Friday, July 13, 2012

All in the Interpretation

Man, that was a MISERABLE week.  I survived, kind of and am back.

To promptly poke at another webcomic reviewer.  I've been following Tangents for a long time now, typically in search of new and interesting comics.  Typically, if he (he?) enjoys the comic, I probably do as well, with some notable exceptions (he really doesn't like Sluggy Freelance much).  One of my issues though, is when it comes to interpreting comics or short story arcs within them.

Specifically, a short comment (a Secant, love the math reference there) he did a couple weeks ago on one of the best comics out there, Gunnerkrigg Court.  Specifically the chapter called Divine, which is a chapter that is a bit strange, and one that deserves some sort of comment (and I skipped it because I had other things to do, sorry kiddies).

Anyway, it's a Zimmy story, who is a secondary character that is very odd in the long run, so the story is a bit odd.  Antimony has fallen ill, unconscious even, and Zimmy has come to help.  She rumages around Annie's dreams for a bit, punches the problem and calls Annie's dad a jerk.  The day is saved and hooray.

Okay, it's pretty simple, but there's a lot of themes going on here.  Specifically masks, a LOT of masks.  Antimony is constantly projected wearing or holding masks.  She's always hidden her true feelings, from the very first time she appeared, to when she received a mysterious call from her father.  In fact, the point is made she makes a concerted effort to hide her emotions and feelings whenever possible.  Breaking that mask woke her up so I suspect we'll see a much more different character from now on, especially given the comment the author leaves early in the next chapter.

The mask hides what she truly thinks about her dad, her desire to go back to the forest to meet the guy she likes, and the fact that she's been copying her best friend's homework for a couple years now.  Breaking the mask came by Zimmy saying something to get her riled up, specifically that her dad was a jerk.  At the end, Kat gives her some makeup and Annie says she'll put it on later, another mask that she really doesn't need anymore.

This is actually a pretty interesting character study on Antimony, something that if you had been reading the comic regularly would have been apparent at this point, and if you still didn't catch it, this would make it quite clear.  Ah, but it gets better, because it introduces a new element into the mix, specifically Kat, who has also been wearing a couple masks.  The first is pretty obvious, as Zimmy points it out that she's been trying to remind people that she's a girl, probably because she's beginning to question her own sexuality in some way.  The removal of that mask (in this case, a hairband) may not stick as strongly as removing Annie's, but it's just as important.

The real mask though?  Well, this is apparently how Zimmy sees her.  That's an image that would make H.R. Geiger proud.  What does it mean though?  Lots there to dig through, of course, but I think it connects back to Robot and the other machines of the Court referring to Kat as an angel, and while creepy, I can see a kind of angelic vibe behind the design.  It also brings up the question of how human Kat actually is.  Readers know Antimony is part fire spirit, could it be Kat is part machine?  Or perhaps, in a strange way, ALL machine?  Her father is a brilliant engineer, her mother deeply connected to the spirit world, perhaps they worked together to create a daughter they couldn't have otherwise.  It would explain a great deal about Kat, though not everything, and would make her and Annie's relationship much more meaningful in the overall story of the Court and how it was separated from the Forest.  Perhaps these two, each with affinities with one side or the other, are meant to bring them both back together.

But then, I'm often terrible at predicting where a comic will go.  Godawful in fact.  The thing is, Tangent doesn't focus on any of this.  Sure, he comments on the makeup/mask thing, briefly, but doesn't get to the point that the entire chapter is about the mask.  No, he focuses on the illness that started this whole thing.  I admit, it is very strange, and we're told little as to what caused it, only that it is, perhaps, connected to her father.  Personally, I think it has less to do with what her father did, than what Antimony feels her father did (aka:  she did it to herself), but there is no clear answer.  Tangent focuses on the fact that it's not answered, or even hinted at the source.  That's not the point of the chapter though, the point is the masks, the characters, and how they present themselves.  What caused the illness may never be properly revealed, though I suspect it will be, the point was simply to get readers to learn more about what was going on inside the main character in a way that was interesting and revealing, and to add another layer of mystery to the table.

Why do we see it so differently?  Not sure on that, I suspect Tangent reads a great many more comics than I do, and tries to keep up a writing pace I can't match at this time.  It's also possible that my amateur writing sense started tingling as I read the chapter, and I went back and read it again so I could better rattle off my thoughts on it.  I don't know Tangent's background, so perhaps he doesn't have the same affinity for this kind of thing, or perhaps he's being too literal in wanting answers now rather than waiting and seeing how the questions change the direction of the comic.  Patience is the hardest thing to learn when reading a webcomic, so that might be part of the issue as well.  I don't know, what I do know is, I do agree it's a middle chapter, resolving a few old problems, and creating new questions to be answered without being answers itself.  The entire book has, so far, been about transition, and this is another piece of that transition.  An important one, I suspect, and one that will be felt for the rest of the comic.

Well, enough of that rambling.  Until next time kiddies.

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