In which the Travelers travel further than I ever expected and my desire for a Traveler Interlude is well and truly met.
I tried to make a cool pixel art drawing of the Simurgh for this post, but it turns out I have no clue how to draw all those wings in a way that looks good, especially at pixel scale and without having to bring in like twenty different shades of white/gray that each need to contrast not just with the other feathers but also with the similarly white body.
Our second Interlude Arc, or third if you count the latter half of Infestation as one, Migration takes a third approach to the point of view in these sections. All three Interlude Arcs (or Arc-like sections) are used to get to know a sizable group separate from the Undersiders in far more detail than otherwise possible, but where Sentinel passes the POV between members of that group as they go about their day as part of the group, and Infestation passes it between outsiders who meet members of the group one by one, Migration sticks to one member.
That sense of a stable POV character makes Migration feel a lot more “official”, in a sense, like a part of the story where Krouse is the main character rather than a brief examination of him like all the other Interludes and Interlude Arc chapters. Of course those are also part of the story, but their POV characters never felt main in the same way Migration made Krouse feel. More than ever, I can feel the thing about how Worm genuinely could have ended up with this group as its main cast, a feeling I never truly got from other potential main characters like Faultline’s Crew or Amy and Victoria even in their respective Interludes.
(Though Amy’s character arc remains one of the best.)
On top of the escape from Madison, Migration treated us to a big ol’ conflict of personality between Krouse and former Traveler Cody. I have to admit I grew rather weary of Cody as the Arc went on, which to be fair did serve to make me sympathize far more with Krouse, even to the point of being relatively okay with him ditching Cody for Accord to kill at the end.
Though it did feel a little anticlimactic that the conflict with the real Cody ended (for now? we never got confirmation that Accord successfully killed him) in a chapter where he didn’t actually appear in person, they did get a final battle in by proxy, so I’m not too miffed. Besides, the fact that he didn’t get to show up in that chapter could be a way of showing that at this point he’s just a nuisance to Krouse, one not worth confronting directly anymore, while also highlighting how Krouse doesn’t give him a chance to defend himself against the accusation of trying to murder Noelle.
Were there things Krouse could have handled better? Yes. But I’m still very much #TeamKrouse.
As for the other characters, I feel like Luke got the shortest straw (well, second shortest, after Chris) as far as characterization goes here, but then again, if he’s going to stay with the Undersiders after dealing with Noelle, he’ll have plenty of time for that in the future. In a sense it felt like he was the one who needed it most and the one who needed it least.
My slow pace these days may have hurt things a bit, especially with Cody (I suspect if I were to reread the Arc at a more normal reading pace, the conflict wouldn’t feel anywhere near as drawn out as it did), but I still very much enjoyed Migration. It was a very interesting look at a good backstory that also revealed new things about the biggest present threats.
The Arc title
For once, the reason for the title seems rather obvious. We’re following the Travelers as they’re forcibly migrated from one world to another.
Rollovers from Arc Thoughts: Monarch:
And finally, I think there’s a good chance we’ll finally learn what the Travelers’ deal is. Hell, if my theories on that are anywhere near right, that might even be another reason for the title.
Not yet, but we’re definitely building up to it, what with the massive secret and the Sundancer development. Roll over.
We’re getting closer, but damn, this is taking longer than I thought. Roll over.
We’ve got Noelle up next. This time we’ve got to get some answers. Roll over, for presumably the last time!
Roll o– no I’m kidding we finally got this one.
That innermost quote is from Arc Thoughts: Snare, talking about how they might be the topic of Prey. That’s how far this one has rolled.
It’s also possible we’ll hold off on this stuff until Arc 17, perhaps with the events of Arc 16 being what prompts a change of heart from the PRT’s side.
Arc 16 may also involve Victor a bit more. That could be involved in the PRT reconsidering?
Honestly, Victor has gone surprisingly ignored for a while, aside from some stuff he was helping out with in the background. Maybe he’ll come in handy against Noelle?
This one didn’t explicitly roll over, but I should keep it for Arc 18’s Arc Thoughts to review. I forgot all about this hypothesis, but who knows, maybe I was onto something.
