sfp 6 121 for web

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  • The Duck From p.112

    Is it a flock, a brace, a raft, a team a paddling?
    No! It’s self-conflicted hollowed eyed woman!

    • Looks like it’s a virtual brace of self-conflicted hollowed eyed women!

  • Weatherheight

    Hell’s yeah, lady, tell yourself off!

    On a side note, why is it that people look at me funny when it’s me doing this on the sidewalk or in the park?

    • Eternal

      You lack a starting audience to bootstrap the show. And chips. Chips are important.

    • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

      A critical lack of animal based name-calling, though

      • Weatherheight

        Well, she’s barely a beginner…
        (but just watch that lady go…)

    • Mouser

      You need to have some there to converse with. If you don’t have another person, I suggest a bluetooth headset.

      • Weatherheight

        Years ago Lily Tomlin had a sketch she did on SNL wherein she told the audience about some thoughts she had to make the world a better place. My favorite was “I’d like to take all those poor people who wander New York talking to themselves and pair them up so they can feel like they’re having a conversation.”

        Utter horrid response to mental illness, but I’m ashamed to admit it made me laugh.

      • Someone standing in the middle of the aisle in the supermarket this evening, staring at the cieling, having a loud conversation about a third person’s health. At least I hope it was a third person, and not a second….

        (Too much hair to tell if she was bluetoothed).

    • Lysiuj

      Try using a coat next time. (Or a hat, or a sign!)

  • Huttj509

    Panel 4: “Glad I brought these.”

    • Weatherheight

      Is it just me loving that Arjun has barbecue powder/chips crumbs on his beard?

  • Arkone Axon


    Including the bit where Gurwara points out that she’s being intellectually dishonest by pretending it’s a binary “either/or” choice, as opposed to finding a third option that would have allowed Max his rights as a person, while also helping others.

    • Stephanie

      That’s not Gurwara speaking. Gurwara doesn’t say a single word on this page.

      • Arkone Axon

        True. He doesn’t even have to. He’s just munching away and guiding her along, like a maestro conducting an orchestra. You never see the maestro so much as touch any instrument, and yet he just guides things along… just… wow…

  • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

    The primordial information on this page is Alison’s muscle-numbing propensity to raise her arms while arguing.

    • Weatherheight

      All the arm-flapping now makes it easier for her to fly later. 😀

      • The Duck From p.112

        Stop appropriating duck culture

    • Stephanie

      The little things that make having super strength and endurance worthwhile!

  • Weatherheight

    Also, is it just me, or does anyone else notice there are a lot of metaphorical cliffs in this park from which the plot can hang dramatically? 😀

  • Biostar
    • Pol Subanajouy

      Professor got the right idea.

  • Darkoneko Hellsing

    Oh, man ! Dinner AND a show !
    (and it’s only breakfast !)

    I really like how she took it up his dual position argumentation schtik. It works well.

  • Arkone Axon

    Making the comment I was saving for a fresh update here. About… hunters.

    Hunter-gatherer societies know fully well that they have to kill in order to survive. You have a tribe that is depending on you to provide food. And there is a deer. The deer wants to live, but your children, mate, and neighbors need to eat. So you hunt the deer. You take it by force. You hit the deer with an arrow, and it bleeds to death. You then skin it, butcher it, turn its body from a working symphony of complex biosystems into cuts of meat for your family and friends to feast upon.

    Naturally, the deer does not want this to happen. So the deer will be skittish and nervous at all times, always on the lookout for a predator like you. And when it senses danger, it will run like hell. You know that, if you’re a hunter-gatherer. You accept it. You respect that the deer does not want to die, even as you try your best to kill it for the sake of your own loved ones. You’re going to kill it even though the deer doesn’t want to die.

    But one thing that no hunter-gatherer society has ever done, is be angry with the prey for not wanting to be eaten. Hunter-gatherers respect the animal. They honor its sacrifice. Many hunter-gatherer societies even apologize to the animal after killing it. They do not mock it for not wanting to be devoured, for not wanting to be consumed for the good of others.

    There have been people commenting here who have denied Max his humanity, demanded that he be consumed for the good of others. Some of them might point out (quite rightly) that Max is a human, not an animal… even though they refuse to grant him the rights of a human, something that Alison herself now repents of doing. To which I note that there have been many times when soldiers have been ordered on suicide missions for the good of the many. Hell, look at the legendary “Romance of Three Kingdoms,” and the bit where Cao Cao orders a quartermaster to be put to death because the army was running out of food, even though the quartermaster was blameless. Cao Cao even told him point blank, “I KNOW you’re not responsible. But if I don’t make you into a scapegoat, the rest of the army will turn into an angry mob and then dissolve into banditry.” But Cao Cao also honored him, respected him, and promised his family would never want for anything, even as he forced the man to die for the sake of others.

    I’m pointing it out here. Max’ powers make him something to be CONSUMED. He can be consumed by those he chooses to willingly empower, or he can be consumed against his will by those who seek to take his empowerment by force. A case can be made for forcing him… but right now, in this latest page, both Alison and Gurwara are making it clear: do not call him selfish for not wanting to be consumed.

    • AshlaBoga

      Your post makes me think about victim blaming. I find victim blaming to be a truly disgusting thing, and yet it’s so prevalent in modern society.

      “If they didn’t want to be robbed, they should have have owned a gun.”
      “If she didn’t want to be raped (note: no ever WANTS to be raped, that’s why it’s rape) she wouldn’t have walked in that skirt late at night in the dark.”

      Victim blaming is the epitome of trying to justify violating someone’s rights – you’re saying it’s the victim’s fault, and that the perpetrator is the innocent one. Victim blaming reverses morality by making being a victim immoral. There’s something vile about blaming an innocent victim as having caused the criminal to attack them by exercising their freedoms, example: I like to walk with headphones on, so it’s my fault if someone mugs me (something I was actually told).

      It’s everything that’s wrong with might makes right distilled into a behaviour that embraces cruelty and spite as strength and innocence as guilt.

      It’s also not a behaviour we’d see in primitive hunter-gatherer societies, like many inhumanities, it requires a fair amount of abstract thought.

      • Stephanie

        I think there’s a salient difference between “exercising my freedom to wear headphones/wear a skirt/walk at night”, and “exercising my freedom to let thousands of people die horrible deaths from organ failure.” But maybe that’s just me.

        • AshlaBoga

          Oh, I’m fully on board with Max needing to help Feral. It’s just that the “he deserved to be scared” crowd worry me. Just because you decide to force someone to help doesn’t mean you can’t try and minimize the harm you cause them. She slammed him on the table and when he asked what was stopping her from doing it all over again she said “Nothing.”

          Police Officers use force to ensure cooperation all the time, but they generally are better about ensuring the person’s well-being. You shouldn’t taser someone because you think they deserve it, you should taser them because it’s the most effective way to prevent greater physical harm to themselves or another human being.

          Plenty of people had a “Max had it coming” attitude three weeks back. And that worries me because, “they deserved it” is a huge part of victim blaming.

          • Stephanie

            Oh, I see what you’re saying. Sorry about that, I misunderstood what you were getting at. I agree with you that it’s wrong to say that Max “deserved it” or “had it coming.” I think he’s a selfish prick and my sympathy for him is extremely limited, but no one “deserves” violence. I’m on board with using violence to make Max save thousands of lives, but I wouldn’t support using it just to punish him for being an asshole.

        • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

          There’s one far more intriguing than the one you’re referecing.
          Personal freedom does not absolve you of consequence, and that’s how we expect to impart morality in a free society. Building social incentives for altruistic behavior and reviling self-centered douchebags. That’s the one thing you don’t get to have control over, ever: how other people judge you, accept you. You can *try* to be a better person to get the acceptance and belonging everyone craves, but that’s not, ever, a given. Freedom means others are free to be indifferent to you, no matter how hard you try to get them to empathize with you.

          Max can exercize his right to be an asshole and be hated for it. (That’s dismissing the more important issue of power imbalance, but this is heavily simplified) That’s how we work. That’s how we are not proponent of fascism. How he decides to take public hatred is his own problem.

          But then what does that make of the person wanting to wear a skirt at a party that imbeciles are going to revile? We can work societally and systemically to improve empathy toward marginalized groups, but we cannot impose it. So what if it never comes? What do we do when fringe groups say “we want to be accepted for who we are and what we choose to do” and the mainstream in unison shouts back “we don’t care”?

          Thank God it’s never how people work, because if there ever was a critical flaw in my belief system, that’s this one.

          • Stephanie

            I think that historically, marginalized groups have had to cause the mainstream some kind of noticeable discomfort in order to make significant progress–otherwise, that shout of “We don’t care” is exactly what happens. And often that does include violence. Most people aren’t actively malicious, but it’s so easy to be complacent about issues that don’t affect us…right up until they do.

            So I guess the answer to “what do we do when that happens” is civil disobedience? Maybe other methods are viable now that it’s so much easier to coordinate activism and disseminate information. I guess we’ll find out over the next four years.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            “Civil disobedience” sits so much better with me than “the strongest human on Earth dictates what is right”

          • Stephanie

            Well, since we don’t have a strongest human, collective action is really the only way to challenge the status quo.

          • Sergi Díaz

            The mere existence of a strongest human is eventually a problem. Both for that human (if it’s a decent person) and society.
            To me, the ideal would be that no person has power over another person. Both formal power (i.e. laws) and real power (economic inequality, social customs that produce gender inequality, etc.). The existence of superheroes would shatter even the activism towards that utopia.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            “The strongest human on Earth” is an apt metaphor for things we definitely have.

          • Zac Caslar

            That’s a fascinating analysis, thank you for sharing Clemens.

          • Weatherheight

            My place of employment issued a dress code requiring collared shirts years ago. If this was a place where every worker met with clients face to face, this is logical – but the vast majority of call-center workers will not (and should not) meet with customers or clients face to face.

            One fellow responded by dressing up in shirt and tie every day thereafter – matched with a lovely blue-and-green tartan from his Scottish clan and a pair of expensive designer dress shoes with blue-and-green tartan pattern socks with the garters.

            Fully compliant with the dress code as written, he strode the halls and proudly defied someone to say something.

            No one ever did. Totally heroic to my thinking.

    • Tylikcat

      “I’m pointing it out here. Max’ powers make him something to be CONSUMED.”

      I wonder. So, culturally speaking, though things have improved a lot, my gender makes me something to be consumed. Hopefully I don’t have expound on this thesis too much – women’s work is for the good of other’s, women’s work is unpaid work, women are generally expected to put everyone else ahead of themselves.* This is part of the reason I mockingly gave Max the superhero name Helpmeet – he seemed to have pretty much the most feminized power I could imagine in terms of a bunch of gender relationships I think are unutterably stupid. (If it’s not clear, I think he hates his power in large part because he has internalized toxic masculinity. When he mostly seemed like an asshole and a twit, I thought this was hilarious. I am open to the story being more complex, but not wedded to the notion.) I have spent most of my life rebelling against this. Quite successfully, thanks – though I’m in a world that allows a lot of latitude that way.

      I also spent a chunk of my formative years um, channeled into educational environments purportedly because I had unique talents that I should train for the benefit of all mankind. (Look, I think this is largely bullshit, but this is the kind of indoctrination we got, and we were kids. Though pretty cynical kids. I suppose it’s slightly better than “To outcompete the Russians!”) We were also, there, set up as resources to be maximized (I can not with any precision say nurtured, just, ha, no) and exploited… (though, y’know, not that anyone was really in any position to exploit us, more, it was like they thought they were winding us up, and then we would bzzz! spring off into grad school and successful research careers! Um, so I might have had a lot of reasons to delay going back into academia.**) All of these experience have shaped my sense of what it is to be seen as a resource, a vessel (OMG, my mother pulled that one on me, about my music, I just stalked off, I couldn’t even scream at her), a consumable, whatever. (BTW, everyone in my cohort has mentioned being haunted by feeling of not living up to their potential. Including me – I’ve had an interesting life, sure, but a productive one?)

      Max is a person. He has a talent. That’s just a piece of him, and doesn’t need to define him – though y’know, he has to grow a personality if it’s not going to. I’m not saying it’s easy, and sure, his power is probably going to be a pain in the ass as often as not. But hell, learning a bit about playing politics, and making alliances, and building up his own power base could get him far. He isn’t doing himself any favors by hiding. (This, actually, is kind of my greatest fear – that he was hoping that a connection to Alison would be something he could parlay into an escape. Alison, after all, could protect him. Maybe she was his ticket out?)

      This isn’t limited just to Max. The difference between Max being used for other people’s gain and a bunch of kids becoming a government sponsored super hero group? Kind of thin to me. This idea about Max’s mother protecting him… so, that would be one think if she bought him the room to go off and seek his fortune. For whatever reason, he isn’t doing that. It might just be because he’s a spineless git. But it might also be because his mother is less interested in protecting him than maintaining him (and his powers, potentially) in her own sphere of influence.

      * Amusing factoid – this shows up with ridiculous consistency if you’re looking into the archaeology of diet. Mothers always give their husbands and most particular their children larger portions of meat if any is available, and this is traceable in bone composition. It’s not an occasional thing, either, but, like, everywhere. (Okay, I bet this reverses in the cases of cultures where meat is the core staple, but those are fairly rare.)
      ** Though I went to a party back in my old neighborhood once, a bit after I’d left tech and gone into computational biochemistry, and found that a couple of the folks I’d grown up with had recently started doctoral programs. We joked that folks from our patch reach a certain age and got a irresistible urge to swim upstream and spawn and di- I mean, to go back to the university for a PhD. Many cultural factors in play.

      • Arkone Axon

        I’m… not really thinking of him as suffering from toxic masculinity. That poor fire thrower, THAT was a textbook case of toxic masculinity (lethally toxic, in fact). Max… I haven’t really seen any gender issues with regards to his situation. I think it’s more that he’s been raised by selfish and horrible people who have filled his head with justifiable fear (of what people will do if they learn of his ability to augment the powers of others) as well as undeserved shame (because his power requires cooperation and helping others rather than selfishly being the center of everything). Though I do appreciate that you’re acknowledging that toxic masculinity is a horrible and painful issue for the men affected by it, not just the women dealing with the men suffering from it (as Emma Watson stated, “When at 15 my girlfriends started dropping out of their sports teams because they didn’t want to appear “muscly,” when at 18 my male friends were unable to express their feelings, I decided I was a feminist.”)

