We're here! We've made it at last to the final installment of my Homestuck archive binge. I've finished Acts 1 through 5, and now only Act 6 remains to be read. How hard could it be?
- The Homestuck wiki: “Act 6 of Homestuck is divided into six sub-acts and is by far the longest act.”
- is by far the longest act
- the longest
- Nose to the grindstone, eyes on the prize… We meet a new set of kids in a whole new reality. The story sort of resets to the beginning, with John preparing to play Sburb, except that John is now Jane and has a slightly different list of ironic interests.
- The new kids are Jane, Jake, Dirk, and Roxy. They have a lot of character details in common with the first set of kids, but mixed up and reassigned. Hussie teases the question of whether they’re the first group’s descendents, or forebears, or reshuffled versions in an alternate reality, or a combination of the above. Judging from the fansites I just checked to make sure I had the names right, a fair number of readers are still confused.
- Finally, thousands of pages in, two characters are given the special, heretofore undreamt-of ability to talk to each other without using some kind of electronic medium. The Homestuck universe is the most socially awkward universe since wherever it was Scott Pilgrim lived.
- The original kids and trolls are still alive. Or, at least, they’re up and about. I have absolutely no idea who’s dead anymore, but most of the gang seems to be walking around. John and Jade are on a flying ship in space, everyone else is on like a big flying rock or something (Hussie doesn’t always try so hard on backgrounds), and they’re all headed for the new universe where the new kids live. Until then, they mostly play video games, because of course, and kvetch.
- Also, some of the characters who are absolutely 100 percent dead are still participating in the action as ghosts, off in the ghost realms, so nobody’s really gone.
- I can’t keep all these characters straight anymore. I can see this material being a lot of fun when thousands of fans were reading it together and scrambling online to dissect each update and working in unison to make it make sense, but reading it all by my lonesome is a slog.
- Have I mentioned that the characters can IM each other through time? Because now entire scenes consist of characters having long conversations with past and future iterations of themselves. They’re all jerks, it’s kind of entertaining.
- “The Land of Crypts and Helium” is another good land name.
- Everybody just stop playing this universe-destroying video game! It’s not even that fun! Gah!
- We’re drifting away from the main action for a while to follow a plot thread about a dystopian America created by reality TV star Guy Fieri taking over the government. That’s eerily close to the way it went down, Aaron Hussie of 2012.
- Crap, I’m only up to 2012.
- Now we cut to a prison-escape side story cum extended callback to the very first MS Paint Adventures comic, Jailbreak. This has become the central theme of my binge-read, but only now do I fully realize that Homestuck is only sporadically about itself.
- I admit it: I laugh when the characters draw shippy fan art of each other. This comic is so nerdy.
- You know what Homestuck needs about now? Some new characters belonging to an entirely new species, the life cycle and culture of which can be described over dozens and dozens of updates! So here are the Cherubs. They look like the gross puppet from the Saw movies, but green.
- Wait, why are there dragons? I’ve completely lost track of why there are dragons.
- Hey, another minigame! These are cute and kind of charmingly pointless. Maybe this whole comic would be better as a visual novel/dating sim game. Or…wait…is it a visual novel? Have I been tricked into playing a visual novel for weeks and weeks on end? Goddamn it.
- I seriously do not care who wins in this interaction between a troll clown and a green puppet serial killer. Those are only the two worst things ever.
- I’m into Act 6, Part 5. Jake and Dirk are dating now, but they haven’t made out since the time Dirk’s head was cut off and Jake had to give him the kiss of life. In fact, several characters seem to have hooked up off-panel and then jumped straight to late-relationship drama. I am not here for drama, webcomics. I am here for makeouts. Why do webcomics keep being confused on this point?
- Speaking of dude makeouts, one of the things I enjoy about Homestuck is how casually queer it is. Lots of characters are in same-sex relationships and very little fuss is made of it. It saves time when a comic ships itself.
- Act 6, Act 5, Act 2. Jane absorbs the juju of the Cherubs, and she and her friends transform into magical insane candy elves. This is probably a bad development for some reason, but after all the emo relationship drama it’s refreshing, plus it turns the site hot pink.
- Sadly, Hussie tires of this. “Let us never speak of ACT 6 ACT 5 ACT 2 again.”
- Those are some well-drawn explosions.
- I like the split-screen navigation setup the comic is using for the current sequence. I don’t know what’s happening in like half the screens, but it looks cool and it’s a clever use of webcomic space.
- Act 6, Intermission 5. Damn, that’s a lot of intermissions. Have I mentioned this comic consists mostly of tangents?
- Correction: this is actually Act 6, Intermission 5, Intermission 1. The intermissions now have intermissions. You have to end this comic someday, Andrew Hussie. Specifically, 2016.
- To win his version of the Sburb game (remember, the plot is about trying to win Sburb), the evil Cherub guy plays pool with planets. I’m only noting this because it reminds me of a Red Dwarf episode and now I wish I was binge-watching Red Dwarf.
- Okay, watching Red Dwarf now. I’m so glad I held on to all my VHS tapes from high school, and also a VCR.
- Late in the game, the comic has decided that the Problem Sleuth-style guys, whose deal I’ve never really figured out, are another species, alternately called Leprechuans, Elves, or Gnomes. They have acquired a complex relationship system based on Lucky Charms shapes. I grudgingly enjoy how Hussie is now just deliberately over-complicating everything for lols.
- My old VHS tapes are so boss. I’ve got “Pinky and the Brain” cartoons on here too. Hey, I could be a Homestuck character. My ironic preoccupations could be outdated entertainment technology, manga, and reading Homestuck. I should get some candy-corn horns and…no! Nooooo! Fight it! Fight the urge!
