thats not reluctance its just petulant refusal on my part
DAVE: reluctant hero shit is when the guys like aw shucks i dunno if i wanna but deep down we all know he really does
DAVE: but i really dont
DAVE: why should i
DAVE: i dont give a damn about lord english or his nebulous atrocities out in nowherespace
DAVE: what kind of villain is someone you never met who hardly did anything evil to you or your friends directly
DAVE: or even to anyone in your universe for that matter other than through some vague insidious influence
And here it is: the legendary moment where Dave firmly declares that he doesn’t give a shit about Lord English. From this point onwards, it’s cemented that the prospect of defeating Lord English is only important because everyone says it is. I’ve long accepted that Lord English is a deconstruction of the concept of final bosses, but many readers to this day seem genuinely disappointed that the comic stopped taking him seriously after a while, or feel that Hussie is just admitting here that he doesn’t know what direction he’s going with Homestuck anymore. I think English being a deconstruction makes perfect sense though—Homestuck has plenty of villains that are very much taken seriously without having to be the “final boss” or anything, and the comic has always been about deconstructing common themes of video games.
DAVE: who even is this guy and why should i hate him
DAVE: am i really supposed to be pissed off at a green muscle monster i never met
DAVE: cause i aint pissed off at no muscle monster
DAVE: hell wasnt he in some ass backwards way responsible for us existing in the first place?
DAVE: or all of humanity for that matter??
DAVE: maybe i should thank him before chopping him up via welshscalibur
The cherry on top of Dave’s ramble is when he brings up that Lord English is indirectly responsible in some way for the existence of everything he cares about. He brings up such a good point that reveals a major downside of Caliborn’s grasp over all of predestination. You could argue that the Condesce was indirectly responsible for humanity existing too, but she was also directly responsible for humanity becoming a miserable hellhole in the alpha kids’ Earth and many other terrible things which you can’t say about English.
I feel like Hussie might have been inspired by the original prints of the Homestuck books (which I believe ran from 2011 to 2013) when he drew these panels.
JADE: jeez you sure have some issues
JADE: honestly it has become very tiresome listening to this sort of thing
JADE: i thought davesprite had problems
JADE: his issues i could kind of understand
JADE: i thought you might be different, being the alpha dave and all
JADE: but no
JADE: you might be even more messed up inside than he was!
DAVE: why are you dragging that guy into this
DAVE: what happened with you and him anyway
JADE: none of your business >:p
DAVE: it kind of is
DAVE: hes bird me
DAVE: that clearly means i have a right to know
JADE: that doesnt make any sense!
DAVE: you said he had issues
DAVE: what issues
JADE: forget i mentioned it
And here Jade goes again, derailing the conversation into boyfriend problems. It’s not every day we get to see her vent out romance troubles, and this conversation would be extremely sad if Grimbark Jade wasn’t so hilarious.
DAVE: was he talking shit about me the whole time or something
DAVE: i know he resents me for being the real dave
JADE: dont say that, you arent the real dave!
JADE: well you are, but phrasing it like that is so mean!
JADE: hes just as real as you, and when you imply he isnt you sound like a jerk!!!
DAVE: man i knew it
DAVE: i knew he was poisoning your view of me all those years
DAVE: and i wasnt there to say anything or defend against his slander so now of course you think im a neurotic douche
JADE: THE ONLY REASON I THINK YOURE A NEUROTIC DOUCHE IS BECAUSE YOURE ACTING LIKE ONE NOW!!!
DAVE: yeah but i only started acting like a neurotic douche like half way through this conversation
DAVE: you clearly had an axe to grind with me from the start and i want to know why
DAVE: what did i ever do to deserve this shit from you
JADE: YOU BROKE MY HEART!!!!!!
DAVE: i did
JADE: ok not you
JADE: davesprite did
JADE: BUT YOURE BASICALLY THE SAME GUY!
DAVE: whoa no way
DAVE: thats such an unfair characterization we are completely different dudes
JADE: you just said you had a right to know what happened between us because, and i quote, “hes bird me”
DAVE: no i know
DAVE: i was playing the “hes bird me” card because it was convenient to whatever it was i was saying at the time
DAVE: i forget what point i was making when i said that
God, it’s so weird reading romance drama conversations between beta kids instead of alpha kids. Only after going grimbark is Jade willing to admit how hurt she is about Davesprite dumping her, which isn’t touched on often especially after the retcon erased that whole relationship in the first place. I can only imagine that after Davepetasprite^2 told Jade that their grouchy bird half dated a different version of Jade, she decided to follow her pre-retcon self’s footsteps and clumsily start a three-way thing with Dave and Karkat.
DAVE: ok if he broke up with you or whatever that was because of his dumb bird issues not my issues
DAVE: theres no way i would have done that to you
DAVE: my issues are totally different and probably way more serious
DAVE: i dont see anyone ordering him to master time travel or trying to pawn brittle welsh swords off on him do you
DAVE: nobody is telling him hes got to murder the incredible hulk
DAVE: did you tell him hes got to murder the incredible hulk jade
DAVE: no i think not
The Incredible Hulk is a very fitting metaphor or how Dave perceives Lord English—a big muscular green guy who he doesn’t care one bit about but is supposed to murder for some reason. It’s a longtime pattern for Homestuck characters to interest themselves in niche media rather than the mainstream works of their time period, so it makes sense that Dave would barely know a thing about the Avengers or give a damn about them beyond making fun of their cliches.
While Dave has mostly been annoyed with Grimbark Jade so far, he is absolutely FREAKED THE FUCK OUT when she even touches the Mayor. At long last, she’s finally managed to scare Dave, which for just a moment feels legitimately daunting.
And with that, it seems like Jade has finally found Dave’s weak spot and gotten him to do what she wanted…
… until Dave jumps off the roof to save the Mayor’s life, in what is inarguably the biggest act of heroism we’ve ever seen out of him so far. This guy is totally capable of being a hero when faced with things that he actually cares about, and he doesn’t even need his time travel powers! Although I bet he would have time traveled if circumstances somehow forced him to, his love for the Mayor is strong enough that a simple leap of faith does the job.
And just like that, Dave has escaped the wrath of Grimbark Jade. All he cares about now is keeping the Mayor safe, which is so much more important to him than defeating Lord English that it’s insulting to even compare the two.
Holy shit, Dave is a whole different person when he’s with the Mayor. He dumps every last ounce of his sweet gooey affection onto the Mayor, which is how he retains his usual deadpan demeanor with everyone else.
Aw, poor Grimbark Jade. What seemed for a moment like a brilliant sabotage backfired on her horribly and now she’s left alone with a bunch of brainless crocodiles.
Dave then gets a message from Dirk, which is unfortunately way too glitchy for him to read:
Dave and Dirk’s reunion is unfortunately cut short by glitches in the pre-retcon timeline. Dirk says “Wait, don’t go!” at the very end which is a rare moment of him losing his cool; Dave doesn’t even know who he’s talking to and thinks it’s Davesprite, which is another hypothetical reunion that it’s only logical the story cuts off because like I said earlier in this post, Davesprite has a longtime pattern of doing almost everything offscreen (which is something he has in common with Nepeta, now that I think of it).
I’m ending this post here. Not a lot of pages covered, but plenty of Strider character analysis to go around. See you next time as… you know what, screw it. Why should I pretend that my next post will be anything more than me finishing the last stretch of pages before I FINALLY get to John’s first conversation with Roxy?????
EDIT: Though the next post isn’t John’s first conversation with Roxy, I ended up saying a lot of things that I think are interesting in that post anyway.