The cliffhanger endings to your favorite TV shows may be a few months off yet, but in comics one season finale is on the verge of blowing Image Comics "Morning Glories" wide open.
With their most recent issues, writer Nick Spencer and artist Joe Eisma have started to turn mystery to revelation to a greater extent than before in the long-running sci-fi/spiritual/mystery/teen drama. From the machinations of Truants rogue member Irina to the surprising death of one young cast member, the action is lining up as the book landed at the conclusion of its first "Season" of stories with the recent issue #25.
And with that, CBR's ongoing look behind the scenes of the series – AKA MORNING GLORY DAYS – kicks it into high gear. This week, Spencer preps readers for this week's Season 2 kickoff #26 by explaining the whys and wherefores of the full timeline set out in issue #25. Below, the writer explains why one key fact about Abraham had to be held off stage just yet, what's up with Irina's mystic floating, how the death of Jun's twin will impact his story moving forward, what powers Hunter has over time travel, why Ike is totally flipping out and much more. Read on, and then check out the new $1.00 installment of the series in stores now!
CBR News: I've been thinking about the best place to start in talking about the finale and the end of Season 1 in general, and I wanted to know first what your process was for figuring out how all the pieces would fit together. The middle of this issue repurposes a bunch of the images we've seen over these 25 issues and lays them in an order. Did you have that all assembled in your head going in?
Nick Spencer: This was pretty easy for me. I've never written out a timeline for the book or anything like that. I've never put anything to paper with years and dates, and in 25 issues I only flubbed once by a year, and practically nobody caught that. So I've been doing pretty good. But if felt to me certainly like we had introduced all these story bits at different times in a different order, and when I started thinking about what the best way to make this issue as big as possible – the best way to make it really feel like a season ender – would be, the logical thing to do it seemed was to show the timeline that led us to this point. I wanted to show it chronologically and a little more comprehensively where we filled in a couple of the blanks here – particularly in terms of what happened to Abraham's camp and the planning of the rescue attempt we saw at the beginning of #1.
It felt to me like we'd spun [the kids] around and spun them around for 24 issues, and we'd hinted at all these things in a very scattershot way. So it felt to me that the strongest possible opening for #25 would be to firm these things up and put them in the right order. We had to show them in a way where hopefully most folks could look at them and see how each one led to the next, how Irina's attempt to kill the Headmaster led to Abraham's camp being burned which then led to the Glories being admitted to the school and brought there as Abraham was brought there. Then we had the Truants failed attempt to rescue him and how that all played into the story we've been telling. I wanted to give a nice, comprehensive overview to get us rolling.
It's interesting to hear you talk about the dominos falling, because I've been reading George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice And Fire" just a few hundred pages ahead of where "Game of Thrones" is at as a TV show, and it's become clear reading that how the whole war that rages through all those books started with a simple task: Ned Stark sends some men out after the Mountain Who Rides. All the other messed up craziness stems from that. I feel like "Morning Glories" has a similar moment in that this issue shows us how Irina's attempt on the Headmaster was the spark that lit the fire of this giant battle. The forces at play have been around for hundreds of years, but this issue shows how Irina is the x-factor that really strikes out on her own and makes giant waves. When did you realize she'd be so critical for the whole story?
Irina was a pretty early component in the book. She wasn't one of the first ideas or like a first day idea, but as we got into the book early on, I was setting pieces up for her throughout the first arc. It was certainly firmed up by the time I wrote issue #4, which is the first reference to her. Initially, I really liked the idea of there being this student who had escaped and was out in the woods killing guards and attacking the Academy. It let me do a sort of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys story within this. Her importance from there sort of grew. The logical thing was to make her one of Abraham's kids and tie her in with that story.
She becomes a change agent. She upsets the status quo for basically everyone in the series with what she attempts at the beginning of this issue. Everyone's trajectory is altered dramatically by her actions, and she's now a fundamental part of the book. She's a fun one to have in the mix because she obviously has certain answers to questions that a lot of the other kids don't. She's a little ahead in that sense, and she's struggling with questions that the other kids don't actually have yet. In some ways, she's a bit of foreshadowing in and of herself.
So this was definitely a process in terms of realizing how important she was to the story, and it grew over time.
Let's talk about some of the other Truants. We get this scene in flashback that takes place in what I like to call "the warehouse where the Ark of the Covenant is kept." [Laughter] But the scene mirrors the one from the first arc where the Glories met to plan an escape, and a lot of the players in the Truant gang match the roles of the Glories. But we've also got this kid Brendan who just seems to be tagging along. What's he doing there, and what's his role in the story of Season 2?
