While I try to avoid reviewing the same comic more than once a month (it’s been an informal policy of mine for a while, though I’m not precisely good at keeping it), today’s xkcd caught my attention first thing this morning when I peruse the majority of my comics. At first I wasn’t sure why my subconscious was glomming to this comic; the subject matter didn’t particularly ring any bells, and the artwork was nothing spectacular. Instead, there seemed to be something… unfinished about the comic; it wouldn’t be until I left work that it dawned on me. The artwork wasn’t unfinished… it was that the man in the hat wasn’t the recurring characters Black Hat; he was someone new.
For those of you who haven’t read xkcd (or never bothered to get into it), one of the few recurring identifiable characters in the comic is Black Hat, a self-described “classhole” who enjoys tormenting the other characters, both psychologically and emotionally (and on occasion, physically). He also gets away with it; outside of his encounters with the dark-haired girl who had stolen his hat, I can’t really think of anytime someone has gotten the better of him. (Besides, he filled the Capitol rotunda with plastic pit-balls; that’s pretty much checkmate in my book.) Black Hat is unrepentant in his actions and his blunt sardonicism, which is no doubt part of the reason why he’s a fan favorite: while people may hate assholes in real life, reading about one who specifically targets idiots undoubtedly leaves fans nodding to themselves and agreeing with what was said, even if they’d not stoop to that level in reality.
It is the dialogue that set this character apart from his sardonic brother. I honestly cannot envision Black Hat ever asking someone if they would look for answers outside of Science. If anything, Black Hat would punch holes into the illogic fallacies inherent in most spiritual beliefs, while White Hat seems to be asking his walking companion if he’s looked to God (or perhaps some other form of non-divine Spirituality) for answers. The answer is pure Randall Monroe; his stick-figure proxy speaks of how science is not only responsible for overcoming his illness, but provided him with the weapons required to make his own reality, instead of bowing down to the ineffability of fate. In doing so, Monroe undoubtedly answers the questions fans may have asked concerning his own real-life brush with a family illness.