(originally drafted 5/20/2016)

Terezi: Investigate by Alexandra "Lexxy" Douglass

My review of creator Andrew Hussie’s pseudo-interactive adventure is somewhat timely, as the webcomic/creation myth just concluded on 4/13 (a meaningful date, in the story) after seven years of fairly regular updates. I’m choosing Homestuck to inaugurate my Spotlight review series because, no matter how many times I revisit it, I always find new themes or accomplishments that I would like to see reflected in my own works.

The elevator pitch is “At the end of the world, four kids play a game designed to birth a new universe.” If I didn’t already know how the story pans out, that setup would scare me. It’s an embarrassing pitfall of the adventure genre to write young characters as if they’re just small versions of adults, but Hussie takes great care to portray his protagonists as both tragically and heroically youthful, with all the heart and heartbreak that entails.

I was tempted to describe them as ‘utterly human’ to characterize how their relationships, reactions, and insecurities are endlessly relatable, but that description wouldn’t do justice for the comic’s expansive cast of alien adolescents (namely the trolls, such as the one pictured). While the two races initially seem poised for conflict, the story of Homestuck pushes them to a begrudging reconciliation that shows they aren’t so different after all. It’s a classic formula, but I think it works exceptionally well in this context because it’s only the backdrop for Homestuck‘s central conflict rather than the conflict itself. I’m sure it would have been so much easier to write ‘just’ a story about how people’s differences pit them against one another, or ‘just’ a story about a supernatural video game that summons Armageddon… but Hussie doesn’t make us choose. Instead, we get the stunning grandeur of apocalypse juxtaposed against very real and personal themes about coming-of-age.

It almost goes without saying that Homestuck‘s content is completely fantastical. Rubbing elbows with magical rings, giant monsters, and clones sent through time, Hussie’s tour de force offers only self-referential- and meta-humor as a reprieve from its engrossing canon. As far as fictional rules go, it takes everything seriously but itself. The creator’s unapologetic approach is one of his selling points, in my opinion: seeing gravity and levity crash together so often and so unceremoniously made the story much more believable for me.

Because life’s like that a lot, I think. We rarely know the complete significance of any single choice or event in the present; the meaning is always something we have to piece together for ourselves after the fact. As a result, I find the most compelling dramas are the ones that don’t commit any special effort to selling how heavy and purposeful they are. If the conflicts are meaningful, we’ll feel their weight even without being told to. This concept becomes real as the kids’ goofy hijinks metamorphose into decisive acts and they increasingly understand their roles at the end of time itself.

An extra treat for anyone expecting a standard picture-per-page format is that Hussie has really elevated the genre through the use of video and flash segments, incorporating animation, music, and interactivity in ways that redefined the boundaries for what a webcomic can be. I don’t believe there’s a comparable work that can challenge Homestuck‘s soundtrack, for starters. In fact, I don’t even believe a comparable work will exist for some time.

If you plan on jumping in, be prepared for a lot of silliness. After all, kids will be kids. Find it at MS Paint Adventures . com.

Published by Matthew Phillips