One of the fun things about being very near the end of this very long story of Woodrun and the Truants and the first arc of Season 2 is that once this is over, the first order of business will be to spend some time with the Truants individually and to get to know them a little better. They've had a tough road in the sense that we haven't gotten to spend a load of time with them yet. We don't know them all that well – certainly not as well as we know the Glories. So to get to do those spotlight issues on these kids in the same way we did with the Glories is something I'm looking forward to. The second arc of the book is still pretty much my favorite, so to get to write those kinds of stories again is something I'm really looking forward to.
And we will find out a lot more about Brendan at that point.
And to bring the conversation back to the "Lost" comparisons, do you ever get that Nikki and Paulo itch to just pull a "normal" student out of the school and focus on them so we have some perspective on what all the craziness of the series is really like?
Yeah. I mean, generally how we've handled it is that we've certainly interacted with other kids at the Academy. We usually just kill them, though. [Laughter] I'm certainly looking forward to getting back to a point where we can have some of that interaction, but this time without killing them. The one thing I'll say about Season 2 is that we've been out in the woods for so long now doing time travel craziness that one of the really challenging, scary and exciting things in Season 2 is getting back to the core premise of the book. That is that these kids are trapped in a boarding school. A lot of the Season 2 stuff and the Season 3 stuff is very much in that setting. It'll be fun to get back to that dynamic, and it will afford us a lot of opportunities to interact with the student body at large.
I haven't written a Nikki and Paulo yet, but this is certainly not the last group of kids we're going to see in the book. That's not to say that the next batch of kids will be like the Truants in that the Truants, as folks can tell, are almost main cast members. They're slowly but surely integrating into the main cast. That may not happen again, but we'll certainly get to know more kids.
The last big reveal on the Truant front for this issue is floating magical mediating Irina. I think at this point we've learned well that a bunch of the kids in the series have powers of some kind, but what can we draw from her floating here? I mean, we've got to assume she has some reason for going rogue in this.
Right. Well, people sort of called me on this one because I've been fairly emphatic that this book wasn't a traditional super powers book. Particularly in the early days when we were in the first and second arc, I always got the feeling that there was an expectation for the book that at some point the mysteries would be revealed, and one kid would find out he's a telepath while someone else finds out they can shoot fireballs out of their hands, and then they'd all put on costumes and fight whoever the Academy is. You could tell in the first arc that people were waiting for that kind of a thing. So I was a little uncomfortable about that and would really caution that this wouldn't be that kind of book.
But then a lot of people saw one of the characters suddenly floating off the ground and cried foul on me. "I thought you said there'd be no super powers here!" And you know, I think what we're doing here with Irina and what she's done will be more about playing into the broader mythology of the book than it is about Irina having a specific special ability. That's not to say that some of the kids don't have abilities. We've certainly hinted that Hunter is a very in demand kid because of something he seems to be able to do in regards to time travel, and we've now seen that he has a value that's particular to him. But what Irina's doing is more an instance of, again, Irina being a little ahead of the rest of the kids in her education.
We've got some spreads in the middle that lay out the full timeline of events at the school, and I started to see some parallels in the imagery – particularly with Zoe and Hunter getting shot. Obviously, there are answers here, but should we be looking in these images for some clues as to how the cause and effect of time travel works in the book?
Yes and no. In all the fan analysis of what's going on in the book, I think one of the more interesting questions that I haven't seen asked a lot is that Irina kills Zoe – a huge moment for the book – but we haven't seen too much about what the thinking of there. We know that the Truants needed Hunter. And we know that Zoe was about to kill Hunter. So if we take that at face value, it works. But there's something in the fact that Irina didn't try a warning shot or shoot to wound or do any number of other things. She just killed Zoe. So I think there are some questions to ask there. We've seen Irina have alterior motives throughout the book, and she doesn't even include her closest friends in what she's doing. Certainly, in some cases these panels bring up moments that warrant a second look, but in others they're just there to highlight and remind you of a moment that's come before.
Speaking of the timeline, we see so much about Abraham's journey here from when the Academy folk come for him to where he's at when Ike finds him in lockup. But we've still never seen how he was revived after Ike killed him with the knife. Is that question of his revival a lynchpin for understanding some of the bigger mysteries of the book?
Yeah, I think that's definitely a longer term mystery, and that's certainly a blank we haven't filled in yet – exactly how Abraham is in front of us after Ike stabbed him. It's one of the few instances in the first half of this issue where we had to leave blanks unfilled. We're just not quite at the point in the story yet where we want to tell you how they pulled that off. In terms of my long term planning, I've got some options as to when that could get answered. It could be reasonably soon or a long way away. [Laughs]
The other big mystery for the issue is Hunter and adult Jade. It's a weird parallel to Ike and young Jade with Abraham. Older Jade's saying, "You built it" is a big revelation and a big new mystery. How important is Hunter's role becoming considering he was a more ineffectual member of the Glories early on?