        Though now that I’ve read your comment, I find myself wondering if that was the point of Max as a character? To create someone who seems, on the surface, to be a cliched wealthy and aggressive masculine figure comfortably mired in “alpha male” nonsense, only to actually be placed into traditionally feminine roles? The distressed damsel in a gilded cage, physically assaulted by someone wanting to use their body without their consent, etc? Just to prod us into examining our own preconceived notions?

        As for the meat issue and mothers giving their husbands and children larger portions of meat… I dunno, but I can’t help but think of Christopher Titus saying of his father, “this is a man who made certain I never went hungry even if it meant he did.” So that’s less a maternal issue and more a universal parenting issue. (at least where it comes to feeding the kids, anyway)

        • Lostman

          However here another two cultural factors that you two may of missed. the first being the group of “superheroes” set the standard of what powers are valuable, and what should be done with them. And that Pintsize by convening Alison to become a superhero by showing her superhero comics. Meaning the standard has been set.

          • Weatherheight

            Excellent point – is the issue then an examination of the standard to determine if it is too inflexible or binding? Is that what’s happening in the comic now?

            My father was not voluble – he was a difficult person to know. He did have the virtue that when he spoke, he was either being affectionate silly or he was imparting something he felt was valuable. He was never a fan of something being good now because it was once good or because someone in authority said it was good. He often said, “Examine the problem now and beat the rush.” It’s a sad fact that humans tend to only deal with problems as they become actively problematic (this is a pattern in my life that I fight against and lose more often than I win). Always planning ahead is exhausting.

      • Weatherheight

        “I also spent a chunk of my formative years um, channeled into educational environments purportedly because I had unique talents that I should train for the benefit of all mankind.”

        There is a generation of people still coming to grips with the dichotomy of self-determination versus meeting cultural and species prosperity and welfare. It is a shame we don’t have do-overs, but sometimes even those wouldn’t help us feel fulfilled and whole. And every cohort following has had to deal with that fallout in their own way.

        • Tylikcat

          Despite all the fuckery, I am the daughter of a pretty darned prosperous society, and one that has the surplus to allow people like me to make a lot of different choices, and a cultural inheritance of individual determination. (And that latter didn’t just happen because we’re special – it happened because we’ve been rich and industrialized and had a stable(-ish, this is a relative term) middle class for generations. A lot of that gained by extracting the wealth from others.)

          I don’t personally want a do-over – nor do most members of my cohort. As Mountoure said, at least we got each other. (Especially these days, as I get to be mad auntie to everyone’s kids, this seems like a really good deal.) Though I guess I never lacked for finding my own path, either.

      • Arkone Axon

        I just had an epiphany and figured I’d provide a second reply, specifically to you, just to see what you thought of it.

        It occurred to me that what we’re seeing here is exactly what I had been wondering. An inversion of the gender roles. Look at the way the two are drawn, their physical appearances. Max is an athletically built young male who looks like a bully from a TV show or film from the 1980s even though he’s never actually done anything to deserve that judgement. He said hello to Clevin and it made him seem as though he were sneering the words, as if he should have had a slightly smaller friend standing behind him, making stupid comments over his shoulder about how “you, and your little geek friends, need to leave.”

        By contrast, Alison is every inch the typical young woman. She’s not just ordinary in her physique, she’s SKINNY. She has thin little limbs, none of the excessive curves often referred to as “the most common superpower,” and she can’t even develop muscle tone because of the nature of her powers. She looks every inch the ready made victim, the statistic waiting to happen.

        Yet look at their actual roles in the story. Max IS the spoiled rich princess. Princess has wealth but no freedom. Princess has a parent who tells Princess what a disappointment they are because their gifts and abilities and virtues aren’t what the parent was hoping to see in their little procreated automaton. Princess is surrounded by luxury, yet feels sadness, loneliness, and fear.


        Alison IS the Jerk Jock. Jerk Jock is physically strong and wins all the contests of raw athletic ability. Jock uses physical coercion to achieve goals, and tends to be congratulated and encouraged in this by others – to the point that rationalizations and justifications get offered for actions that would not be tolerated in less physically accomplished individuals. Jock is aggressive and direct, DEMANDING that things be done their way. Whether it’s grabbing a football and roaring for the team to join in and protect them from being tackled in a massed charge towards the end zone, or demanding that others do what the Jock wants lest they be physically assaulted – with a free pass from the authorities because “Jock’s good at sports and winning the big game on Saturday is the most important thing that could possibly happen.”


        Here we saw Jock wanting the gifts of Princess’ body. Jock TOOK Princess’ body without permission, without consent, in a very vicious and traumatic fashion. Not only that, but Jock is blaming Princess, accusing Princess of having the power in the situation. Princess is flaunting their much desired gifts, being a total bitch by refusing to freely share them with those who want them. Princess has what Jock wants but says no when asked – how dare they!? Princess DESERVED to have those gifts taken by force! It’s all Princess’ fault for saying no!

        Now Jock is feeling guilty, and rightly so. Jock knows it was wrong. Jock is trying to blame Princess, to pass judgement on Princess for being a horrible person, lacking in morality, and thus deserving what Jock did to Princess. And what’s worse, Jock has supporters here on this forum who actually agree – Princess totally deserved it! Or if nothing else, the fact that Jock wanted to use Princess’ body entitled him to it! And now Princess knows that Jock is every inch the sort of person Princess was always taught to fear and suspect. Princess thought the attacker would be some faceless stranger dressed like a card carrying villain, but instead the assault came from someone that Princess trusted – at least, trusted not to assault and take without consent in a horrific violation.

        I’m thinking that this is exactly what this chapter is all about. The reversal of the gender roles – or more precisely, taking the physical appearances of the characters in said roles, switching them around, but keeping the actual power exchanges the same. And by doing so, letting anyone who more closely identifies with one side get a good long look at what it’s like for the other. Identify with Alison? Now you know what it’s like to be a bullying jerk jock whose future is being ruined because of one little mistake with a girl in an alley, after a lifetime of being taught that hurting other people is just a “little mistake.” Identify with Max? Now you know what it’s like to be violated and defiled by someone who gets angry because people are demanding long term consequences over “one little mistake” with a girl in an alley, while others cheer your attacker and blame and condemn you.

        What do you think? Am I on to something here?

        • Lostman

          Mmmm… If you see a reversal of gender roles, I on the other see a statement on collectivism. Going back Alison time with Brad, there was a theme of community there. Mostly in the fact that a bunch of individuals came together to convention, a group while part of larger community that had many famous individuals are still discriminated against by the greater society. Sub-community of individuals that banded together out need, and while It was Brad organized the event, it wouldn’t mean much without the people.

          Now while the X-men analog thing. My point is, like it or not; Alison and Max are in the same community. To use some weeboish terms; Alison is Max’s senpai.

          • Arkone Axon

            …Mmmmm… no. I do not think Max is happy that senpai noticed him… :p

          • Lostman

            Didn’t say that it was good thing. Last panel I called Max NEET due what we could tell, he doesn’t seem to working and is living off his parents. However I say he a NEET in two ways: while I ready said he has done noting in the greater America society as far as we know, but also due to keeping his powers a secret. He is a NEET to the greater super community. Max is both socially to the rest of the community, and to his personal belief: he at the very bottom of the tolem poll.

            (PS. this is a lot of guess work as there are still a lot of things we don’t about Max.)

            Alison is the complete opposite; in many ways she is a high ranking member of the greater super community (and may as well be a founder of it), but is someone of importance of in greater America society. This is not only super power, but political power she gets from it. Remember when I said Alison set the standard; she did it got fame from defeating super villains, and with them gone the Guardians along with varies others are trying to ‘fix’ the world. Even through they are changing there methods over time, it’s with the power they got in there superhero careers.

            In some ways I agree with Tylikcat as Max could of done something with his powers, he could of built connections like the ones that Alison using to create her project. However were there factors stopping him: his teenage self, his mom, and a greater community that had a culture molded by child soldiers.

        • The other Trope to apply to Alison might be the token blonde bimbo, inverted – as with Buffy. Unfortunately the Guardians weren’t quite as good a support group as the Slayerettes (not that the Slayerettes were remotely ideal, but they did have a somewhat better understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses).

    • Why can I only upvote this once!

      Really good point.

  • Stephanie

    I’m interested in the direction this is taking. It seems like the main issue here, for Alison, isn’t “is it or is it not justifiable to hurt one person to save many.” She said she wouldn’t take her actions back, establishing that she sees “hurt Max to save Feral+thousands” as the better choice than “let Feral suffer and thousands die to spare Max.” So that’s no longer at issue, in her mind. Now we get to the real root of her guilt.

    What she regrets isn’t which of the two choices she picked; it’s that she lacked the necessary skills to exercise a third option. So maybe this arc will motivate her to develop those skills, to expand her toolset beyond the hammer she’s accustomed to relying on and ultimately enhance her ability to do good. I would love to see that happen.

    • Weatherheight

      Isn’t it wonderful how succinctly this point of “I don’t regret my action, but I do regret feeling like I had no other choice” is being expressed?
      And yet none of we commenters quite hit on this in such a cogent and concise way – but boy have we been dancing around it. 😀

      • Lysiuj

        Although I think it’s more “deciding I had no other choice” than “feeling”.

        • Weatherheight

          Probably a little of both.
          Feel, then rationalize to justify the feeling.
          Humans are really good at this pattern (ad a few donkeys, as well) 😀

      • Perhaps more “I don’t regret saving Feral. I do regret that doing it forced me to abuse Max, but most of all I regret not being smart enough to see another way.”

    • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

      It’s infinitely interesting how the thousands saved don’t even get a mention.
      It’s all about Feral. Not about Feral’s own will, mind you, but how Feral’s situation affects her. Makes her feel bad.

      That’s our Alison.

      • Stephanie

        Alison mentions “the suffering of countless others” in the second panel.

        • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

          As a justification for why she didn’t feel like being empathetic.
          Alison has killed too many innocent people in collateral damage to mind numbers.

          • Stephanie

            Regardless of your interpretation of Alison’s hidden inner motives, do you acknowledge that you were mistaken when you said the thousands didn’t get a mention?

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            No that’s what I meant but worded poorly.

          • Stephanie

            You outright said that they didn’t get a mention.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Yes that was terrible wording.

          • Stephanie


          • Axel_Celosar

            There’s ONE person we know of so far. The Professor’s Husband. And even then, it was his own fault for not evacuating when he should have.

          • Guest

            …there’s also like, all of the people in the hospital. Not the nurses and doctors but the patients he was dealing with.

          • Axel_Celosar

            And how many people did Alison save that day? Or in her entire superhero career. Face reality dude: It’s essentially the same idea as war zones. Civilians are going to die. Deal with it.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Sure. Alex Celosar 2020: “Collateral damage: deal with it.”

          • cphoenix

            You have no idea the context of Alex’s statement. Maybe he’s a surgeon, or a soldier. Maybe “deal with it” is from his traumatic personal experience. Ever think of that? Or are you too busy being self-righteous?

            If you truly saw your own lack of decency, and applied to yourself the vicious standards you apply to everyone around you, you would 1) sob for three days; 2) apologize to everyone; 3) not speak for a year while you learned a bit of wisdom and compassion.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            So are you self-aware or do you really lack any and all self-reflection and critical distance

          • silalus

            I think the character is dealing with it the same way real people deal with it.


          • Jace

            People die sure. That’s not the problem she’s having. The problem is she didn’t even realize she was causing it. Also a little more care and she could have been mitigating it rather than quite possibly randomly making it far worse. It’s one of those “I didn’t realize, I could have done so much better and saved even more lives”.

            Collateral happens. You feel bad. Believe me though, you feel WORSE if you find out you could have prevented a lot of it if you knew a little better. And that is from personal experience.

          • Izo

            How many innocents have died because Alison did not arrest or kill Patrick that FIRST time she found him?

          • Interesting point. I’m not sure there are any innocent victims, but we know for a fact he’s offed a few non-innocents along the way – such as the people behind the attack on the hospital. It’s entirely possible there have been innocents, but against that there’s the potential he is going to say many more, even possibly everyone.

            Which comes back around to the same debate we’ve been having over Alison’s actions aand the end justifying the means.

          • Insanenoodlyguy

            See, I don’t think this one registers the same to her. It’s not like she was ever told or otherwise had knowledge that the hospital wasn’t evacuated. I mean yes, years later she feels bad about it but that contributed to her general “did I really do anything that mattered?” existential crisis. Whereas this, though not divorced from that is more her follow-up question(and current crisis), “why can’t I find a better way?!”

          • Axel_Celosar

            But that’s the thing. There’s NO WAY she could have know they were there. As far as she knew, the are had been evacuated at the time.

          • Jace

            Not necessarily true for one. For two, as a career hero for a while, this probably came up far more than once.

          • Axel_Celosar

            It was still the guy’s fault for not evacuating when he should have. He didn’t, he knew the risks and stayed anyway and died. Thus, it was his own fault.

          • Acknowledging the likelihood of collateral casualties, or, let’s be blunt, innoent victims, does not excuse you from the moral consequences of your actions. And I might not be military, but there’s people using my software to aim and release weapons on a daily basis. Saying “shit happens” is just a way of not looking reality in the face.

          • AshlaBoga

            I’m not a soldier but I know a little about combat. You should never chuck a projectile at a building unless you have no alternative. Even if it had been empty, the property damage from battles ruins human lives.

          • Insanenoodlyguy

            Superpower Brawls have no conventional equivalent in the real world however. The odds are good that in a situation where a mass evactuation is ordered and a superbrawler sent in to deal with it, collateral damage is already an inevitability. We don’t know what that robot’s purpose was but giant robots usually aren’t sent for precise surgical strikes. This thing was likely a perpetual projectile explosion that was going to keep going off until somebody shut it down. If not that building, 5 others in it’s way, etc.

          • Axel_Celosar

            And I’m sure leaving the robot alone would have killed human lives. Homes can be rebuilt. Lives taken cant be given back.

          • I’m not certain they were ever real to her*, at least not until after the fight with Cleaver when she realised she had killed the professor’s husband. Too sheltered an upbringing, too violent an upbringing,

            * Which interestingly is the fault we keep laying at Max’s door, that other people aren’t real to him.