- After all this time, John remains a tractable fellow. Evil troll queens get him to go along with so much bullshit.
- John tractably sticks his arm into a sort of magical synecdoche of Homestuck that the ghost trolls find while hunting for treasure, which is the most straightforward thing that’s happened for hundreds of pages. It causes a him to flash back through the entire comic so far, and man, some batcrap stuff went on.
- “You are now Spades Slick. It appears that you will be the focus of an exciting new subplot. That is, if everyone's ok with that.” You know nobody is cool with that, Hussie. I don’t even remember who Spades Slick is.
- The evil Cherub guy takes over the comic and recaps the plot, mockingly. “I DREW MY PUPPET. AND I DREW HIS ROOM. AND THAT'S IT. NOW ALL I HAVE TO DO IS MOVE HIM AROUND THE ROOM AND MAKE HIM DO MEANINGLESS THINGS FOR ‘LAUGHS.’ BUT THE REALLY FUNNY THING IS? THE LAUGHTER IS MOSTLY COMING FROM ME. IT IS HAPPENING AT YOUR EXPENSE!” I sense a note of autobiography here.
- Rose and Jane are evil now. They got possessed by a bad guy. I think. People are powering up to planet-shatteringly extreme forms like it’s hipster nerd Dragonball.
- Anyway, all the kids and trolls have a giant battle as a run-up to the even more giant battle against their bajillion final bosses, following the superhero/anime rule that the good guys have to fight each other before they can team up. A lot of people get killed or partly killed and everybody’s planet blows up, and John blips back from being unstuck in time to find the universe in a complete mess. Stupid teens with their stupid video game.
- Never mind, they’re going to go back in time and fix it and make everybody less dead again. It’s done more interestingly than the previous retcons. Every time Homestuck repeats a concept, it does a better job of it, but man does it keep repeating.
- Oh my gosh, there’s a segment done in claymation. That’s legitimately awesome.
- What happens in the claymation segment? A partial plot description from the Homestuck wiki: “As [Dirk] prepares to banish Caliborn's soul, Caliborn stands up as well, intending to intercept his attack. However, he is distracted by some robotic horses that suddenly appear. They are followed closely by Arquiusprite, much to everyone's surprise. He restrains Caliborn, and Dirk rips out Caliborn's soul, also catching Arquiusprite and half of Gamzee's corpse in the crossfire (the other half remains on the ground). Since Dirk doesn’t have the strength he needed to destroy Caliborn's soul, instead he seals the three souls inside of Lil Cal, and then Roxy banishes the puppet into the void.” This is just an excerpt, of course. The full situation is far more complicated.
- There’s also a cute animated montage about the characters’ shippy day-to-day lives. Watching it clued me in on something I really should have noticed some ten thousand pages back: Hussie periodically uses work from other artists, the kind of super-fanart that’s better-looking than the original material. More and more guest art has worked its way into the comic over time, and this particular sequence is 100% non-Hussie. Which is cool, but credit the artists a little more prominently, could you? I had to go looking for the “Art Credits” page on the site to find out who drew all this stuff.
- By the way, guest artists: nice work.
- Right now my favorite characters are the two dead trolls who were being ghost pirates for a while before they gave up on the whole plot and just went off together to do makeouts in the afterlife. They strike me as eminently sensible. It bummed me when one of the living characters chewed them out for being slackers and ruined their whole buzz. (The living character was an alternate-universe version of one of the dead characters, because nothing is simple in this comic.) When I’m dead, nobody had better try riding my ass. That’s when I finally get to catch up on my reading.
- Final battle! A bunch of guys fight a bunch of other guys in a long animated sequence. It’s pretty fun, but pales beside the next and final installment…
- Act 7 consists of a single spectacular piece of animation depicting the creation of the new universe that was the original motive for playing this stupid confusing reality-warping video game. The nine-minute sequence, a combination of trippy psychedelia and pitch-perfect character animation, was created by animators Angela Sham, Ani Roschier, Jeffrey Lai. It’s the most impressive fan animation I’ve seen since the Daikon IV intro in 1983 (don’t look at me like that; YouTube it), and the nerds who made that thing went on to be Studio Gainax.
It’s drawn and animated with an old-school anime look, which fits the material, since the action makes as much sense as a badly-translated anime from the 1980s. I’ve now read the entire run of Homestuck and I took notes the whole time, and I only kind of know why there are rings in a volcano and a clock and a magic house and a can city and a giant glowing galactic frog.
Man, does it look pretty, though.
- There’s a little epilogue after Act 7. It’s cute.
And I’ve done it! I’ve conquered Homestuck! I stand atop the summit, gazing out across the checkerboard landscape below, silent upon a cosmic lilypad. It’s a comic that changes its mind constantly about what it is and what it’s trying to do. It’s got too many heroes, too many villains, too many wacky in-jokes, too much worldbuilding, even too many worlds. But you can’t say it isn’t ambitious.
Since the end of Homestuck, Andrew Hussie has been working on Hiveswap, a video game set in the Homestuck universe, the Kickstarter campaign for which raked in over two million dollars. Given Hussie’s fascination with interactive storytelling and mixed media, it’s not surprising that he’s moving into video game design. Meanwhile, as with so many pop-culture phenomena, Homestuck itself is less impressive than the sprawling fandom it spawned. People saw something in this bonkers project, lord bless them, and they ran with it.
Someone bring me a cold compress. I must ponder which webcomic to binge next.