That's Hunter's story. He's a bit of a screw off and not the most reliable kid. He's not entirely sure what it is he's good at. He's never particularly stood out. Now that he's arrived at the Academy, slowly but surely we've shown that there is something special about him and something important about him. Everybody has an interest in that. The Truants did. Lara Hodge did. And now future Jade does. It's obvious that it's there. By now we've pieced together that it's connected to the time travel elements of the book. There's something Hunter can do that can very much help people in terms of where they want to go within time, it would seem. It's coming into focus more, and it will more as we go along.
There are two big emotional moments in the book. First, we've got the moment where the brothers Jun and Hisao connect before one dies. They say goodbye here, but their story is not over. The Jun we have going forward was really the kid who was marked to be significant in their flashback issue, but his now dead brother took his place. How does losing his brother change the strong, silent type of Jun we saw before?
I think it does. I think now this becomes much more of a vengeance story or a justice story. Prior to this, it was an attempt at reconciliation and rescue. Now it's going to become about honoring someone's memory and making sure that the people responsible pay for it. The motivations at play will very much change. Jun's story will become a different kind of one. I hemmed and hawed in terms of when in the book was the right time to do this. It was always the plan that only one would make it out alive. That was an early beat I knew would happen and that there'd be that last moment of reconciliation and clarity. I'm really proud of how we played it out here. It's one of our strongest scenes to date, and it opens up a lot of new story opportunities, which is really exciting.
On the flipside, we get an emotional confrontation where we see Ike for the first time totally lose his shit. In what ways have you been looking at this season finale as setting each of the cast on a new path. Hunter gets a new revelation. Jun gets a new mission. Does Ike just lose control?
I think when I look back on the first 25 issues, one thing I felt good about was that the character arcs feel solid. The journeys they went on were strong, and nothing got too muddled. Nobody diverged too much from where I wanted them to go at the beginning of the book or certainly by the end of the second arc. Everybody is still right on track.
Ike's story is obviously a key part of the book, and I think that this scene in particular in terms of breaking him down so he hits his limit was important. I think that coming after everything we saw in #24 and the way he lost it at the end of that part of his past, you realize that this is a key part of the character. He puts a mask on, but it's very much a ruse. A lot of the detachment and cynicism and humor and cruelty is all there to hide the hurt and frustration that's underneath. That's a key part of the character. I think that one of the trickier things to pull off was something we've talked about in the past – not wanting to soften Ike up and let him lose his edges. If anything, I think we've gone in the other direction. Ike gets more troubled the more we see him. We start to see the sadness in his story and the inherent tragedy of it. There's a lot more of that to come. He's certainly not done suffering at this point.
The breakdown scene in particular is something Joe did an awesome job on. We really wanted to go the full "Prisoner" with it and get really trippy and hit you with a bunch of crazy things in short order. If this was a TV show or film, it'd be the part where the camera was spinning wildly. It was fun to get to do something like that, and with Ike you can bring in the darker, scarier elements of the book.
Two questions to wrap: #26 is a $1.00 issue that kicks off Season 2. How did you view it as being different storywise from the other issues?
#26 is probably my favorite issue since #10. I'm really in love with it. It's definitely me at my most pretentious, and I did certain things to take advantage of the fact that it's only $1. One of the nice things when you do a dollar issue is to say, "Well, I know that I'm going to get a little more leeway with the audience because they'll feel they only paid the dollar for it." We did some different things and had some fun with it. It's me at my most cinematically driven. And it's very much intended to be a direct prelude to #27 and 28 – even #29. More than anything we've ever done before, these next four issues are linked extremely tightly. I think that they're great to read on their own, but they are one story in sum total. It's on big, giant story. To get the ball rolling on that is fun, and I think it will surprise a lot of people. There are a lot of answers to our smaller mysteries that people have had since the first arc, but at the same time it sets up a LOAD of new stuff that will play out over the next 50 issues.
And in terms of the status quo, you've mentioned here and elsewhere getting ready to get them back at the school. Do you consider this first four-part arc the thing that sets up what the going concern of Season 2 will be?
Yes and no. That's the interesting part. I'm saying a lot publicly that we'll be back in the school setting, but a LOT will have changed by the end of these four issues. You might know a lot about the environment, but the circumstances will be very different for some of these characters. It's a thing where it's definitely not going to feel like things are "back to normal." There have been some major status quo upheavals that will prevent everything from going back in a box.
Stay tuned for more Morning Glory Days on CBR, and watch the column happen live at the Nick Spencer spotlight panel this weekend at C2E2!