(From The Order of the Stick. Click for full-sized dynamic entry.)
For the past couple months-plus Homestuck has been the main thing distracting me from getting any work done on the book or other things that might actually be productive… so naturally my triumphant return to webcomics posts involves OOTS.
When Rich Burlew signaled that anyone tired of the constant internal strife between Durkon and his vampiric doppelganger “would be in for a rough 2015”, I let my reading of OOTS come to a stop. Not because that struggle was bad per se, though it certainly was dominating the early comics of the sixth book and seemed clunkily-written and cringe-inducing at times, but because of the same problem I had with Gunnerkrigg Court: I could not handle the high drama and emotional torque of the plotline. Rich seems to have made a tradition of ramping up OOTS‘ Cerebus Syndrome even more than it already was on a regular basis; when Haley and V dropped an oblique reference to it back in Book 2 it sparked surprise on Websnark, the site that gave birth to the term, because OOTS supposedly had never gone through it, but an honest accounting of the strip’s drama levels shows that it had indeed gone through it as early as the 43rd comic – which didn’t stop it from going through it “for real” at the end of the book with the revelation of the gate plotline. Book 5’s length seems to be partly Rich’s way of signalling that the plot really was getting down to business at this point in a way it hadn’t even in Book 3 (in retrospect OOTS‘ Golden Age), but the Durkula plotline seemed to mark the point at which OOTS did what once was unthinkable, the thing that once prevented Websnark from declaring it to have gone down the path of Cerebus Syndrome: the point where OOTS‘ dramatic aspects began to push out its comedic ones.
What I didn’t anticipate was that Durkon’s plot would be the very first proper plot point in Book 6, and it would only take most of 2015 to get to this point because of Rich’s excruciatingly slow update schedule of late, coupled with a side-plot tying up Haley’s loose end with the Thieves’ Guild. Now barely 50 strips into the book, Hel has achieved the goal she hijacked Durkon’s body for – and Roy has finally figured out how badly he’s been played.
Although Rich paid a lot more attention to the advent of the 1000th strip than the multiples of 100 that passed in the last book, the real impact is still to come. There is, of course, no way Rich will allow the vote to go as it stands and have the world be destroyed when he’s less than half the first book’s length into the sixth. But the main other way for the plot to be resolved – for Roy (and possibly a dramatic entrance from Belkar) to finish Durkon off – also seems like it’s happening a little early in the entire plotline of the series, let alone the book, especially when the end of Book 5 and all of Book 6 so far have given the impression Durkon’s internal struggle would be the main underlying plotline of the book (in fact, there’s not much sense so far of where the plot will go from here, assuming there’s still at least one more book after this). Moreover, you get the sense Durkon’s plot isn’t over either; he had to have some idea that by dragging Roy here he’d tip him off to what his true nature was, and that Roy wouldn’t just stand by and let them carry out their plot. If you look in the last panel, he and Hel are both smirking as Roy swoops down into the chamber, giving the sense that Roy taking on Durkon was part of their plan all along. Perhaps they figure there’s no way Roy (and maybe even Roy and Belkar together) are a match for a high-level spellcaster with vampiric powers (if V were in the room with them it might be another matter) – indeed there’s a disturbingly-good chance that now is when Belkar’s long-awaited death prophecy kicks in (which is fitting considering the last time it was teased, it ended in the resolution of Durkon‘s death prophecy that started this whole mess to begin with). Or more likely, they figure Roy’s little escapade will effectively swing the vote in their favor anyway because of some obscure violation of the rules of this little convocation.
Thinking about it, I almost think the most likely way for this to be resolved (other than Hel being wrong about how the demigods vote) is for the real Durkon to wrench control back of his body at a critical moment – perhaps spurred on by Roy realizing his plight at some point and giving him some encouraging words – and nullifying Hel’s vote by switching his allegiance back to Thor at least long enough for the result to be made official (although given what’s been hinted before I’m not sure that’s even possible). This is especially the case when one considers the Order’s divine casting situation; Durkula roped Roy into this plot to begin with by noting that the team would need more divine power than he could provide in his vampirized state, and no matter what else for them to simply lose Durkon right now would probably make them too weak at the worst possible moment. While bringing some of the assembled clerics with them to Kraagor’s Gate is an option (one Roy has already made some progress on), a more likely solution is for Roy to accomplish what he thought he was coming here for to begin with: resurrecting Durkon. Or perhaps the Durkula plotline isn’t over after all, considering the other prophecy hanging over his head from On the Origin of PCs (now available in PDF form!)
Whatever the case, I think I’m back to reading OOTS on a regular basis, at least through the next strip and the resolution of this cliffhanger.