          • Matthew McMahon

            And just to remind everyone, Alison was a kid. Kids are incredibly short sighted when it comes to the consequences of their actions (that part of the brain isn’t fully developed until you’re in your early 20s). I also have little doubt that her handlers did everything they could to shelter her from any aftermath reports that would have forced some introspection on her. If you don’t see the dead body being pulled from the rubble, it’s not real to you.

            The biggest difference between Max and Alison is that Alison seems to be is trying to face the reality she’s now aware of; Max is simply refusing to see it.

          • Oren Leifer

            Also, this just adds to the existential horror that is Patrick’s life: he is aware of everyone around him, and if not necessarily their physical state then definitely their mental state (and therefore deaths). He can’t help but be aware of any emotional trauma that his and Alison’s actions have caused, and either has to harden himself to the feelings of those around himself or constantly experience their emotional pain. Maybe that’s why he gave up being Menace and convinced Alison to give up superheroics: he couldn’t bare the amount of pain that people around him were suffering, and wanted to at least do what he (+ Alison) could to stop causing harm.

          • Insanenoodlyguy

            Yeah, I feel his obvious sociopatholgy is more likely a product of his power rather then him being an unfortunate recipient of this power. He would be unable to function in a world where every other person’s emotions were just as important to him as his own. So either as a defense mechanism, or possibly an actual secondary power, his brain doesn’t register others emotions as especially important. He’d have killed himself and/or gone completely insane if they did.

      • Sergi Díaz

        Definitely, humans are really god at understanding what they want to understand instead of what’s been told to them.

        • Matthew McMahon

          I’m sorry, did you say something? I was busy formulating my next argument instead of listening to you…. 😏

          • SmilingCorpse

            I’m gonna interject with a point that is reaching, at best. 😉

      • Incendax

        More likely, she doesn’t have skills to articulate all facets of her concerns to our satisfaction. Sounding properly regretful and considerate is a skill, after all. =D

      • Lostman

        Well… in a way she was the cause Feral’s suffering, I can understand why she a guilty conscience over it and action she took… only to end up with another guilty conscience due to said.

      • Ben Posin

        Can you justify any of this in the text? This may be your preferred interpretation, but I don’t see any real support for it on this page or elsewhere.

        • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙
          • Ben Posin

            Explain to me how you get from the fact that she has had fantasies about going all out murderous with her powers to effect societal change, to your saying now that her motivation for strong-arming Max was solely how Feral’s suffering was affecting Alison, with no regard for Feral herself or for the others’ whose lives would be saved by strong-arming Max.
            Because again, I don’t see how your interpretation is justified by the text. Looks more like a non-sequitur.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            – with no regard for Feral herself
            She chose this life for herself, a choice Alison never respected

            – or for the others’ whose lives would be saved by strong-arming Max.
            She literally never speaks about them other than a means to sway Max to her* side

          • Ben Posin

            “She literally never speaks about them other than a means to sway Max to his side.”

            She’s not discussing her moral justifications at that point, but instead is explaining why she dismissed Max’s tale of woe rather than making an effort to feel more empathy for how he views his situation (having a super power that let’s him make others stronger, without letting him directly do super things). She gives an understandable response: because he had just shown that he had no empathy for Feral or the suffering of countless others who would be helped if he cooperated. I don’t really understand what it is you think she was supposed to say, or how this supports your view in any way. You’re coming off to me as just being determined to ascribe bad motivations to Alison whenever humanly possible.

            “She chose this life for herself, a choice Alison never respected”
            This is just flat out wrong. Alison may have felt Feral’s choice was misguided, but she’s shown enormous respect for Feral’s decision. She basically broke up with Max because she felt Max wasn’t giving Feral’s sacrifice its due, and she moved heaven and earth (and compromised her own morals) to give Feral a partial out that would not compromise Feral’s moral judgment. We see with Alison’s controversial treatment of Max what it can look like when Alison doesn’t respect the choice you’ve made…

          • Arkone Axon

            That’s kind of the point, actually. Alison has a lot of power, and she never did learn responsibility. REAL responsibility, the kind that has you being careful with your power. With her level of strength she’s like a constantly loaded weapon, or a walking vorpal blade. And she’s not been demonstrating ANY of the careful handling taught to responsible gun owners or swordsmen (or chefs with their big sharp knives, which are basically short swords. Or would a sword count as a big chef’s knife? Either way, it’s a tool for cutting through meat and bone).

            But as has been noted, she never did get taught proper handling. She’s a child soldier, through and through…

          • Ben Posin

            I’m with you that she at least seems to think she hasn’t properly developed certain skills/mindsets due to her ability to rely on strength and invulnerability—I wouldn’t have considered her that stunted prior to the Max mess, and don’t know how strongly I agree with her, but fair enough.

            And I’m certainly open to the idea that her unusual background has warped her perspective, though I think in the last couple of years she’s done a lot to unwarp it.

            But the idea that she, in general, hasn’t been careful doesn’t sit right with me. She was horrified when her roommate in college abused her presence to assault the police, she makes a point of never drinking alcohol for fear that she might do damage through either poor decisions or clumsy movement, and despite her understandable fantasies of killing people the moments when she has actually leaned on her powers without government sanction are very few, and are accompanied by extenuating circumstances which have tied the commenters in knots.

            It’s also worth thinking about how unusual her situation is, and the pressures that go along with it. She really does live in a paper world where any movement she makes by reflex, or any sudden physical venting of frustration, could result in people’s deaths. But she’s forced to deal with a world full of people who surprise her, antagonize her, who harm and threaten others, who refuse to cooperate for the common good, etc. She really does deserve that ticker-tape parade for generally not killing people as she goes about her business.

          • Arkone Axon

            Um… no. Just… no. You do not deserve a ticker-tape parade for NOT murdering people. If you own a firearm, or a motor vehicle, you have the power to easily commit murder if not careful. You do not deserve congratulations for driving in public without committing vehicular manslaughter.

            I am a large, powerful person. Whenever I break something by accident, or bump into someone, I feel extremely guilty about it. Because I should be feeling guilty – I have harmed someone. The fact that it’s difficult for me to avoid doing so does not make it suddenly all right that they have been harmed. So I take extra care. Just because Alison is more powerful than a locomotive does not absolve her of the requirement to exercise as much care with her power as any operator of a firearm or vehicle.

          • Ben Posin

            No doubt, she has a moral requirement to take care (at least that’s my own esthetic judgment, as Gurwara might say). A legal one, too, at least so long as she’s considering herself answerable to the U.S. government. But I really don’t think you, or a person with a gun, can rightly compare yourself with Alison, for some of the reasons she sets forth on the herself when discussing the tickertape parade she’s due. She has super-strength and durability without having been granted super accuracy, super coordination, super judgment, super emotional control, super reflexes, or super discipline. And she isn’t restrained by the consequences, the normal fear of retaliation by others or state punishment that even a “large, powerful person” like you has to keep you in check. So, ok, the ticker-tape parade is a bit much, but for my own part I’m tremendously impressed at how little collateral damage she does in her daily life.

          • Arkone Axon

            You should really check out the webcomic “Grrl Power.” It does an excellent job of emphasizing how super powers are no different than any other form of power. There are certain basic concepts to keep in mind, like “the backstop.” As Maxima put it, “look at what’s behind your target. Assume you will miss and hit that instead.”

            Now I’m not putting ALL the blame on Alison by any means. As I said, she’s a child soldier. She was provided minimal training and mostly just… aimed at things. Encouraged to behave that way. She was never taught the most basic forms of restraint or consideration. When I teach self defense, I follow the example set by my own instructors and teach not only physical counters to attacks, but also how to deal with things in a way that will minimize the LEGAL consequences. And the emotional and psychological consequences. Sure I could teach you how to counter an assault by gouging out the guy’s eye and then shattering his kneecap. I could also then watch you be arrested, AND be sued, AND suffer from the guilt of it for the rest of your life. OR… I could teach you what I actually teach, which involves avoiding the fight in the first place, and relying on nondamaging counters (like blocking. When you do it right you’re literally striking the attacking limb, PUNISHING it for daring to attack you. Not only is it a lot less likely to result in crippling injury, it’s a lot more justifiable when explaining your actions to the police, lawyers, and juries. There’s also a FMA – Fillipino Martial Art – concept called “Gunting,” which is similar and involves using the elbows and knees when they strike at you).

            But that being said… every day she thinks she’s somehow accomplished something awesome by existing in society without committing involuntary manslaughter is a bad day for everyone around her. She really, REALLY needs the training in self control and forethought that her military handlers never gave her.

          • Ben Posin

            I’m up to date on grrl power, am a practicing lawyer, and have spent a long time training bjj/submission wrestling, with some other martial arts experience thrown in here or there. So…you may have to just agree to let me disagree here instead of assuming I don’t have the right background to appreciate the issue’s the way you do. Yeah, she shouldn’t literally be celebrating for not killing people in a given day. But given her situation, I’m pretty impressed with how she tends to conduct herself—-pending resolution of the present crisis, of course.

          • Arkone Axon

            Yeah… as a lawyer, do you really think that a jury would agree that someone with incredible physical strength ought to be given a free pass for committing involuntary manslaughter?

            Not only is she being selfish, narcissistic, and inconsiderate for thinking that simply not murdering people by accident is somehow praiseworthy, but the fact that she has never been taught to show more restraint is a failing not so much on her part as on the part of her handlers. They took an adolescent who was essentially a nuclear equipped walking battle tank and told her, “put your uniform on and then everything you do is 100% justified and okay. Don’t worry about minor details like collateral damage.” I don’t believe that Alison is evil, but I do believe that the people who encouraged her to spend her formative years throwing giant robots through buildings in order to distract from their nefarious dealings are villains of the most despicable sort.

            (Seriously, did your martial arts instructors never teach about the legal consequences of using your training in a real fight? About how the fight NEVER ends just because they’re knocked out, the confrontation continues with police and hospitals and angry friends/relatives?)

          • Ben Posin

            I really feel like we are talking past each other at this point. Of course she doesn’t get a pass as a matter of law for being strong. But she does seem to get one as a matter prosecutorial discretion, as we’ve seen, because the state isn’t able to impose the law on her with force, and apparently doesn’t want to make that obvious.

            Of course she should show restraint and take extraordinary care, and what I have been saying to you is that on the whole, she does and has, all things considered. The crisis now comes from changes in that pattern.

          • Izo

            Grrlpower is excellent. DaveB is awesome. And the heroes and heroines actually ACT LIKE HEROES AND HEROINES and not just bullies and psychopaths. They actually are concerned about minimizing collateral damage, and wouldn’t resort to torture of people, or even hurting people, who were not fighting them. Case in point – the Barber-ian.

          • “There are certain basic concepts to keep in mind, like “the backstop.”
            As Maxima put it, “look at what’s behind your target. Assume you will
            miss and hit that instead.”

            Those Grrlpower strips about thinking about and avoiding collateral damage were really good, a point you so rarely see made.

            Alison’s sort of the anti-Sydney (Grrlpower’s heroine), but Maxima would be just as good for her.

            Though I’m not sure introducing her to Dabbler would be safe; what’s the minimum safe distance when Alison’s head explodes?

          • Insanenoodlyguy

            Allison, unlike you, has to deal with the constant knowledge that she actually could do anything she wanted with nothing being able to stop her. The laws only work because she respects them. For others, the system will ultimately halt them eventually if they attempt to enact their desires upon the world. Allison could murder all those people… and then keep murdering people. The only thing that could stop her right now is if she ran out of people. That is a power nobody else can have without being deluded: after all, anybody else in the world, even other powers, that attempted to do the same thing would have to do so with the knowledge that Allison might be their consequence. Most of us have violent fantasies at some point or another. We also know quickly how unrealistic those fantasies are, or at least that there would be significant and permanent cost to enacting them. For her, the price is much more existential.

          • MrSing

            If the only reason you don’t enact your violent fantasies is a fear of the consequences, you are probably not a very good person.
            Almost all of us can take out a few people before we are stopped. The main reason most people don’t do this is because we aren’t vile people, not because we fear the consequences for ourselves.
            Is a violent fantasy not simply unrealistic not only because we would get caught, but also because we don’t have it in us, morally, to hurt other people on that level?
            If I got the chance to murder someone who wasn’t being a danger to anyone, but who I personally despised, without any consequences, I can assure you that I and many others would not take this opportunity. Because most people have a conscience, which is one of the main reasons most people don’t go around finding loopholes in the law to kill other people.

          • Insanenoodlyguy

            Probably not. Others should be thankful Allison is such a good person despite having a severely diminished fear of the consequences. THROW THAT GIRL A PARADE!

          • Ben Posin

            Also: the page you link to is one of my absolute favorites in the comic, and one that I don’t think reflects badly on Alison at all. For whatever that’s worth.

          • The Duck From p.112

            You’re not allowed in Duck Paradise.

      • a person

        “It’s infinitely interesting how the thousands saved don’t even get a mention. ”

        From this page, “the suffering of countless others”. First part of your comment is plain incorrect.

        “Makes her feel bad.”

        Second part of your comment is unclear. Not sure if you’re talking about Alison or Feral when you say “her”, but I think you mean Alison, so that’s what I’ll go with. Given that, this statement is also false. In panel two, she isn’t explaining how it makes her feel *bad*, but how it makes her feel *empathy*. Two different things. In panel three, she brings it back to Feral’s suffering and not her feelings, and then the argument is no longer about Alison or Feral’s feelings.

    • Dean

      When did Alison have the opportunity to develop these skills? Ever since she was a kid, she has been taught to use her strength to solve problems. Smash the giant robot! Consequences are for other people! College has been the first time that Alison has encountered problems that she can’t punch her way out of. It’s a woner that she’s as well-socialised as she is.

      • Stephanie

        I’m not necessarily blaming her, but I think she blames herself. That seems to be what she’s implying on this page, anyway–she’s essentially yelling at herself for only being good at violence, something she’s beaten herself up for in the past too. Though we’ll have to see what the last panel is leading into when the next page comes out.

        • Chani

          Exactly. My own brain is far too good at blaming me for things, and I didn’t really start questioning it until I caught it spouting nonsense like “you should have known they’d roll a seven”.

