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  • Man. With all the construction you’d think she was just getting started in the business but she must have put a priority on making sure her office was pretty first.

    • Zac Caslar

      If I had to guess I’d say that the murals are her own personal projects.
      A supercollider’s a big deal but once she’s got the designs drafted, the especially fiddly bits machined, and the permits secured the larger unit construction isn’t something she’s likely to have to be personally involved in.

      TL;DR: wall murals are fast, supercollider construction is slow.

  • Rachel

    I want that super cool robot plz thanku! =)

    • John Smith

      Me, too–as long as I can program it to say “Surrender or die, puny humans!” 🙂

  • Markus

    Seems kinda dishonest to have John Henry alongside an automaton as a mural. One of the big themes of that whole mythos is the idea of being better than a machine, and of the terribleness of being eclipsed by an object that can do your job automatically. Lisa might see them as labor saving devices, as Paladin she might even see them as life saving tools, but she seems isolated from the personal loss of individuals who get put out of the job by machines.

    Am I saying it’s a bad thing that we don’t need steel drivers or car assembly workers or any one of a ton of other kinds of skilled laborers anymore? No, of course not. On a long-term, societal level it’s a very, very good thing we don’t need those. That doesn’t change the fact that it sucks in the moment for the people whose jobs are gone and who are being scabbed by machines that measure their pay in kilowatt hours and repair downtime. I’m not even saying that John Henry would be justified in his ludditry. I’m just saying it’s using him in a way that’s cruel towards his history, and that white washes his relationship with technology as a whole.

    • TheGonzoMD .

      I sensing a theme with Paladin using legends in her iconography but completely missing the point of them. By the way she uses Icarus in her lobby it looks like the tragedy of unchecked hubris and ambition flew right by her.

      From this page it also looks like she’s experiencing some disconnect between what she wants to do and what people are actually capable of.

      • AlpineBob

        I’ve always felt the Icarus story was misinterpreted anyway. I think it is mostly a parable about the dangers of not listening to your parents, with a side of being careful not to misuse your technology.

        • KatherineMW

          Not to mention the limitations of wax as an adhesive.

        • Insanenoodlyguy

          I think it works as both? It’s one of the works you can pull a few different lessons/interpretations from.

      • motorfirebox

        I don’t think it’s missing the point so much as intentionally subverting it. Both legends portray technology as something to be feared, and they use different boogey monsters—hubris for Icarus, people being put out of work for John Henry—to nudge the audience towards Luddism. Someone who is very pro-technology might find those legends antithetical to their view of the world.

        • Ben

          I’ve always felt that the legend of John Henry showed that fearing technology that can improve one’s life is an act of stubbornness that can kill someone. Sure, he beat the machine through the mountain, but he also died in the process. Is Luddism worth that cost?

      • Insanenoodlyguy

        Also is it just me or does it look like at first glance John Henry is grabbing some robot butt? And the robot likes it?

    • A) John Henry’s a tall tale, there was almost certainly no actual person of that name, so any sympathy ought to be directed to those he symbolized. He’s a finger, not the moon.

      B) Manual labour in the John Henry mode is a miserable, horrible use of human potential. Read George Orwell’s description of the great British coal mines as late as the 1930s. Whenever folk were given an honest, productive choice between the mines and *any other way to make a living*, they made for the exits in a thundering horde. One of my great grandfathers died in the mines, Even those not killed outright in the endless parade of accidents bought themselves short lives coughing out their lungs from various particulate-induced lung diseases.

      In short, mechanization of mining and mining-related occupations are one of the great examples of an unalloyed good given us by high modernist progress. Mechanization meant that man no longer had to make himself a mole, or a dray-horse, to crouch and break his back in the stinking, damp, airless depths of a coal-mine.

      • Markus

        The problem is that there’s a layover between them working in the mines and having any other way of making a living, and that problem is what the story of John Henry’s about. The railroad spiking machine would take him from being a singularly productive and vital member of society to being unemployed and starving in a moments notice.

        • The versions of John Henry where he was a convict laborer argues against his choice in the matter, and the fact that two of the four major candidates for the origin of the legend were about prisoners put to involuntary servitude by the state says something about the willingness of free men to be “singularly productive and vital members of society”. These are the “hammer songs”, usually characterized with the chorus “this old hammer killed John Henry / but it won’t kill me”.

          The hammer or work songs don’t usually get played in folk circles, because they don’t offer a useful moral for union recruiting purposes the way the “ballad” versions can.