And if I get more metaphorical and start grasping at straws for a second, maybe there’ll be something about the butterfly effect (Monarch -> monarch butterfly -> butterfly effect), perhaps with regards to Skitter fucking up Cauldron’s plans with her little wing flaps?
Sounds like fun. See you there!
This’ll have to wait.
This caught my eye, because while the butterfly effect wasn’t all that relevant to Monarch, it’s very important in Migration. Also Skitter did fuck up something about Cauldron’s plans back then, which is bound to come up eventually. Roll over, though perhaps further than just Arc 18. More likely Arc… 19 or 21 or something.
Predictions made before seeing the title:
Time to finally find out what the Nohelle is up with Noelle!
Yes, we did! Though not quite the way I was talking about.
I suspect Arc 17 will be a bit of a boss Arc, similar to Extermination, especially given the parallel between 7.12 and 16.13 — abrupt appearance of a new problem of air siren level scale, leading right into the next Arc (though Arc 7 did close off with an Interlude). There’s also the fact that Noelle’s problem was first introduced at the very end of Extermination, theorized to be connected to the Endbringers, in an Interlude which would serve as a segue into “Book 2” (ultimately I’d consider Sentinel part of Book 2 if I had to draw the line, even though that, too, is a bit of a segue) by giving us a closer look at some of the big bads of the “book”.
Obviously I was expecting Arc 18 in Arc 17’s place. But it’s worth noting that Arc 17 acted much like Interlude 8b in that it gives a closer look at Noelle’s situation before she acts as big bad. Hell, with Noelle functioning as one of the big antagonists of book 2 (yeah, I still think we’re in book 2, even after the Nine took up enough Arcs of it that you can argue there’s a book just for them), 8b’s position as a segue or teaser for book 2 is even stronger than before.
I feel like that makes it fairly clear how much of a threat Noelle seems set up to be. Tattletale seems to consider her an Endbringer-level threat, or near it, and the story structure seems to agree with her. And so the Arc looms ahead of me.
I have to wonder how much stronger Noelle’s power has grown since Cody.
Of course, it really doesn’t help anyone that the Undersiders, especially Taylor, are still recently injured and exhausted in several ways and there’s no healer in town.
Speaking of which, I think Taylor’s blindness is here to stay, at least for a good while. Maybe she’ll get that fixed before the end of the story, allowing her to properly describe the final threat, but for now, she’d better get used to it. It’s a good development towards her becoming more and more one with the swarm.
Actually, maybe she won’t have her own eyesight restored, but instead she manages to harness her ability to see through insectoid eyes? That really would be the next step in being “one with the swarm”, and it would let her see things without going back on a loss.
That’s probably not going to happen next Arc, though, unless Noelle makes it so she has to see through the insects’ eyes, or die.
Arc 17 took me by surprise so there’s a lot that needs to roll over.
Back on the topic of Noelle– oh fuck, a thought just occurred to me. What if this was what Cauldron wanted Coil to succeed at? Not his plans to take over Brockton Bay, but his supposed attempts to cure and/or tame Noelle?
Hmm. It would make sense if they believe she’s becoming an Endbringer and want to stop that. Roll over.
–as I was saying, I’m fairly stumped on what exactly is going on with her. I’ve suggested a few vague options before, such as Cauldron experiments (which might either mesh or clash with that theory from last paragraph, depending on their reasons), Endbringers being capable of making more of themselves even if the original three were never human, a power with a missing passenger… but none of them stand out as any stronger than wild mass guesses to me. Even the Endbringer one, which has some canon backing.
The way Noelle got her power is a strong point in favor of Cauldron being responsible for the Endbringers, whether on purpose or by accident.
I think Trickster believes he’s to blame for it somehow, but I’m unsure that he actually is.
He almost certainly is. Seriously, dude, half a dose? Of magic superpower mumbo jumbo juice? Even if the Simurgh fucked with things (let’s keep in mind that Oliver drank the same thing and seems fine even if his power is also passive and very strange), that was a bad idea.
Hm, what else… I know this Arc doesn’t take place over a long duration, since someone told me in an ask a while back that Arcs 16-19 take place over only four days. (I wouldn’t have let that through myself, but I trust Sharks’ decisions.)