      • Incendax

        Honestly? Most of her life. The people around us construct a house of expectations for us, and it’s damn hard to realize you don’t have to live within those expectations. The power has always been hers to choose a different path, she either didn’t realize she could until just now, or didn’t realize that path had merit.

        • Kevin B.

          That’s a lot of responsibility to lay on a little kid.

          • Incendax

            Naw. Having the opportunity to think outside the box is much different than having a responsibility to think outside the box. She could always choose to do nothing but play video games all day. That would be a cop-out, but that’s her choice, unless you are into absolute morals (I’m not).

          • It’s the child soldier thing. Get them young, teach them to fight and to look for support and their moral compass within the unit.

            At least she was excused the “and have them commit an atrocity or two so they think normal society is forever denied them.”

          • Tylikcat

            *chuckling quietly*

            I think committing an atrocity is narrative shorthand, though, the way rape, and PTSD, and a whole lot of other things are narrative shorthand, and probably used just as badly. It’s about all the things you do that has you take your experience and worldview another step further away from the mean of your societies. A few standard deviations outside, for whatever reasons (and they don’t have to come packaged in single incidents, and really, single incidents, even big ones, are probably easier to get past than that slow accumulation over years and years… though again, there are also those social narratives around atrocities) and you start thinking that there is no possible way to relate to the people around you. The things they care about are not your things.

        • Jared Rosenberg

          Be careful at what you get good at you’ll be asked to do it, a lot.

      • Jack Markley

        She doesn’t seem like the type of person to push the blame for her faults onto others.

    • Cyrano111

      I’m not sure what you mean when you say she thinks it was “the better choice”: or rather, I’m not sure what you think Allison thinks. My sense is you believe that she agrees with you: that treating Max as an object rather than a person was the *right* thing to do, that the proper approach to ethics leads to the conclusion that this was behaviour which should be applauded and repeated by others, and so on.

      That’s possible. But if she had really reached that level of equanimity about this, it is hard to see why she feels so tortured.

      It is also possible that she thinks it was the wrong thing to do, but doesn’t regret doing it. She might think it was a horrible thing to do (indeed, it is hard to see why she is agonizing if she holds any other opinion) but that it was a regrettable necessity. That wouldn’t make it so much *right* as it would make it *excusable*.

      Alternatively, she might think that it was flat-out wrong, but recognise the things in her (her respect for Feral, her disdain for Max) which caused her to do that wrong thing. Saying she wouldn’t undo it could just be acknowledging her weakness – she doesn’t regret doing it, but that doesn’t mean she thinks it was right. It’s not even excusable, but she’d rather have a bad thing happen to someone she dislikes rather than someone she likes.

      Anyone who has never thought something like that is not being honest with themselves, but Allison is very good on the “honest with herself” scale.

      Also, it’s not clear that because she said that relatively early in the conversation, it’s “no longer at issue, in her mind”. Much has happened since then to cause her to think more deeply and be more honest with herself – as she is doing in this strip.

      • Stephanie

        I don’t think Alison thinks it’s right to treat Max as an object. She expresses regret about not empathizing with him. But she doesn’t regret choosing “hurt Max” over “let Feral be tortured and all those people die.” We know that because she said she wouldn’t exchange the choice she made for the second option. (And for the record, I’m not happy that you accuse me of treating Max like an object; I have always acknowledged his humanity, I just don’t think his right to be a selfish prick outweighs the lives of thousands of people.)

        The implication on this page is that she feels tortured about it because she failed to develop the skillset she would have needed in order to take a third option. It’s like playing Fallout, opening a dialogue with an important NPC, and seeing that your only two options are “All right, I’ll surrender and let you take over this town” or “Let’s you and me fight!” There’s a third option, a Speech check that would resolve the situation peacefully, but it’s grayed out because you don’t have enough Speech ranks to use it. Whether you choose to fight or flee, you might think you made the right choice of the two available to you, but that doesn’t mean you won’t regret not leveling up your Speech more before you talked to that NPC.

        • Cyrano111

          So you think she’s thinking “I’m 100% happy with the choice I made given the options. I wish there had been some other option”.

          To me wishing there was another choice implies some level of satisfaction less than 100%. That sounds more like “regrettable necessity which can be forgiven” rather than “my behaviour was laudable”.

          • Stephanie

            I don’t think she was happy with the choice, no; I think she thinks it was the correct choice of the alternatives available to her. “Regrettable necessity which can be forgiven” is a fine way of putting it.

          • I think it’s more “regrettable necessity, for which I’ll never forgive myself”

          • Stephanie

            If she never forgives herself, it will be for neglecting to cultivate her diplomacy skills in advance. I think she’ll be able to forgive herself just fine for, specifically, choosing “hurt Max” over “let everyone die.” In fact, given everything we know about her, I don’t think she could ever in a million years have forgiven herself for letting all of that suffering continue when it was within her power to end it.

            The problem, based on what Alison’s said so far, isn’t which option she chose; it’s that those were the only ones she felt she had. Even the persona she constructed specifically to call herself out on this isn’t suggesting that she should have walked away and let everyone die. It’s just saying that she could have tried other tactics to achieve her desired ends. The necessity of the ends themselves doesn’t appear to be up for debate, in Alison’s mind.

          • This page pretty much closes on her regretting her lack of diplomatic skills, but I think that’s over and above the regret she feels for compelling Max to do something against his will.

            I recognise that you’re interpreting Alison’s position through your own analysis of the morality of the dilemma. but I don’t think we’ve seen any evidence that Alison is a strict utilitarian, able to set aside the collateral damage she causes as long as the outcome is for the best. Rather the opposite, in fact.

          • Stephanie

            I don’t think I’m interpreting her position through my own analysis. I’m actually going out of my way to leave my own opinions out of it. I’m specifically describing the conclusions I’ve drawn about Alison’s position and where the real conflict for her lies, based on what she’s said over the last few pages. T

            I did not argue that she’s a strict utilitarian. I said that she’s expressed that she would not reverse this specific decision she made–meaning she believes it was the right choice of the options she had–but that on this page, she narrows in on the real source of her guilt. Her believing that saving Feral/the thousands was necessary, even at the cost of hurting Max, does not necessarily make her a utilitarian. The reason that she couldn’t compromise on boosting Feral is its own question, which I am not addressing here.

            We also know from her characterization throughout the comic that she feels a heavy sense of responsibility to implement world-changing solutions, which is why I say I doubt she could have forgiven herself for failing to implement this one.

            Like I said before, notice that even her “brutal self-honesty” persona isn’t lambasting her for choosing to hurt Max instead of walking away. This whole debate Alison’s having with herself takes it as a given that Feral had to be boosted, one way or another. At this point “they” are only debating the methods by which that end was achieved.

          • You’re focused on justifying Alison’s choice to intervene on Feral’s behalf – which I don’t dispute. Alison believes she was compelled to do what she did and wouldn’t change that.

            But you then say she would get over forcing Max to do something against his will, presumably because she is convinced that the end result was correct. But I’d argue nothing we’ve seen suggests Alison thinks that way. She’s not a big picture thinker*, she reacts to what’s immediately in front of her. And we have seen her react to causing collateral damage – when we see her reacting to having found out that she killed the professor’s husband with a carelessly tossed Sentinel in the aftermath of the fight with Cleaver. And that’s arguably the first step on the path that’s led her here. It’s similar to what happened with Max, collateral damage on the way to an arguably essential victory, but the difference is one was accidental, while the other was deliberate. If the accidental one could tear her apart emotionally, then what’s the deliberate choice going to do?

            * with the possible exception of Valkyrie.

          • Lysiuj

            Although alternatively, she might get torn up about the accidental one because it’s something she didn’t intend; but decide to stand firm on the one that she did intend.

        • “she doesn’t regret choosing “hurt Max” over “let Feral be tortured and
          all those people die.” We know that because she said she wouldn’t
          exchange the choice she made for the second option.”

          Not regretting something doesn’t mean you don’t want to change it. The result of an action and the action itself are separate moral constructs. Morally good results, obtained by morally dubious methods will leave most people wishing they could have done better.

          “I’m not happy that you accuse me of treating Max like an
          object; I have always acknowledged his humanity, I just don’t think his
          right to be a selfish prick outweighs the lives of thousands of people.”

          I think a lot of people, including me, who don’t take a strict utilitarian position would say that when you choose to force him, you choose to treat him as an object, even if you don’t actually see him as one.

          • Stephanie

            She explicitly said that, given the opportunity to undo what she did to Max in exchange for returning Feral to perpetual torture, she wouldn’t do so.

          • “She explicitly said that, given the opportunity to undo what she did to
            Max in exchange for returning Feral to perpetual torture, she wouldn’t
            do so.”

            Agreed, but that doesn’t rule out regretting compelling Max.

          • Stephanie

            She regrets being unable to convince him without having to compel him. She doesn’t regret not walking away.

    • I don’t think your second point is invalid, it’s clearly not, but I’m not sure she’s entirely past the morality of forcing someone to do something against their will. I think she’s accepted her guilt there and that she will always regret it. But that’s something that’s done and can’t be fixed and she’s moved on to the issues that forced her to make that choice.

      Which is surprisingly wise of her.

  • Masala Nilsson

    Gurwara’s rapt little face! I see why he brought those snacks now.

    • Lysiuj

      “Great use of props, distinct body language and tone of voice… she’s progressing wonderfully, the oscar will be hers in no time!”

    • Freemage

      Seriously, panel 4 is the most adorable thing I’ve seen in weeks.

  • Lysiuj

    I find it interesting that Arjun’s show was more a case of two avatars/prototypes of philosophical positions, arguing with each other in rather abstract terms; while Alison’s show is more like a conversation (argument) between two real people.
    Which makes sense – in both cases the goal is Alison understanding her feelings and thoughts. So Arjun gives her a primer on the issue, “essence of deontology vs utilitarianism debates” as it were, and he’s more detached from it all because it’s not his internal dilemma (including his use of humor). But with Alison, these are literally the two voices arguing in her head, she just gave them each a physical presence; so it feels and looks more like a conversation.
    It also leads to the two voices becoming less separate as it goes on, and by the end Alison is basically talking to herself.
    Anyway kudos to Molly and Brennan for expressing that difference.

  • Lysiuj

    On a less serious note, surely there’s a way of doing this that would break the flow of conversation a lot less, when switching between personas.
    Wouldn’t a hat be faster and more comfortable than a coat? 😉

    • Weatherheight

      Card Stock Sign with “I should feel bad about what I did” Alison on one side, “There’s nothing wrong with what I did” Alison on the other.

      I occasionally use this in RPGs when I’m having to play a host of NPCs, flipping back and forth between signs to indicate who is talking while still maintaining a reasonably conversational flow (oh, and voices – voices are really useful, but.. webcomic).

      • palmvos

        that reminds me of a story about a campaign once- the GM had to do that with a council of powerful NPC’s one had a lizard familiar. the familiar was insulted. there was a card for the lizard too. (so it could hiss at the insult-er)

    • Darkoneko Hellsing

      I think you need a few seconds to switch gears properly, so while a hat is faster, the coat may work better for that.

    • Tylikcat

      I think the villainous mustache would be standard.

      • Matthew McMahon

        But which Alison is the villain?

        • Tylikcat

          I reject the concept of villainy.

          • Matthew McMahon

            But the mustache! The mustache! If classic cartoons and comics have taught me nothing, it’s that the villain always has a mustache!!!!

          • Tylikcat

            This explains so much about people’s reactions to Gurwara.

          • Let’s confuse them and get him a white hat.

        • Izo

          Jacketed Alison is the villain.

  • sal

    Charisma, intelligence, and strength might be instruments of force, but wisdom, constitution, and dexterity are instruments of saves

    • Weatherheight

      ::rolls around on the ground with all four legs kicking while braying in hysterical laughter::

      The upvote is not enough.

      • Darkoneko Hellsing

        No, no, no. It’s dices you’re supposed to roll.

        • AdamBombTV

          I rolled an 8 on DEX, but I have a -1 modifier.

        • palmvos

          well… somone rolled a donkey.

          • Tylikcat

            I’m a GURPS character. (*sigh* I’m a min/maxed GURPS character, probably designed by a wannabe rules lawyer.)

          • Loranna

            I’m more of an ICONS girl myself, these days.

            (guesses Tylikcat’s point total to be somewhere in the 400-500 range :P)


          • Tylikcat

            Hey, I may be a GURPS character, but I’m pretty sure I’m not a Champions character! …and while I may have gotten an undeservedly high starting point stash, I bough most of it on quirks and disadvantages.

            (This is one of those things that a couple of my labmates would find hilarious, as it would basically reinforce all of their preconceptions about me… except for the bit where I’d have to explain what the GURPS system is to them first, which pretty much spoils the point of having a joke. So I shall sulk instead. …gods, I can just about hear StatsMan* saying “Wait, you get extra points for quirks? We suffer and you get more points?!”

            * This is, of course, his nom de blog, as I’m not going to use his real name there.

          • Loranna

            Pity we live in a universe where quirks gained during the course of the campaign do not add to our point totals . . .

            OR DO WE? (*thunderous musical sting*)

            But seriously, I now need to figure a way to include a character named StatsMan into my next campaign and fiction. He can be the fiendish mastermind behind the Super Hero Worldwide Database, with detailed analysis of every metahumans’ capabilities, all helpfully ranked and rated on colorful bar graphs!


          • Tylikcat

            …that’s pretty much him. I’ve been trying to arrange to send him to a friend of mine who does is a mathematical ecological modeler at one of the national labs out on the west coast, and pretty overworked. (…also maybe to improve her dating pool.)

            Of course, his super secret lab nick name is “the Ginger Unicorn”. This was given to him by some of the undergrad TAs some years back (some of whom were my research students) to reflect the high proportion of female students in the class they were TAing who were totally crushed out on him, and the other TA’s uncertainty on whether he was mostly oblivious or completely oblivious. Imagine a tall, slender, rather straight edge red head. I’ve been trying to mentor his hacker-nature, which has been coming along nicely.

            (…I suspect he wasn’t *that* oblivious. Also… hm. I did try to introduce him to this comic. This would be a hell of a time to find out he was reading the comment section. We were just teasing him about the nick name that he doesn’t know…)

          • Loranna

            Trying to help a friend while also playing matchmaker, corrupting the innocent to raise a new hacker, talking about the NPCs where they can hear every teasing word you say?

