The twenty-fifth strip is the one I alluded to at the end of the last part. I would consider it to be one of the turning points of the comic.
The primary characters in this strip are the red-haired twins who haven’t been seen for a while. Now, this was not obvious in their previous appearances, but they can be told apart by the length of their hair. So anyway, the two of them apparently have a bet going depending on the results of a coin flip, which the longer-haired of them loses. Apparently, the penalty for losing the bet is so bad that she yells that she will never do it, even though she agreed to the terms to begin with.1 Her twin objects, but the long-haired one is so sure in her decision that she runs off to ask minus to send her back in time and convince her past self to choose differently. Gee, this is a little extreme for losing a bet, don’t you say? This will NOT end well.
As it turns out, minus is making a flower grow in concrete when the loser of the bet gets to her. What happens next is a little bit confusing. Even though minus is looking right at the girl when being asked to send her back in time, for some reason she only listens to the first half of the request, and sends her to a random time period. In the next panel, we see her looking at her plant, which has now grown quite tall. Yet again showing that minus simply does not have her priorities in order. Sure, one of her classmates has just disappeared, but she has a plant she has to look after!
Now, exactly where did her classmate end up? Well, we next see her, quite scared, in front of some sort of carriage in a place where the men wear top hats and grow handlebar mustaches, and the women wear long dresses and carry umbrellas around when it’s sunny. I think you all know what this means.
Strangely, in that panel and in that panel alone, the temporally displaced redhead seems to have thicker outlines than under normal circumstances, thus providing a greater, and kind of unnatural, contrast compared to the rest of scene. I don’t know if Armand intended this or not.
So naturally, this strip is the beginning of another story arc.
The twenty-sixth strip is one of the unusual ones that does not focus on minus at all, but rather one of the people who have been affected by her powers, in this case, the red-haired twin. The first five-sixths of this strip have no dialogue whatsoever, instead showing, in extra small panels, what happened to her after she arrived in the Victorian era. Briefly summarized, she’s obviously quite scared, so she grabs the attention of this guy, who sends her to an orphanage (which is apparently co-ed even though this is Victorian times) where she befriends the other kids, and eventually grows up, leaves the orphanage, gets married, has a kid, and lives out her own life in the past. You know, considering she was stuck in a Victorian orphanage, I’d say she wound up very lucky that nothing bad happened to her. She was able to adapt pretty well, actually.
Cutting back to the present, her sister is of course freaking out, begging minus to tell her what just happened. You know how in TV shows and the like one character will start shaking another character when they’re really stressed out about something? Something similar happens here, and minus just has a blank look on her face, as if she suddenly realized the consequences of what she had just done. The final panel of the strip has the remaining twin face-to-face with a very old woman. I think you can guess her identity, right? In any case, the mystery continues in the twenty-seventh strip.
So this strip begins with a bunch of minus’s classmates from earlier strips frantically telling each other what just happened. One boy asks another boy if their former classmate is really an old woman now, and he replies that she is the oldest. This sounds like childish hyperbole, but when you come to think of it, she really is the oldest person in the world, because she survived from the Victorian era all the way to the present. So they gather around their former classmate, who tells them (fortunately, without words) about her experience. This only takes up a few panels, mind you, so it’s really not annoying at all, and doesn’t even qualify as an Infodump. See, this is the right way to bring characters up to speed on things.
She then goes to talk to minus in private. minus is still caring for that plant as though nothing had happened. It is now a tree, and she has made herself giant in order to continue caring for it. Which reveals that even after it hits the fan, minus will just forget all about it after a few minutes.
As our time traveler is walking, she is accosted by her sister, now a stark example of the twin paradox. The younger one asks the older one if minus is going to change her back into a child, only for the older one to say that that is not what she wants.2 Naturally, the younger one is totally confused, and, judging from her facial expression, really sad about this. The older one has lived a full life and can’t just go back to being a kid and doing it over again. In contrast, her younger counterpart is acting as though one of her loved ones just died, and from her perspective, that’s exactly what happened, so you can’t blame her. The older one comforts her, saying that everything will be all right, hugs her, and then the scene pans out to them alone, with text that cannot be read.
The final panel is somewhat confusing. The readers do not have enough context to really figure out what happened. We see six children playing, the two red-haired twins among them. I don’t know if this is supposed to be a flashback to happier days, or if minus sent the other girl back in time so that the two twins would grow up together. All that is certain is minus did not turn the old woman back into a kid, because they said that wouldn’t happen. No matter what happened, we will never see those two characters again.
Now, let’s look at it like this: the characters who disliked minus wound up being Put On a Bus in spectacular fashion, one that precludes them from ever appearing again, and also means that they and whatever loved ones they have will never see each other again. Yet despite this, it is actually a genuinely powerful scene, and not just the writer’s attempt to punish those characters whom he decided would dislike the main character, which is almost certainly how the writers whom we spork here would have handled it. The readers actually feel pathos for the characters, and they get some final development. Despite how childish they acted as well, children, they do grow up and they do care about each other. They acted like jerks before not because they were mean, but because they were children, and children are immature. I must say, if you are going to set up some characters whose only fault is that they’re kind of rude to the main character, and then later want to get rid of them because they’ve fulfilled their narrative purpose, this is how you do it. I’ve never seen it done better. To this day, this is one of the most powerful scenes I have ever read in any work of fiction.
