Last month I predicted that Miss Hodge would function within the pages of Morning Glories not just as an adult ally for the kids but also as some narrative glue. Here in Issue 13 that seems to be precisely what’s happening, as Miss Hodge kicks off the grand escape plan she has for herself and Casey. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Issue 13 of Morning Glories is a delicious bit of anticipation for what’s next, where all of the paths of the arc are laid out and in true horror fashion the kids are split up. In a literal sense they’re split up because of a team building activity called Woodrun, which would appear to be exactly what it sounds like: a run through the woods of Morning Glory Academy. But in a less literal fashion, we’re also witnessing some dramatics splits in the connections these kids have, particularly between Casey and Hunter, the latter of whom is taking Casey’s proclamation that they should just be friends a bit hard. That rejection is hurting Hunter more than anything else he’s experienced in the series and causes him to lash out in a way that’s completely at odds with who he is as a character. In the new documentary Miss Representation, about the effects media has on the choices girls make for their adulthood, a large section is devoted to the fact that sexist rhetoric and imagery doesn’t just hurt women, it hurts men as well, who are often caused to be emotionally stunted because of the emphasis society places on men not showing emotion. After running away from Casey in the wake of her rejection of him, Hunter lashes out at the first vulnerable target that presents itself because he doesn’t know how else to respond. That target is Zoe, who gets treated to an ugly bout of misogynist slut-shaming from Hunter:
Superficially that may seem like some mean-spirited dialogue from Nick Spencer, and people who don’t get the point of the gender parity activism that sites like ours have been utilizing in the face of DC’s PR woes may even latch onto it as hypocrisy. But what Spencer is getting at is brilliantly executed, a way of illustrating how even someone as nominally well-balanced and respectful as Hunter is affected by anti-women rhetoric and in his darkest moments he falls prey to it. As a result, we immediately see how hurt he truly is as he turns into a person he isn’t, emphasized all the more by Joe Eisma’s consistently excellent work at expressions. Reeling from all that hurt and anguish, Hunter avoids Casey when she comes calling for him in the crowds of students gathering for the ominous Woodrun. The path to the issue’s fractured ending could have come across as contrived but because of Spencer’s patient build up and deft hand at characterization, we instead land at the inevitable split up in a wholly organic and natural way. Worse for Casey is the fact that because of her actions with Hunter, she’s left partnered up with Ike instead, who first attempts to tell her something and then just defaults to his selfish prick mode instead when she tunes him out.
The ending of the issue is suitably twisty and greatly ups the ante for whatever’s next. Less patient readers may have been troubled by the round of character profiles we got before this arc but given the direction the plot looks to be headed towards, those will likely only become more important. For Casey in particular, this arc looks like it will be a true test of her leadership and there are bound to be deep repercussions for the way she’s treated Hunter and the sometimes close minded way she pushes the others around. Spencer even begins the issue with a sequence with her and her father that offers some insight into why she is the way she is. But more than anything, this arc should ably prove why Spencer is worth trusting when it comes to plotting, regardless of how much certain issues may seem like the spinning of wheels. Perhaps more than any other comic out there right now, Morning Glories continues to be scripted and illustrated like the best of television and it similarly counts on your patience and attention. And like the best television series, it’d be silly to count out its slow moments, especially when issues like this one are always right around the corner.