            Yep, it’s official. Tylikcat isn’t just built by a min-maxer, she’s a full-fledged PC, played by a typical gamer ^_^ Clearly, StatsMan is her NPC Hireling, only he’s now grown to be high enough level to have to leave her service 😉

            (Incidentally, StatsMan, if you are poking around here, welcome to the forums!)


          • Tylikcat

            Pfft! StatsMan hasn’t been and NPC since he was an undergrad.* I will admit I have vague dreams of being able to hire him on to some other job at some point down the road for both of us – he’s a joy to work with. But it’s clearly time for us to go in different directions.

            * And I may be evil, but I am not so evil as to post the picture of him in his Braveheart costume from his undergrad years…

          • Loranna

            But just evil enough to share that mental image?

            (notes Tylikcat has Psychological Limitation: Ever So Slightly Evil. Frequency: Frequent. Strength: Moderate)


          • “I’ve been trying to mentor his hacker-nature, which has been coming along nicely.”

            Creating minions?

          • Tylikcat

            I do have minions. StatsMan, however, was not one – maybe, at a time, a protégé, and now a partner in crime.

          • Weatherheight

            Been reading Empowered lately, I take it?

            This ability is actually pretty easy in most game systems that have a “x always fails” check point – just buy the roll up to preclude failure except for the “x always fails” point. For example, in Hero System/Champions, it’s a Knowledge Skill: People with Powers with a 17- Roll (18 always fails in the system). Assuming the GM is okay with this being a non-stat based skill, this is 8 points.
            If the GM insists on a STAT-based roll, it’s a bit pricier (3 points for a base roll of 11-, +12 points for 17- Roll).

            Add a few bonuses to the roll to cancel out penalties for obscurity of information. Then limit the whole thing with “Only applies while linked to the Internet (not much of a LIM, I know, but…)” and you’re off to the races.

          • Loranna

            Actually . . .I haven’t been. reading Empowered. I probably should. >.>

            However, I HAVE spotted a suspicious-looking burro snooping around beasties and used blades in the presence of large-nosed henches and a GM who never learns. Not that I’m implying anything, of course.

            OR AM I?


          • Weatherheight

            I have a feeling you will love the art – as I understand it, the finished pencils are used, rather than the usual inked and toned pencils. Adam Warren’s satire isn’t for everyone, I will say that. But he does a pretty decent job of turning a lot of tropes in comics on their heads and making some very subtle political points regarding policing techniques (hint – he’s a lot more pro investigation/surveillance spending than bigger/better toys spending).

            He also endorses…
            Brains over brawn – Power is important but thoughtful application counts for more.
            Your liability can become a strength if you reframe how you use it.
            Courage is not a function of power but of not letting your fear make you vapor-locked.
            Belief in yourself is effing hard – but so worth it when it all comes together.

          • For inspiration, I present the real world Statto https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angus_Loughran

          • “gods, I can just about hear StatsMan* saying “Wait, you get extra points for quirks? We suffer and you get more points?!””

            Reminds me I’ve been meaning to blog about that mechanism, it’s a bit too close to the magical crip trope in a lot of implementations: “Hey, if I take paraplegic, I’ve got enough points to buy telekinesis”. Disability doesn’t work like that.

            (Which is not a criticism of Tylikcat, they’re the rare example of that kind of thing happening in real life).

          • GURPS Transhuman Space pops to mind for some reason, but GURPS Martial Arts is probably more appropriate

          • Tylikcat

            *level look* …oh, hell. While I know you read that blog post, you’re not across the line, and also probably accurate.

          • Yeah, I did think twice about whether to go with Transhuman Space, and took a chance. *level look* fully deserved.

          • Shweta Narayan

            you could do worse! pretty sure i’m a contact who got nerfed for player character minmaxing purposes

          • Tylikcat

            Reclaim your player character status! Resist!

          • Shweta Narayan

            Doing my best, but having a CON of like 2 is getting in the way a lil bit! Especially during flu season >_<

          • Tylikcat

            I hear you. I’ve found a lot of work-arounds for my own, ah, alternate physiology, but sometimes things just don’t work. This is so much more involved and so much more ridiculous than I even want to go into…

          • Shweta Narayan

            Same :/ In my case a lot of it is, find a fix for one problem and it causes another problem, rinse n repeat.

          • Weatherheight

            I’m a Dependent Non-Player Character for someone too, I just know it.

          • Shweta Narayan

            together, comrade donkey, we will break the shackles of the players and establish an npc utopia!

          • Weatherheight

            ::glances down at his hooves pensively::

            pretty sure those are hobbles…

          • Shweta Narayan

            we shall… break the hobbles? of the players and? establish a mumblemumble?

    • Scott

      This is, by far, one of the greatest comments I have ever seen on this webcomic. Well done.

    • Psile

      This is why barbarians don’t handle the negotiations.

      • LitShips

        “Thog, show him how we negotiate!”

        • Weatherheight

          and watch out for the Thagomizer.

          • Psile

            Could I give you a thousand upvotes for a Far Side reference?

    • Loaded dice are even better.

  • The Vinyl Princess

    I really think that when she’s done with this, she needs to charge the professor for the show. Two cents should cover it.

    • Tylikcat

      Mm, I think this is more like a student asking a professor to critique their work.

      • Sendaz

        Yes, she wants him to give her his two cents, in this case both verbal and physical. 😛

        • Tylikcat

          Okay, yes 🙂

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Wait, what happened?!
            Your sempiternally yellow profile picture background!
            It’s growing cacti!

          • Tylikcat

            I wanted natural light so I went to the balcony on the rear of the zendo? Those are leafless trees (it’s still winter) and my garage.

            I mean, I have some great cacti pics from when I was visiting my aunt in Arizona… Oh – and bobcats!

          • Definitely plum in that light 😉

          • Weatherheight

            a) it makes a nice circle of logic
            b) it demonstrates that she now values her opinions in a meaningful (if silly) way
            c) she’s going to come up 2 cents short for her double mocha frappe whatsis thingy cappuccino later on without that 2 cents later, mark my words.

            yet another nice avatar, BTW

          • Shweta Narayan

            Now I kinda want Gurwara to go “Let me give you my two cents” tho 😀

  • Sendaz

    Why doesn’t she?
    Because the Gov in their rush to train Alison and the others up to be children super-soldiers didn’t prioritize normal socialization very high up on the to-do list.

    Which got me to thinking, and I do apologize if this is a off on a bit of a tangent and this has been raised before, but her Doc is her physician, her consul, and her confessor all rolled into one.
    For anyone else this would be a glaring conflict of interest, but for governmental expediency and helping to keep a leash on their TerrorTeens, it probably works out well as far as being able to guide and control them.
    Which brings me back to thinking about a few points that have always bothered me over the years with Doc.
    How did Moonshadow come to target Miles in the first place? Sure he was trashtalking Alison online, but that didn’t really fit MS’s definition for needing to be hunted down. Someone had to do some digging to turn up his previous problems at the boarding school and likewise nobody officially filed a complaint from the party Alison attended when she stopped him from taking advantage of the girl, so that never hit regular press. But what are the odds Alison disclosed it to the Doc?
    Likewise when Alison first discusses Moonshadow possibly being the Invisible Slasher, it’s the Doc who insists the MS had been already cleared by the top brass. But was she really? Alison has no other direct contact with the organization and while she had no reason to doubt the Doc, she also has no way to doublecheck anything. Plus I bet the organization probably heavily relies on Doc’s analysis so if she put in a report saying it couldn’t possibly be Moonshadow behind it, who would question it?
    When Alison does find out MS is IS, she never really goes back and says ‘Hey you guys were totally wrong here.’ because she has been conditioned to think positively about Doc.
    If the Doc does have a second agenda and is manipulating supers on the side, she is very well placed to do exactly that. She would also be one of the first to see new emerging supers, so if there was anyone would could make up a cull list to nip potential world changers in the bud it would be her.

    It might be well interesting to see Guwara explore this avenue because an outside perspective might dig up other things that don’t add up.

    • Lostman

      The Doc does seem like a weird character… strange how there was a institution of scientist that were ready to study superhuman… or how Doc singled out Alison? If there is a second agenda that Doc, it’s something we haven’t seen yet.

    • Eva Smiljanić

      We’re calling it: the Doc is in cahoots with Moonshadow or some evil organization

      • Lostman

        Moonshadow, no… the some evil organization, possibly.

      • Weatherheight

        I don’t see Dr. Rosenblum being either a major actor or a pawn of a major actor; she’s giving off entirely the wrong vibe in canon so far.

        Of course, if she were, that’d be exactly the approach she’d take… Wouldn’t it?
        Duh duh DUHN!

        • Tylikcat

          Assigned by the government to be Alison’s handler and try to keep Alison on an even keel and maybe give everyone a head’s of if things are going South would strike me as more likely than not.

          • Handlers for agents in place may well be the right analogy, it’d probably be the analogy that sprang to mind for government officials of a certain type trying to conscript biodynamics as para-militaries. The other option that would work would be running militia/rebel groups at a distance. I don’t think we’ve seen any evidence that the government was exercising operational control of the Guardians, though it appears to have been providing operational support.

            Incidentally Charles Stross’s ‘The Annihilation Score’ deals with precisely this scenario, though Mo, our heroine, is told from the outset that the official Home Office superhero group she’s to set up must be constituted as a formal police agency. Which is something that comes difficult to her when she’s been a occult intelligence field agent for the Laundry for a decade and the entire operational concept of the Laundry is that no one knows they exist. (We found out in ‘The Apocalypse Codex’ that the entire Laundry essentially exists as the support agency for the Deeply Scary Sorcerors of Mahogany Row, who are so secret even most of the Laundry doesn’t realise they exist).

          • Arkone Axon

            That… that IS intriguing. It didn’t occur to me to consider how the government was influencing Furnace there. What are you thinking, regarding Furnace?

          • Tylikcat

            Furnace had his own equivalent of Dr. Rosenblum. I think having a sympathetic doctor (who almost certainly has serious psychological training) as primary handler makes sense – don’t go in for heavy obvious attempts at control, but for something a bit more subtle as a way of keeping tabs and hopefully getting information.


    • Cyrano111

      Yes, I’ve had doubts about the Doc for a while too, though not for any reasons I can clearly articulate.

    • Zinc

      A bit late to the party here, but you’re working off some false assumptions. Alison totally did call Doc to tell her they were wrong about Moonshadow, once she figures out exactly how she faked her alibi:


  • Lostman

    He loving this…

  • DanLovatClark

    Gurwara is now getting his actual payment for his advice. Dinner AND a show!

  • Jeez, we got kind of a Gollum situation here

    • Though I don’t see her referring to Max as ‘my precioussss’ any time soon.

      (And referring to Feral that way would be just creepy)

  • Walter

    Now the student has become two of the students.

  • Pol Subanajouy

    As someone who has been in martial arts 8 years now, she is right. A half nelson is as fucking honest as it gets.

    • Tylikcat

      My shoulder says yes.

    • Izo

      So wait, are you saying your martial arts training has taught you that it’s a good thing to use your martial arts skills to force people to do things you want?

      Hope not. Your sensei or whoever taught you would have majorly messed up then. You’d basically be the bad guy in the Karate Kid.

      • Way to miss the point, which is the intellectualised bullying is still just bullying. The half-nelson is ‘honest’ because the compulsion is blatant.

        • Arkone Axon

          There’s a difference between persuading someone through rational discourse and appealing to their desires (be it a selfish desire for personal gain or an altruistic desire to help others), and “intellectual bullying” such as… blackmail, or psychological manipulation. Victims of bullying know when they’ve been bullied.

          • It depends how subtle it is, plenty of psychologically abusive relationships with the female partner in the relationship convinced she’s the one at fault and she just needs to be that little better. But intense-Alison was clearly talking about manipulative persuasion that isn’t in the target’s best interests, even if they don’t know it, hence her preference for the ‘honest’ persuasion of the half-nelson.

          • Tylikcat

            Which is kind of hilarious, because while Alison is certainly aware of the downsides of that kind of manipulation, *everyone* is aware that it is not only not an in-class skill for her, but indeed, not on she has any points in, and probably one she has a few negative modifiers for. (To return to the brilliant metaphor invoked above.)

  • HanoverFist

    Oh god it’s contagious.

  • Obinna Onyeije

    It occurs to me that passers-by may be very confused and distressed watching Alison yell at herself while changing in and out of a large coat.
    Also this conversation must be going very slowly.

    • Arkone Axon

      …Well, considering that Alison is well known as the Superman/Clark Kent of her world… yeah, I’d be a little concerned if the planet’s most powerful flying brick were arguing with herself like a crazy hobo…

      • Izo

        Alison is Superman from Injustice, not main universe Superman. Actually, she’s far worse than Superman from Injustice… FAR more easily triggered. At least with Injustice Superman, it took Joker getting Superman to murder Lois and his unborn son and nuke all of Metropolis to make him snap. Alison? Just don’t do what she wants and she snaps.

        • Arkone Axon

          Yes… though upbringing helps. Superman was raised by a couple from Kansas who taught him to be humble, decent, and try to help others. Alison was trained by a government that encouraged her to engage in flashy, violent battles with lots of collateral damage, because it helped distract from the crap they were up to. You can tell that Alison has never considered spending an entire day with someone on a window ledge who is thinking about jumping, just being there for them.

  • Philip Bourque

    Every second Feral was on that table was a second she volunteered for. Nobody forced her and for the periods she was lucid, she could change her mind. Making her more comfortable is a good thing to do as a friend, unless Feral went into this wanting to suffer. If she did, then it’s a whole different kind of help she needed. Wouldn’t it have been better if instead of making her more comfortable, making Feral’s ‘sacrifice’ unnecessary?
    I read a few articles on technological development for organ replacement and there were two routes brought up; the first was a form of cloning, using pig-human embryos (I think?) to create replacement organs. The second was using 3d printing tech to create organs and skin grafts and the like (I saw a picture of an ear created through this method). I wonder if this world has followed the same tracks of research ours has.

    • LitShips

      “Every second Feral was on that table was a second she volunteered for.”

      Voluntary suffering is still suffering, and alleviating suffering is an admirable goal.

