Secants

Filed in Webcomic review

I must admit that Thursday’s El Goonish Shive had me snickering. I’m sure we’ve all heard that tired old axiom of “kids shouldn’t drink coffee because it’ll stunt their growth.” It’s a favorite saying by coffee-greedy parents unwilling to share the dark elixer of life. So when a bleary-eyed Grace asked for a cup before her first day of school, I was expecting Mr. Verres’s traditional response.

At which point Grace points out that she’s an 18-year-old shapeshifter. It’s a moot point, and one that Mr. Verres readily accepts. Cute, but that’s not what’s snicker-worthy. No, it’s what happens when Tedd shows up, equally-bleary-eyed and also requesting coffee… and gets turned down with the same tired axiom. Tedd’s response, “You’re barely taller than me,” only gets his dad to extoll his son to drink lots of milk. Now that was the icing on the cake, though I kind of doubt even an extra gallon of milk a day would help Tedd grow taller….

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I’m going to be honest here. Pastel Defender Heliotrope deserves another full tangent from me, not just a Secant. But seeing that the story has maybe a chapter to go before it ends, I figured I’d wait on that. Jennifer Diane Reitz has a tradition of creating comics that have multiple levels of meaning; her classic story Unicorn Jelly is perhaps one of the greatest completed works on the web to date. The latest twists for PDH however are truly fascinating. I mean… what does it mean to be alive? What is existence? What shapes a person’s essence, their soul? And if you took that essence… their memories and thoughts and behaviors, and moved them into another body, would they still be who they were? Or would they be someone different?

Perhaps one of the greatest things a writer can do is create a work of art that makes people think and consider these hard questions. Far too often webcomics tend to go for the quick joke or storylines that border on the cliche. In that, they’re not much different than most literature, but because of their graphic format they’re not looked upon seriously. PDH is one of the few comics out there that transcend their medium. It isn’t a comic. It is a work of literature that easily could be taught in a forward-thinking college class, examining levels of meaning that perhaps even Reitz hasn’t considered yet.