      • John Smith

        A tall tale? *Gasp!* Johnny Cash lied to me??? 🙂

        • And he didn’t even shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die. Scandalous, isn’t it?

    • Keith

      I think her theme is “we tell ourselves bad stories. Here’s how to make them better!” I expect the next mural will be a curious cat not only surviving, but being led by its curiosity to, say, create an effective vaccine for rhinovirus.

      • We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it and stop there lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove lid again and that is well but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore. – Mark Twain

      • StClair

        Which is great and all, but hasn’t this entire comic been one example after another of Reality stubbornly Ensuing when people try to do that?

    • S.I. Rosenbaum

      I agree with other posters – she’s definitely retelling legends to make them “come out right.” John Henry is particularly powerful, since he stands for not just man v machine but black ppl v industrialised labor that treated them as expendable. Paladin is black, AND she is part machine, and the message here is that she can transcend the past and embrace both identities triumphantly.

      Hm, not unlike Janelle Monae’s ArchAndroid cycle.

      • Jack Lostthenames Warren

        Ugh, this is off-topic, but Janelle Monae’s ArchAndroid cycle is so quality and I just wanted to appreciate your referencing it.

        Solid points from all, as usual.

  • spriteless

    New Headcannon: Lisa Bradley is Nimona. She learns how to make limbs from Ballister after the book ends, and keeps learning right up until the steampunk past became the alternate superhero present. Nimona can stay in one shape awhile and changes her DNA to match the shape, after all.

    • Emily

      I like this theory very much

    • Mystery girl

      Gah! You broke my brain!

  • NotStarbucks

    Man, what is it with everyone drinking coffee all the time? There are other activities you know, like not drinking coffee.

    • Jeremy

      Other activities, such as drinking tea, hot chocolate, or – hell – even a warm spiced cider or something.

  • S.I. Rosenbaum

    Oh hi, John Henry. Nice touch there

  • S.I. Rosenbaum

    ps love the rolled-up pant leg : ) and the cane is gone … HMMMM…. : )

    • Keith

      I noticed that as well. I’m going with “long walk for the school tour meant it was good to be able to take weight off the stump.”

  • Emmy

    All these discussions are really good, but I can’t help but notice …

    Because of where Paladin’s head is, John Henry’s arm transitions seamlessly into the robot’s drill-arm. I didn’t get much sleep last night, but I had to walk my eyes back slowly to the robot’s shoulder joint to realize that the two were not becoming one.

    • That was probably intentional- for Paladin, they ARE becoming one.

    • AlpineBob

      Nah, even with her head there, you can see his arm extends behind her. The angles of his arm and the mech’s arm are different anyway. I wonder if his hand is holding a spike?

    • Insanenoodlyguy

      I said it above, but to me it looked more like that robot was getting goosed… and liked it.

  • Sabriel

    I love reading the comments. I am familiar with the John Henry song, but I didn’t make that connection.

  • KatherineMW

    Extremely effective use of the art in these last two strips. Without Paladin needing to say a word, we’ve already got a clear sense of her ideology and worldview just from the murals and sculptures in her workplace.

    The attitude of absolute faith in technology and progress feels very reminiscent of 1930s art deco structure and interiors, such as as the Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Centre. Even the sculpture of Icarus looks a little bit art deco.

  • tofusmith

    So it’s a bit random but, gotta say… I just got a retina display, and this webcomic (in color) is pretty much the prettiest thing I look at on the internet with it now.

  • Liz

    Paladin is literally between man and machine, and she is literally obscuring the difference between them. She also isn’t going out of the way to hide her prosthetic, or make it more human-looking. God I love this comic.

  • Insanenoodlyguy

    Yeah, I think were not about to see the one that gets it right. I’m sure Palladin is doing some real good, and I doubt this ends with her as a crazy villain or something, but every other instance in the story here we meet a hero type with a clearly defined philosophy there’s another side of the coin and we can bet hers is coming up (maybe a factory she’s automating is laying off a lot of people or something? Just throwing stuff on the wall with that. )

  • Arnaldo Iggi Roman

    So we have an Icarus that punches the sun and a John Henry that turns the machine into a robot buddy. And this is a fellow Brown Person, as I like to refer to myself in the summer (Person Of Color would lock me to it you see), and I’m thinking the bad boy psychic boyfriend also works here. Is he the punching Icarus.