      • Arkone Axon

        I would argue that Alison has inflicted involuntary suffering upon Feral. If I found out that someone had been tortured for my benefit, I would not be happy about it. But as I’ve noted – in multiple posts strewn across the comments sections for these pages – it’s not just that Alison did evil, it’s that she was STUPIDLY evil.

        • LitShips

          He wasn’t tortured, he was roughed up. Torture is “the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone”. I would hardly say that Max was in severe pain.

          • Tylikcat

            Are you going with dictionary definitions here? Considering that legal definitions involve things like sleep deprivation and a lot of other things that aren’t obviously severe pain.

            Also… do you have experience with joint locks? Because the whole point is that you have mechanical advantage over someone’s joint, which you can then increase, putting pressure on the joint capsule, and, depending on the lock, threatening dislocation. This is why they give you so much control over a person – you can pretty arbitrarily increase the amount of pain if they fight you. They often have a pretty non-violent reputation, because most people back off fairly quickly, and in that case they don’t do major damage. But if what you want to do is make them hurt, and especially if strength is no object (though again, they give you mechanical advantage, so you don’t need a ton of strength), oh, yeah, they can deliver pain.

            (Time was, if guys tried to grope me at social – or, for that matter, professions, yay tech in the nineties – occasions, putting them in a joint lock was my standard response. This was generally not that big a deal – I mean, it was embarrassing for them, sure, but most of them stopped fighting it pretty quickly, and once it was clear they got the “no touching without permission” rule, I let them go. And if anyone did try to fight it, I was already in control of the situation, and they were only going to be hurting themselves.)

          • Weatherheight

            Question (since I’ve not studied martial arts directly and only very indirectly for game mechanic purposes) –
            are most joint locks able to be escalated from “control” to “pain” to “something just broke”?

          • Tylikcat

            There’s even a pre-control “Hey, I have you, so let’s not go there,” level, where force isn’t really being used, but you can kind of feel the potential for it. If you know what you’re doing, you have a lot of control over the outcome.

            (There are exceptions, especially when you’re weaker than the person you’re locking and they’re fighting it a lot – you might end up injuring them, because the only other option is to let them escape. And, of course, depending, sometimes people can get out of them, based either on strength or skill.

            I know sometimes my combination of strength and flexibility means I can slip out of things – but I think a lot of that’s surprise factor, and people who are familiar with the vagaries of my body can lock me just fine.)

          • Weatherheight

            so.. yes? 😀

          • Tylikcat

            In all but a few boundary cases.

          • I remember one of the guys I used to train with regularly; he’d been in a car accident and messed up the nerves in his arm. He used to report that he could feel pressure and knew when I’d applied a lock in such a way that a little further pressure would rebreak his arm, but it just didn’t hurt. A very frustrating fella to work out with, but I learned an awful lot…

          • LitShips

            While your personal stories about joint locks are inspiring, I’m sure, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. Nothing that we’ve seen or that Alison has admitted to convinces me that she “tortured” anyone. Since we’re going all “personal experience” here, are you a military service member? Have you been through SERE training? I can tell you from personal experience that sleep deprivation DEFINITELY causes severe pain.

          • Tylikcat

            I know, fairly intimately, and I agree. (I am not a military service member, no.) It is also one of the things that people who do not have that experience will frequently call out as “obviously” not being torture, so it sticks in my mind as an example of something many people find counterintuitive.

            Here’s the text of the 1984 UN Torture Convention:

            “Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

            So, I think we’re going to have to throw out the official capacity bit, because that can’t possibly apply in this situation – the question isn’t whether Alison could never torture him, but that she couldn’t be found liable in these terms because she’s not acting for a nation state.

            The other one would be that he wasn’t hurt enough, and frankly, that seems specious. I mean, the argument would have to go, she hurt him and scared him enough that he did a thing he didn’t want to do and resisted multiple times – but hey, he did it, and the treatment wasn’t brutal enough… so Max was a wimp and it wasn’t torture – it’s pretty clear the legal bit is much more about the coercion. (Though, I think you could make and argument that it’s not just the joint lock – and seriously, a half-nelson? – but the whacking his head to the table, flying around with him, threatening him with death, taking him to a dark room, etc. etc. …and yeah, maybe Max being an inexperienced kid.)

            …which makes me think I shouldn’t be looking at the UN rules at all, because we’re not talking about a wartime situation, Max was a civilian, at home, in the US, who was attacked by another civilian. (Unless there’s some angle that being an unregistered biodynamic brings into it, which, if so, is pretty icky.)

            That would be… (and Izo, this would really seem to be your field, so do jump in)

            “18 U.S. Code § 2340 – Definitions

            (1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
            (2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—
            (A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
            (B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
            (C) the threat of imminent death; or
            (D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and
            (3) “United States” means the several States of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths, territories, and possessions of the United States.”

            …okay, so in that case – again, Max is a civilian, on US soil, no war going on – I can’t see how this doesn’t apply. By a couple of points. Even if the physical pain wasn’t adequate, and we’re talking civilian courts here, he was threatened both with more pain and with death.

          • Arkone Axon

            Tylikcat answered this one, but failed to add something taught by Fiore dei Liberi, a martial arts instructor of the 15th century. When explaining how to grapple with multiple attackers.

            Step one: use footwork and positioning to line them up so they can only come at you one at a time.
            Step two: get one of them in a joint lock.
            Step three: BREAK THE JOINT.
            Step four: throw them at their comrades and repeat the process.

            The reason a joint lock is controlling is because you can easily step up the pressure to turn it into pain. And the reason it’s painful is because if you add MORE pressure… you can shatter hinge joints (such as the elbows or knees), pop ball joints (such as the shoulders and hips), and cause all kinds of damage to ligaments, tendons, and muscles. That’s why the referee in MMA bouts declares the fight to be over once someone fully establishes a joint lock – because if the defeated fighter refuses to tap out, then they’re looking at a crippling, career ending injury. The referee ending the fight saves both joints and pride.

          • Most joint locks can easily be escalated into injury, and the pain that comes along with that escalation is what enforces cooperation. And the amount of mechanical advantage that can be gained through a properly applied joint lock against an unskilled or unwary opponent is pretty staggering- a single finger used correctly with a hold applied to a wrist can, for example, transform a moderately inconvenient and somewhat uncomfortable hold into a knee-watering, mind-blanking, white-hot pain. And it’s worth noting that, while this hold can be further extended to cause permanent injury to the wrist, the pain is sufficiently in advance that it is also very effective in creating pain-compliance in hostile and aggressive prisoners.

      • Philip Bourque

        I also said “Making her more comfortable is a good thing to do as a friend”. So thanks for agreeing with me?

    • It was a plea-bargain, so arguably she was compelled, she was just willing to be compelled.

      Which combined with thinking about child-soldier stuff upthread has just started me down a whole ugly chain of thought. Given the timing, especially that Feral spent some significant time travelling the world after Allison convinced her to re-evaluate, were Feral’s crimes (vigilantism) committed while she was a juvenile. Was she being punished with perpetual pain for something she did while a legal child?

      • Philip Bourque

        Was it a plea-bargain? I don’t remember anyone saying that.
        I contend that she was punishing herself. Humans are weird in that many thinking inflicting pain upon themselves will somehow absolve their guilt.

        • Stephanie

          She did request, and receive, amnesty for all of her past crimes in exchange for her donations. Thought I think she may have made that request for pragmatic reasons–you can’t donate your organs if you’re in jail. IIRC, she turned herself in voluntarily, so she wasn’t compelled in that sense. However, I think it’s fair to say that she was compelled to stay on the table by the knowledge that any time she spent out of surgery would come at the cost of someone’s life.

          Re: your last contention, I don’t think she was punishing herself, but that she was atoning. It’s not quite the same thing. Feral wants to do as much good as she’s capable of. The fact that doing maximal good caused her extraordinary suffering was just an unfortunate side effect. We’ve seen how thrilled she is about being able to help many more people at substantially less cost to herself, which I think makes it clear that she’s primarily motivated by a desire to alleviate suffering in others, rather than by a desire to suffer.

          • Philip Bourque

            Looking back on that page, Patrick says that her pardon was done in exchange for the tests to see if her organs were compatible, not for the constant donations. But then, this information is given to Alison by Patrick who has demonstrated himself to be a lying, manipulative jerkass that many readers no longer like. I find that no one in this comic is a reliable narrator; I can’t trust anything they say.
            As for Feral, you may be right, after all as soon as she was released she almost immediately picked up her self-destructive habits again.

          • Stephanie

            Right, that’s probably more accurate. Either way, you’re correct that she wasn’t being held hostage by the government as far as we know. She was compelled, but not in that particular way.

        • Tylikcat reminded me it was only partially a plea-bargain, so I looked it up. She got a full pardon just for the test case, and the rest is fully voluntary http://strongfemaleprotagonist.com/issue-3/page-39-2/.

      • Tylikcat

        My recollection was that was just the initial experimental work she did. The rest of it she took on… not just voluntarily, but actively pursued.

        • You’re right. http://strongfemaleprotagonist.com/issue-3/page-39-2/

          The preceding bits of issue 3 are worth a re-read for the Feral backstory and the road-trip with Patrick. Especially the reminder Alison was fully aware he’s still killing people, and the timeline for Feral stopping her vigilantism – when Alison went to university, so she was killing people as a legal adult.

  • Pablo T

    Grammar question from a non native speaker: Why does Alison talks about Max in plural? “when THEY told you about THEIR life. About THEIR story.”. It was only Max, HE told her HIS story. No? Thanks

    • Micah Matheson

      “They” can refer to plural people, or it can refer to a single person in a gender-neutral way.

      “He said hello” is the same as “They said hello” – both can talk about a *single* person.

      • Pablo T

        Interesting, I had never heard of that use. Thanks.

        • Tylikcat

          Gender neutral they is in rising use as a personal pronoun of choice.

          But it’s been in use in cases where it referred to a single person where gender wasn’t definite or wasn’t relevant for centuries. (It’s actually kind of funny – people who fancy themselves grammarians get up on high horses about the first, often in total ignorance of the second. Mind you, I’m a descriptivist, not a prescriptivist, so I mostly support what works well for people, and otherwise am popping popcorn.)

          • I’ve been using gender-neutral they as appropriate in speech and writing for decades, now, although I also often switch to he, she, it, one, or he or she if needed for precision.

            What is grammatically correct or not in this page, though, I find less interesting than the implication of the plural-v-singular they. It is pretty much self-evident that the intent is to use they as a gender-neutral pronoun in order to hide Max’s identity (although, to be honest, I suspect this would be sort of pointless given the amount of other detail her narrative seems to have included), but… what if it is also a recognition that this behavior- this unwillingness to really process and value other people’s points-of-view is something she has done repeatedly in the past without noticing. This, then, extends the question from the immediate (“Was it wrong to use force to coerce Max?”) to a more general question (“Is it always wrong to use force to coerce obedience?”)

            The fact that the audience has been debating this for months notwithstanding, I think this is the first time that Alison has ever acknowledged that this is a necessary question… assuming that she did, of course.

          • Weatherheight

            I’m not sure that this is the first time she’s acknowledged this – her resignation from the Guardians seems to me to indicate that she’s run up against the idea before. I do, however, agree that this is likely the first time that she’s broken one part of her own moral code willfully and deliberately to forward the agenda of a different portion of her moral code. The internalized conflict is more easily recognized and harder to deny.

            The idea that the language she is using to describe it to another person is helping her to examine the situation in a clarified way is interesting. Is your point that by taking the singular instance being described and translating into a generalized plural set of circumstances, this allows her to recognize that what she has initially seen to be a singular instance is in fact a pattern of behavior?

            It’s something of a cliché that distance provides clarity, but you may be onto something here.

          • Honestly, I’m not sure; I know that, in my own experience, using odd linguistic patterns can sometimes open up avenues of investigation that I hadn’t even realized existed, but I’m not sure if that’s because I’m a word nerd and it’s just the way my brain makes patterns, or if that style of association is more general.

    • SmilingCorpse

      They and their are pronouns, just like He, him and his. Not only is it used by gender fluid and non-binary individuals,it can be used to conceal someones gender. Alison wants to keep Max anonymous.

  • David Bapst

    This is absolutely lovely. The payoff is beyond delicious!

    • Micah Matheson

      I dunno, those chips look pretty good…

    • Urthman

      If he’s not, somebody in that park sure is and it’s on YouTube by now.

      “WATCH: Mega Girl gone crazy? Arguing with HERSELF?”

  • Arklyte

    Is he filming it on the phone with the other hand?

  • Elbadasso

    CHIP’S CHIPS: “When you’ve got a Hegelian life crisis with dueling moralities, why not get the snack with TWICE the flavor? Chip’s Chips. Thesis. Antithesis. Delicious.”

    • Sendaz

      now I’m craving chips

    • Weatherheight

      Thesis. Antithesis. Synthesis. Delicious…

      • The problem is people think they can try one thesis and just stop, but the next thing you know you’re nailing 95 theses to the door of the cathedral and setting all Europe ablaze.

        • Weatherheight

          Martin, Martin
          I see that you been writin’
          Brother, brother, brother
          What bout those fires you been lightin’
          We know you had somethin’ to say
          You used your hammer here today-ya

          Luther, Luther
          You just had to explicate
          You thought, Wow, I got the answers
          Think I’ll nail them to the front gate
          You know you had to have your say
          Now we’ve got another way-hey-hey

          You wrote lines and posted signs
          “Don’t blinder me with orthodoxy”
          Siad your piece, so we can see
          Oh, what’s going on
          What’s going on
          Ya, what’s going on
          Ah, what’s going on

    • LitShips

      Looking for a snack that’s a pure form of itself? Chip’s Chips! Made with Platonic solids!

      • MrSing

        You fool! We can never know chips as a ding an sich!
        Our human senses can’t a priori know the wonderful blend of ten spices for the low price of 0,99$ per 100 grams.
        We can only taste a hollow, yet still incredibly delicious, illusions and pale shadow of the true richness of Chip’s brand Chips!
        Plato is just using false advertisement.

  • Chris Hubbard

    I wonder, is he loving this because its entertaining as hell to watch? Or because he is seeing a student finally start tearing through all the justifications, moral arguments, straw men, etc as she argues with herself until finally hitting the truth? Up till now she would only take at best a single step, make a declaration, and that was it. Now she is arguing with herself much as he did, acknowledging all sides, and countering them one by one.