So naturally, this review must continue to the next strip, where it’s back to wacky hijinks.3 This is another one that has no dialogue at all. minus is playing with some ghosts, including the red-haired and freckled one we’ve seen before. Turns out that their idea of play is going up to random people and scaring the daylights out of them. Presumably minus makes their unwittingly victims able to see ghosts for the duration. Yep, it’s back to business as usual. minus herself resists character development until the very end of the comic series, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
As it turns out, one of the victims of their pranks is a little old lady.4 Apparently, minus did not know that old people are frail, because she has the ghosts prank her anyway, and the old lady is terrified and, well, gives up the ghost. Once she realizes what has happened, she gets her revenge by chasing them. Even minus is concerned only with running away, but the ginger ghost stops to stick her tongue out at their elderly pursuer. So there is one person who is an even bigger jerk than minus, and it’s the ginger ghost. This will be important later, but for now, it’s onto the twenty-ninth strip. That one had just been a breather between two important story lines.
minus is drawing on a wall again. This time, it’s in a public place, outside. She’s not intending to deface the wall with graffiti, though. She’s drawn some sort of rocket car and actually steps into her drawing to drive it. This goes swimmingly until she hits the edge of the wall. Oh, cartoon physics, it’s been such a long time! Glad to see you’re back. This does not deter minus, and she magically extends the wall so that she can continue to race, even through the city streets, and up into the sky.
As an aside about the artwork, the way conveys the speed at which minus is traveling is with wider brush strokes, to convey that she’s going so fast the bricks of the wall are just whizzing by and blurring together.
Now I said this was a story arc, so of course it will continue on the next strip. minus has brought her rocket car far outside the Earth’s atmosphere and lands on an alien planet, planting a flag with her name on it, and completely oblivious to the alien city that is directly behind her. That’s literally all there is on this strip, the story is continued on the
I’m just breezing through these things today, and with good reason: while minus is on the alien planet, there is no dialogue, except for strange symbols from the aliens’ speech bubbles, which of course cannot be read. This strip’s title is minus.
the alien, meaning that at some point between the end of the last strip and the beginning of this one, minus noticed the city and turned into an alien to blend in. She’s actually doing something smart, for once.
These aliens look vaguely like tear drops with faces, and come in a variety of colors. minus is one of the aliens, but we can’t exactly tell which one, for obvious reasons. First things first: this strip is weird, even by this comic’s standards. After a shot of the aliens and a view of their city, which has flying cars and the like, one of the aliens regurgitates some red mass that looks like a tomato after it’s been thrown at something, onto one of the other aliens. This alien is not upset at all. In fact, he is laughing as he does the exact same thing. A third alien, behind them, does not look happy. From the context, I suspect that this is minus. She observes all the aliens doing this rather disgusting ritual, and then tries it herself. However, once she does so, the aliens get angry with her. They all stare at her, angrily, and once she leaves they go back to their… you know. Okay, this culture is just bizarre. Which was probably the point: a culture of non-humans would probably have completely different standards of etiquette, which minus violated, because even though she can make herself look like an alien, she doesn’t know how to behave like one.
minus remains on this planet for the thirty-second strip, where she sees some more aliens, who are apparently on a date. minus tries to talk to one, they blow her off, and she gets in trouble and is put in some sort of metal tree. I can’t make heads or tails of this plot either. The next strip5 is even more confusing. The only thing I can make out of it is that minus breaks out of the building in a huge explosion, escapes the city, and turns back into a human. Or was she there all along and that alien we were following for the last few strips wasn’t minus? I don’t know. That arc was confusing and didn’t really add anything to the enjoyment of the story, to be honest with you. It wasn’t one of the better ones. Nothing is explained, and not in a good way.
The thirty-fifth strip is back on Earth. The aliens are not gone forever mind you, it’s just that they won’t be seen for a while, and that’s okay with me. The strip opens with this guy at an office freaking out over how much work he has to do. Hey man, I can relate. Suddenly he has a nervous breakdown and runs out of his work station, and jumps out the window of the office building, despite being on a high floor. Of course, he regrets this immediately. Fortunately for him, who should show up but minus, as… a fairy? Anyway, she does something so that when this hapless office worker hits the ground, he does not die. Instead, he splits into a bunch of smaller copies of himself, unharmed, all of whom together can handle his massive workload.
Did minus just use her powers to help somebody?! Yeah, I think she did. That’s more than Anthony Fremont can say!
So the thirty-sixth strip opens with a vendor offering free ice cream to all the children. Of course, being the ice-cream-loving kid she is6, minus is in line, and when she gets her ice cream, the vendor calls her a boy. She is so shocked by this that she stands still, in her surprised face for three panels; the only change among those panels is the other children in line for ice cream.
So what does minus do? If you answered, “transform that vendor into something horrible as revenge”, then you are wrong! Instead, she grows her hair really long, wears a bow in her hair and a frilly dress, and makes it so that her footprints leave flowers behind. So now it is abundantly clear that minus is in fact a girl. Whatever.
The next strip also has some level of Internet fame, so of course I’m gonna wait until part 4 to do it.7 Stay tuned!
1 We never find out what the loser has to do, because the long-haired one interrupts her twin. Of course, we get to see Armand’s highly expressive faces again.
2 Strangely, the older of the two calls the younger one dear, even though she’s never done that before.
3 Yay, wacky hijinks!
4 Just to clarify, this old lady is completely unrelated to the events of the previous strip.
5 Which is actually two strips posted at the same time on the same page, for some reason.
6 To such an extent that I think it might qualify as her Trademark Favorite Food.
7 I’ve been getting kind of lucky that this has been happening every twelve strips, so that I can review the same number of strips each time.