Technically this was wrong. Arc 17 is the longest Arc by in-world duration due to the timeskip between Madison and Boston. But I was talking about the Noelle confrontation, so roll over.
Predictions after the title:
Interesting. Is it time for the remaining ~60% of the original population, or at least the Undersiders, to get the hell out of Brockton Bay? I suppose I did mention in 16.6 that “I don’t think Brockton Bay would be in great shape to do a rematch against Leviathan right now”, and Noelle does sound dangerous enough to qualify.
That was certainly a take on the title.
If this really is the case, we might have some conflict surrounding Taylor’s territory. She wouldn’t want to leave it behind, but maybe she’ll have to. At least if that happens, she won’t have to worry about post-Coil funding, though Tattletale’s recent and not-so-recent antics would probably have helped her out on that front.
Especially relevant after the bit about “books” above got me thinking about Taylor’s territory being one of the bigger throughlines of book 2. Roll over.
Predictions for Arc 18
Before the title:
A lot is unchanged and is covered by the rollovers above, so let’s focus on what has changed: I now know a lot more about Noelle’s physical and mental state, her power, her relationships within the Travelers and how much previous experience the Travelers have with the results of her powers.
Presumably we’re returning to Taylor’s perspective in Arc 18, and naturally that means she needs to be along for the ride, trying to stop Noelle’s rampage. But I think it’s very likely Krouse or Marissa (who has more firepower and would absolutely balk at having to use that on Noelle) that will have to actually end it, whether it’s by defeat or by calming her out of her berserker state somehow. If it is actually ended.
It seems very likely that there will be a mirror match in the Arc, where the Undersiders have to deal with copies of themselves. It’s a classic superhero trope that Wildbow has a great opportunity to dissect here.
(Interestingly, Bitch’s copy would very likely be the most harmless of the bunch, depending on what powerup is given to her power. Bitch needs dogs that are loyal to her to function fully. A Tattletale clone might also be fairly useless, but if enough smarts are retained she might be a force to be reckoned with.)
I wonder if Scion might show up, and if he does, whether that’s actually a good thing. He was established as immune to powers, though, so I guess Noelle probably can’t make an evil Scion or three.
But with Tattletale reaching out to the PRT to get the sirens blaring, we could see an influx of other powerful capes reacting similarly to an Endbringer situation, which could spectacularly backfire. If Legend, Alexandria or, worst of all, Eidolon show up, we might be in serious trouble.
Will Brockton Bay even be habitable after this? I suggested last Arc Thoughts that Migration could be about the Undersiders having to leave the city like everyone else after Noelle’s destruction, and while that’s not what that title was about, it’s still a thing that could happen. We’re kind of running out of characters in Brockton Bay at this point, what with the Undertravelers chasing away the competition.
If that happens, though, the actual exodus itself likely won’t be in Arc 18.
I don’t consider it a given that Noelle will necessarily be stopped in a way that brings her back to her senses. It’s very possible that this really is her becoming an Endbringer (making for a nice pattern with the end of book 1 showing what an Endbringer is and how the world reacts to them and the end of book 2 showing how an Endbringer might come to be), and if that’s the case, she might be unstoppable but have a point at which she retreats to recover like the others.
Where would she even retreat to? Into the ground?? Like, the crust, rather than the core like Behemoth?
There’s also the issue of most of the Travelers not being terribly happy with the Undersiders about the whole, y’know, killing Coil thing. I trust Krouse to have enough sense to prioritize stopping Noelle, but relations will be severely frayed between the teams and between the Travelers and Ballistic.
Alright, I think it’s about time I find out what the heck this Arc is called!
After the title:
Queen. Now that’s an interesting title coming immediately after a) Skitter the bug queen took out the Monarch and b) a threat was set loose whose power involves creating more threats. Another double meaning.
I wonder if it might not also refer to Tattletale. We’ve had several hints at her backstory in recent Arcs, and while Skitter was the one who fired the final shot, Tattletale very much put herself in charge. She’ll definitely have to fill the others in on what she Knows of Noelle — that should be interesting — with Ballistic along to fill in the gaps, but maybe somehow this situation ends up dragging up stuff about her along the way?
Arc 18 sounds like a beautiful clusterfuck and I’m so here for it. See you soon for Queen 8.1!