    • Weatherheight

      People rarely have one motive for anything. It’s just a lot simpler to understand if we assume there is a single motive.
      Why can’t it be both? 😀

    • Tylikcat

      When I have a student, academic or martial, who can take what I give them and turn around and use it that quickly? It’s pretty awesome. And I’m a little excitable.

  • Emily Smith

    The professor eating chips absolutely makes this page!

    And, she almost comes out and says it, but it’s interesting to think how her distaste for manipulation might be related to Patrick.

    • Freemage

      Panel 4 of this comic is possibly my favorite one in this strip so far, and I adore the art throughout this strip.

  • Eva Smiljanić

    “If anything it just robs them of the dignity of being able to resent you for controlling them!”
    I just finally put into words why I’d rather deal with violent homophobes/racists/sexists than the people who are against violence, but there’s just this reason that they’re right and if you disagree you’re being unreasonable.

    • LitShips

      Interesting. I just had a long conversation with a PoC I work with who told me that he was kind of relieved that Trump won. His words: “At least I know where I stand with him. My path for the next for years is completely clear. I know exactly what I need to do and why. With Hillary, I would have been constantly wondering when the other shoe was going to drop. When is she going to become just another old white lady? When is she going to throw black people under the bus for some other agenda?”

      Needless to say, it was an eye-opening perspective.

      • Arkone Axon

        He wouldn’t have had to wonder for long. Clinton was already throwing black people under the bus back in the 1990s, when she helped recreate slavery with the for-profit prison system and whipped up racial tensions by ranting about “teenaged superpredators.” Trump is doing almost everything Clinton would have done (and had been doing for a very long time)… he’s just too stupid to hide it or be subtle about it.

        • Freemage

          I think that’s an overstatement. As a Bernie supporter, I agree Clinton was no saint, and I had a hell of a lot of issues with a great many of her policies. And yes, she has a habit of throwing constituencies under the bus in the name of centrist compromise, much like Obama and Bill both did before her. But no, I don’t think she’d be selling us out to Russia, or literally turning the White House into a commercial enterprise, or trying to do everything she could to intimidate the free press.

          • Arkone Axon

            The Clinton Foundation is under investigation (and all the foreign donations have dried up). She helped write the TPP that she then tried to distance herself from while still clearly planning to pass it. Her ties to the oil industry (the one responsible for the same pipelines that threaten the water supply) are blatant and obvious. She undermined legitimately elected regimes (I have a friend who lives in Brazil and experienced the results of the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff firsthand). And at no point did she ever say boo about the killing of innocent civilians by drone strikes.

            The only difference between them is that Clinton is better at hiding it, and she’s very quick to accuse detractors of sexism and persecution. (Though to be fair, that’s worked for her over the last few decades largely because of the idiot Republicans trying to achieve a felony conviction over… oral sex… @[email protected] )

          • Freemage

            It also helps that a lot of her detractors ARE blatantly sexist. And that includes a fairly large number of Berniebros who immediately resorted to every misogynistic trope in the book when they realized she knew the game better than their candidate did.

            I’m not saying there’s no similarities between Clinton’s policies and those of a bog-standard Republican. But again, that’s not saying they’re identical, and it oversells the case to say that they are. The equivalency is possible only if you decide that issues from abortion to gay rights to racial equality to religious freedom don’t matter at all. And while a President H. Clinton wouldn’t be a great friend to the environment, she wouldn’t have been ready to completely dismantle the EPA. It’s a matter of both degree and kind, and pretending it isn’t in order to establish some sort of purity test is the exact reason we now have a president who gets to blather on about “alternative facts”.

            (Oddly, I happen to think the biggest mistake the Democrats have made in my lifetime was not voting to convict Bill Clinton on the impeachment charges. Sure, the way things came up was complete BS, but once he was in that position, he had three choices–he could refuse to answer, and force them to try to impeach him over a contempt charge rather than a perjury charge; he could answer directly and honestly while suggesting that Starr was little more than a scandal-mongering peeping Tom; he could lie under oath. He made the one choice that gave the GOP the ability to go wild.)

          • Arkone Axon

            I… did not see any sexism on the part of the Sanders supporters. I did see a lot of Clinton playing the sexism card, over and over and over again. I also saw youtube videos by female commentators condemning the insinuation that they were expected to show “sisterhood solidarity” by voting for Clinton’s vagina, but not Jill Stein’s.

            And no, she didn’t “know the game better.” She had the game rigged better – the fact that Clinton was preselected as the Democratic candidate has been confirmed. It is established fact, to be placed alongside Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate. Obama is a native born citizen, Trump wears a bad toupee with a fake tan, and the Democratic primaries were rigged; these are facts.

            As for the issues such as abortion, gay rights, racial equivalency… Clinton never had any actual positions on them. She supported whatever was most politically expedient – she came out in support of gay marriage AFTER the majority of Americans began to support it. She spoke of racial equality AFTER demonizing young black Americans as “superpredators” in the 90s. She claimed to support womens’ rights, but look at what she did to Juanita Broaddrick.

            As I said, the real difference is that Trump is too stupid to be subtle or nuanced about what he’s doing. Which makes it easier to oppose him, easier to rally support against him. Instead of a cyberpunk conspiracy where the bad guys win even when you expose everything and then they laughingly slap you with fees and fines for your own rigged trial, we have a 1980s cartoon villain who blows up and rants when people call him names and throws tantrums when he finds out he can’t actually do the bad thing he was going to do on today’s episode.

            (Honestly, accusing Sanders supporters of sexism? That’s like accusing them of being violent and throwing chairs. I was at that convention in Vegas. Nobody threw a thing. All we did is stand up and chant loudly and make it clear we weren’t going to sit down and behave like good little children. My next door neighbor was a Clinton delegate who helped organize the event – she went home embittered and pissed at what the DNC was doing. “It wasn’t fair to you guys.”)

          • Freemage

            You never saw any Sanders supporter using terms like “cunt”, “bitch”, “clintslash” and “shrillary”? Because then you weren’t looking very hard.

            The problem is, you seem to be interpreting my statement that a lot of Bernie Sanders’ supporters were sexist as a statement that either Sanders himself, or alternately that ALL of his followers, were sexist. That’s a strawman argument of my position.

            But when you say that no Sanders followers were ever acting sexist, then you’re attributing to them a level of sainthood that, frankly, doesn’t even exist among actual feminists–the nature of institutional sexism, racism and the like is that it is often hard for the perpetrators to even recognize, because it is so endemic, which means that even people who have dedicated their lives and careers to ending it periodically slip up.

            Was Clinton the party establishment’s preferred candidate? Yes. However, the rules of the party were followed during the campaign. There’s no indication that they ever actually cancelled legitimate votes, or stuffed the ballot in an illegitimate fashion. Now, the system is heavily weighted towards the establishment candidate, by design; I concede that without reservation. But Sanders and his people knew, or should have known, that was the case going in. Many state primaries require that you be an established member of the party to participate. This is done for a host of reasons, some of which are valid, others of which are corrupting. Life tends to be messy and ugly and don’t go to the sausage factory if you’ve got a weak stomach.

            (Another example from the other side–there were both valid and sexist arguments that tied Hillary to Bill Clinton’s administration policies. She was responsible for the failed health care reform effort, and likely had some voice on the other centrist positions Bill Clinton took, but making it out like she was running the show is just disingenuous.)

            And note that in any state where it was an open primary–where anyone could walk up and vote–Hillary still won, because she had the establishment’s support. Again, that’s how the system is geared. The naivete in expecting the DNC to not either have a preferred candidate, or to never express that preference, is absurd. It’s part of the reason we have political parties at all.

            Finally–the biggest direct impact of the DNC favoring Hillary is in the superdelegate count. However, if you either send the superdelegates home, or even just split them down the middle, then Hillary still won the primaries, by winning more delegates. By the way, I made the same argument when Obama beat Hillary in some primaries by knowing how the math of the system worked better than she did at the time.

            And as infuriating as these things can be, it’s important to note that this is also how government really works. If someone isn’t willing to do the homework and figure out the system in the first place, they aren’t going to be effective in doing anything.

            And here’s my final problem with your position: Sure, we’ve got a great energy in opposing Trump. But that’s just a holding action. Even if everything Trump does is halted out of the gate (and we’ve already seen that that’s likely to be impossible), then the best we’ve done is establish a holding action for 4 years. (It might get easier during the midterms, but unless progressives win a veto-proof majority for both houses, it’s nothing but a lot of political theater.) So if you were totally happy with the state of America in 2016, that’s probably fine–but frankly, I’d be inclined to regard your progressive credentials with suspicion.

            The most likely Hillary Clinton outcome was some incremental progress on some fronts, and some backsliding on others. The only potential good outcome of Trump’s presidency is if he goes full Queeg and shoots Paul Ryan for disloyalty.

      • Eva Smiljanić

        It’s an unfortunate human mentality. If you ask an abuse victim whether they prefer to be beaten with certainty or be completely clueless when an outburst will come, most will rather choose to be beaten. Humans handle bad experiences more easily than tension and fear.
        One abuse victim was talking about her experiences, and she said that when her abuser was in a bad mood, she’d intentionally provoke him so he’d blow up and beat her to get it over with. She would rather get it done with than wait in suspence, with the threat of harm hanging over her head.

  • Stephanie Gertsch

    Because she failed the class she was never able to perfect the technique of creating different coat-based personalities to argue against each other. Poor Al.

    • Lysiuj

      Well he did talk about the importance of aesthetics…

  • DaktariD

    “Say what you want about a half nelson, at least it’s fucking honest!”

    This is my new motto.

    • Tylikcat

      It’s easy to get custom t-shirts… though it would be even cooler if they were official ones, and supported the site.

      I would buy *that* shirt.

  • Robert

    It’s amazing what happens when someone steps away from the feels and starts exploring the OTHER two sides of the coin…

    I love it.

    Three sides, but four dimensions. A simple concept, but mastering it… she’s getting the hang of the process.

    Well done indeed Brennan and Molly… the dialogue fits well with the poses…

    All that AND a bag of chips.

    Single thumb up!

    There would have had to been a duck in the comic for two thumbs.

    Standards, you understand.

  • Jacket Alison VS Shirtsleeves Alison


  • MrSing

    Whatever happened to the noble art of bribery and giving out favors to people for doing your bidding? Or, more colloquially know as, paying a person for performing services?
    Don’t tell me that persuading a person or paying them is on the same level as a half nelson. Or that it is somehow more dishonest.
    Honestly, screw this.

    • Stephanie

      Did you overlook panel 4?

      • MrSing

        I did. Yet nowhere I can see her saying that she would have been willing to pay or perform favors for him in exchange for his services. She only talks about persuading, manipulating and forcing. And from how the original conversation with Max went, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to state that when she talks about “persuading” she merely means providing arguments instead of goods or services.

        • Stephanie

          What I mean is, you’re saying “Don’t tell me that persuading a person or paying them is on the same level as a half nelson” as if Alison/the authors had made that argument unchallenged. But in Panel 4, Alison herself says “[I’m] being dishonest right now. [I] know there is a middle ground somewhere in between a sterile appeal to heroism and machiavellian mind-control.”

          So the reason I’m confused is that you seem to be calling her out on exactly what she just called herself out on. Your comment would be fitting if the page had ended at panel 3, with Coat Alison’s disingenuous argument yet unchallenged.

          • MrSing

            I’m arguing that this form of middle ground is one which has still not entered her mind.
            Since she never adresses it and never has in the past.

          • Stephanie

            I’m not taking issue with the parts of your comment that address Alison’s neglecting to consider paying Max. I was specifically responding to “Don’t tell me that persuading a person or paying them is on the same level as a half nelson.” That part of your comment confused me, because Alison isn’t telling us that.

          • MrSing

            I take issue with that statement because she only focused on the “manipulation” part and sneakily equated it to the “convincing” part by not adressing it.

            She might have called herself out for having to find a middle ground, but she neglected to mention the real wrong she commited with that argument, which is subtly implying that convincing a person is the same as manipulating them.
            If she had stated that this was what was wrong instead of the vague “there is something in the middle” I wouldn’t have been so caustic.
            I admit, I’m reading between the lines, but it’s pretty frustrating that she did not correct herself where it truly mattered in a way that made clear whether she truly understood that what she said was asinine.

            As it is, there is the lingering doubt that she sees convincing a person with sound arguments to chance their mind or with incentive to perform services that they would not have done for free on the same level as blackmailing, because you changed someone’s mind without resorting to violence.

          • Stephanie

            She’s saying that convincing someone does not necessarily equal machiavellian manipulation–that her equating those things was disingenuous.

          • MrSing

            That is one possible reading.

          • MrSing

            I thought it over for a bit and you’re right. I guess I was so appalled over what she said that my brain short circuited for a bit. I don’t like how softly she called herself out, but she did do it. I was wrong on that part.

            I’m still annoyed at her though. I’m petty like that.

  • JohnTomato

    Uncertainty may be the best indicator that you’re on the correct path.

  • Next-to-last Panel: She is becoming his protégé …

    So much that her expression and body language are unconsciously mirroring his.

    Kind of like Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, moving in for the kill on the scientist responsible for the development of Skynet, her body language exactly mirroring Schwarzenegger’s as the Terminator.

  • Dogwood

    It amuses me a bit that the many Allisons have looks ranging from really cartoony to approaching realism. Reminds me of when I was watching one anime where the art style was reasonably realistic, then suddenly one of the characters made an exaggerated “D:” face, and I panicked and thought someone had melted off his face.

  • Kt Squiggles


  • Humorous Phlegm

    lov the cronch

  • Izo

    To everyone who gave an argument defending Alison because she was doing what she did for some greater utilitarian good of ‘saving millions of people’ – you’re wrong. Because of this statement ‘Every second that FERAL was on that table….’ She did it for Feral, and only for Feral. No other reason. Ending the suffering of others? It was her one and only attempt at ‘persuasion.’ But she did it for Feral. Period. And that problem could have been resolved instead by FERAL NOT DECIDING TO DO IT ANYMORE. Or if Alison really wanted to stop Feral from torturing herself, she could have threatened the doctors instead, who were at least actively doing something and betraying their oaths. Tell the doctors who want to operate on her ‘Any doctor that removes an organ from Feral, I remove an organ from you.’ See how many doctors would have worked with Feral to go through with her torture. None.

    No one should be making the exceuse of utilitarianism now if you really want to be making an honest defense for Alison.

    Also, I take offense at Alison making the idiotic argument that she did anything to save Max the loss of dignity of being able to resent her for controlling him. That’s complete and utter BS. He had no dignity left after what she did anyway, and not just resentment, but FEAR and feeling violated. Because it’s impotent resentment at that and a permanent fear that she can and would do it again. For the rest of his life.

    Not to mention that saying ‘using charisma and intelligence are instruments of force just like strength. They are not. Because Alison had the strength, and Max had no strength. But if she used charm and intelligence to convince them, they would have been on a more equal playing field. But she couldn’t, because Alison is stupid, and Alison has the charm of a borderline psychopath – her claims of being good having gone into the trash with what she did.

    Although at least she admits towards the end that she could have, and did not even TRY, to have a middle ground. But she doesnt bother countering the ‘youcould have tried to persuade or manipulate him’ by ignoring the ‘persuade’ and focusing on the ‘manipulate.’ Persuading someone is how NORMAL PEOPLE NEGOTIATE DEALS. Alison can’t even argue with HERSELF fairly.

    Here’s the problem. Alison only knows how to convince someone by relying on her strength. Without using strongarm physical abuse, she is incapable of convincing someone in a way which would matter to THE PERSON SHE IS TRYING TO CONVINCE. Like any narcissistic, self-absorbed bully, she only thinks of how things would convince HER. But she wasn’t there to convince HER. She was there to supposedly convince MAX.

    What Alison could have done, and chose to not do, is appeal to something that MAX would respect, not just things that Alison would respect. Know the person you’re making a deal with. And the insane thing is Alison DOES know the stuff that matters to Max. She could have focused on persuasive means which would have appealed to HIS mentality, not hers, since she wanted something from HIM. But no, being a villain, and that’s what Alison is – an evil, psychopathic villain – is so much easier when a person is as mentally dull and as inherently a bully as Alison is.

    Alison knows what matters to Max. He doesn’t care about heroism, or he’s too scared to be a hero. And after what Alison did, he’s justified in being scared.Profit motive matters to Max. Freedom of choice matters to Max. Quid pro quo and not being told what he HAS to do appeals to Max. Would it seem cheap to Alison if she used persuasion instead of force? Big f**king deal. If her end goal was to help Feral, a moral and ethical person chooses the path to that goal that violates your core principles the LEAST. And trying to persuade and see things from MAX’S perspective while doing the persuasion does not. Physical force DOES. Using persuasion is called NEGOTIATION. Use MAX’S own beliefs to persuade him, not Alison’s strongarm tactics and insults. Jacketed Alison is a moron. Unjacketed Alison made a good deal of sense but did not follow through on obvious strong arguments as much as she could have.

    But everyone here who has been bending over backwards to defend her? To say that she did it to save millions as the core reason and NOT just to save her FRIEND who was doing this voluntarily? Your arguments are invalid now. The trolley problem is not even applicable now. It wasn’t pulling a lever to save 5 people instead of one person. It was pulling a lever to save one person you like instead of one person who you’ve only known for a day or two and have made a biased opinion about. One to one. When the person you like who was on the track was able to get off the track any time she wanted, of her own free will, while the other person was STUCK on the track that you put him on.

    It’s truly sickening that people think that using persuasive, non-violent arguments is the same as beating someone up or threatening to murder to get your way, and I genuinely hope I never meet any people who think like that in real life because people like that TERRIFY me. :/

    PS – Gurwara seems to be enjoying this. And he’s a messy eater.

    • Ben Posin

      Right, Feral could have decided not to do it anymore at any moment. There was absolutely nothing keeping her chained to that table. And Alison could have threatened Feral’s doctors or just dragged Feral out. Absolutely no other considerations at play. Well, EXCEPT FOR ALL THE PEOPLE FERAL WAS SAVING.

      Give me a break.

      • Arkone Axon

        Also the fact that she would have lost Feral’s good opinion. Also she would have lost her own good opinion. No one is the villain in their own heads. Alison could have done that to save her friend (and she may have been genuinely considering it), but to do so would have meant being unable to consider herself the heroine. I’ve noted elsewhere that before anyone can do evil they have to rationalize it, justify it… and Alison was not prepared to rationalize such a thing at the time.

        Also, Izo is right and ALL THOSE PEOPLE DID NOT MATTER. This was about Feral. This was always about one person, her one friend. It’s not evil to want to save one person you care about at the cost of another, it’s a perfectly normal desire. But it does mean that no one can claim that this was ever about the people Feral was saving. It was always about Feral.

        • Ben Posin

          While we’re throwing relevant webfiction at each other, let me recommend Unsong, in which one character known as the Comet King has taken on the grave task of destroying Hell and ending the suffering of the damned. He has proposed some steps that logically make sense towards this overwhelmingly worthy end, but that offend that traditional and moral sensibilities of his advisers, who kick up a fuss. The Comet King (who is no normal dude) tells them he has the ability to hear the damned screaming in Hell all the time—which shuts up the advisers for a bit. He then explains ok, no, I don’t have that power, but maybe my real power is that I don’t need to be able to hear them screaming to properly prioritize their rescue and act accordingly.

          People are suffering all the time, and we don’t do the minimum necessary to help them because we don’t feel it on an emotional level, because they aren’t promoted to our attention a lot of the time. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, just knowing this is a fact of human nature doesn’t make it go away. So yeah, of course a lot of the driving immediate urgency Alison feels is about Feral, the person she knows, cares about, and has seen suffering in person. That’s just human nature. But Alison was also conscious of the lives that hung in the balance—we know that because she tried to use that fact to persuade Max—and I don’t think it’s fair to just say they had nothing to do with this, or that Alison has somehow made some sort of admission barring her use of them as justification.

          • Arkone Axon

            Because yes, Alison HAS barred her use of them as justification. She’s abandoned her attempts to justify her actions by bringing up the unknown, anonymous people who never mattered to her when she was hurling giant robots around. She’s admitted that it’s all about Feral, about her friend.

            That being said, the problem here isn’t that she’s trying to save the world (even if you insist that she still meant to do the thing she now admits she didn’t care about doing). The problem is that she decided to conscript others into saving the world. Even if they disagreed with her methods of saving the world. You want a fictional example? I just finished watching the latest episode of a Netflix show, a sequel to the legendary “Cyborg 009” anime. The villain openly declares that he intends to save the world, to save humanity, to make things a better place… while planning to commit genocide. And the next time I load up Netflix I’ll see a bunch of titles under the category of “because you watched,” many of which will involve villains who genuinely believe they’re doing good and saving the world… while “offending traditional and moral sensibilities.” Because the protagonists are offended by the idea of murder, theft, and other crimes for the greater good.

            But of course that can’t happen in RL, can it? Oh, wait – Robespierre, Pol Pot, Ceausescu, Torquemada… hell, how many children have died because of anti-vaxxers who scream with rage to drown out the “lies” told by a supposed conspiracy of doctors who want to give everyone autism? How many people have had their lives ruined by online witch hunts that began when one person decided to take offense and suddenly everyone jumped on the bandwagon to SAVE THE WORLD AT ALL COSTS(all capitals because that’s how the generic appeal for the greater good works: with loud, emotional declarations to emphasize the black and white good versus evil nature of the issue)? How many people have had their lives ended by real witch hunts in which a hangman’s noose featured so prominently?

            Alison needs to learn the lesson that was shouted angrily at Furnace by the heroine he almost killed (along with a lot of other people) when he tried to melt a bullet. THINK before you act. Be more responsible. You don’t fire bullets randomly at something you haven’t even identified, and you certainly don’t use your superpowers in life shattering ways because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

          • Ben Posin

            I don’t know what to tell you, I don’t see this unambiguous “admission” that you do. So there’s not much point in addressing the rest of your comment.

          • Cokely

            People are reading into this incomplete sentence: “Every second Feral was on the table . . .”

            How they complete that reading is what they are taking as an admission. If they are finishing it with something like “. . . was another second that Feral was in agonizing pain when she didn’t have to be,” they’re assuming it’s an admission of only caring about Feral, or at the very least giving Feral’s suffering priority over the suffering of the anonymous mass in need of organs.

            Personally, I think that’s the more likely end to the sentence, but one could also complete it as ” . . . and was not donating organs at the maximum possible efficiency, more people were needlessly suffering and dying.”

          • Ben Posin

            I get that, but where it goes off the rails for me is thinking that the first way you complete that sentence means that was the only consideration Alison had. I don’t know, maybe we are all talking past each other. I am happy to agree that the urgency with which Alison acted was probably driven by her regard for Feral—I just don’t agree that this means the decision Alison ultimately made didn’t involve consideration of the folks who could be saved by boosting Feral. Particularly sincr she brought them up when talking to Max.

          • Cokely

            “where it goes off the rails for me is thinking that the first way you complete that sentence means that was the only consideration Alison had. ”

            Hence my position of “at the very least giving Feral’s suffering priority over the suffering of the anonymous mass in need of organs.” Not the only consideration, but the primary one.Generally, I think people are reading too much into an incomplete dialogue at present, but that’s normal enough for these boards.

          • Arkone Axon

            The main reason people are coming to that conclusion is that previous Alison had tried to stop Feral from donating those organs in the first place. Solving the issue of organ donation was always a secondary consideration for her – the means to achieve her true ends, that of saving Feral.

            And honestly, I think she brought up those other people when talking to Max, because she knew that “millions of lives” is a weightier appeal than “one person you’ve never met.”

          • Stephanie

            ” So yeah, of course a lot of the driving immediate urgency Alison feels is about Feral, the person she knows, cares about, and has seen suffering in person. That’s just human nature. But Alison was also conscious of the lives that hung in the balance—we know that because she tried to use that fact to persuade Max—and I don’t think it’s fair to just say they had nothing to do with this, or that Alison has somehow made some sort of admission barring her use of them as justification.”

            Thank you! Well put. I don’t understand how anyone reads this entire comic and draws the conclusion that Alison, of all people, is some kind of partial sociopath with zero compassion for anyone but her closest loved ones. It’s like they missed the entire point of SFP’s story.

          • Ben Posin

            I find it a bit baffling. I have read this page a couple of times and just don’t see the “admission” people keep talking about that somehow wipes out her history of concern for the general public and the welfare of strangers.

    • Arkone Axon

      I do not think that Alison is a sociopath, though she is definitely being a villain of late. She is indeed narcissistic and self-absorbed. Look at her throughout her superhero-ing career – she loudly left the group in a melodramatic fashion and abandoned them to suffer and fall apart. She failed to keep in touch with them. She failed to show compassion for her comrades, the people who had fought at her side.

      Later she went on to claim that every day she didn’t commit multiple counts of involuntary manslaughter people ought to give her a parade. I mean… seriously? “You should thank me for not being a walking catastrophe more dangerous than most earthquakes and many tsunamis” is not a reasonable argument to make.

      But that’s what this comic’s been all about, I think. About Alison slowly pulling her head out of her own ass and LOOKING at the world around her. Not in an idealistic “how can I save the world” fashion that ends with millions dead and her frantically insisting her good intentions ought to count for something, but in a “here are the people around her and they actually matter” sense. Learning to actually care about people, not in a generalized “for the people” sense, but in a “getting to know individuals and cherishing them” sense.

      That being said… I’m genuinely concerned about some of the people who have been posting. Specifically, the ones who are insisting that Alison did nothing wrong except to feel guilty about it, that her victims deserved it, and that she should do it more. That sentiment, that outlook… that’s what leads to a Robespierre. A Pol Pot. A Ceausescu. A Torquemada. That sort of belief fuels causes that claim high and benevolent goals… and use those lofty motives to justify all manner of atrocities.

      (edited because I accidentally hit the post button while this was only half written)

    • “It’s truly sickening that people think that using persuasive, non-violent arguments is the same as beating someone up”

      We call it gaslighting.

      And it’s worse.

      • Arkone Axon

        …Gaslighting would be abusing someone and then telling them that they’re not being abused. Convincing someone with persuasive appeals to logic, facts, and a person’s altruistic desires and/or selfish interests is NOT gaslighting.

        • I was addressing the general point, rather than the specific one of Alison’s argument to Max, but even that was based on disregarding the risk he faced. And Alison is clearly making a general point here and in calling open violence at least honest.

          And she’s right. I’ve faced too much physical bullying in my time, but it pales in comparison to the psychological bullying. Hell, I’ve had the senior management of a multi-billion dollar company queueing up to tell me I was incompetent. Proving them wrong was pleasant, but it doesn’t mean it stopped being damaging.

          • Arkone Axon

            Yes, but there’s a difference between entitled bullying jerks who think it’s more fun to make employees and contractors feel bad about themselves rather than show a profit, and… talking to someone and convincing them to act of their own free choice. It’s a difference that anyone in the sales departments of those multi-billion dollar company could explain far better than I can.

    • Stephanie

      You’re cherrypicking lines to suit your narrative. Alison expresses that Max’s dismissing the suffering of both Feral and thousands of others angered her–literally on this very page. She can’t relate to Max because he doesn’t give a shit about Feral or thousands of lives, and that way of thinking is anathema to her. She has explained this at some length.

      Alison doesn’t need to allude to the thousands every single time she addresses the potential cost of Max’s refusal. There is only so much space in a panel, not to mention how stiff and unrealistic her dialogue would sound if she were explicating the full breadth of what’s at stake every single time. The only reason she’d do that would be if she somehow knew there were an audience of people scanning each minute of her life for any individual word bubble that contains the word “Feral” but not the phrase “countless lives.”

      Furthermore, in this specific case, Feral’s suffering was what was actually pertinent, because Alison is specifically addressing why she didn’t give Max time to consider before resorting to coercion–not why she coerced him at all. The thousands were imperiled if Max never acted at all, and certainly some individuals were dying on a daily basis, but Feral’s extreme and unmitigated suffering was ongoing on a second-to-second basis.

      So, no, Alison focusing on Feral’s suffering in this specific context is not evidence that she doesn’t give a shit about the thousands of lives…unless you completely ignore everything she’s said and done throughout the entire comic that contradicts your interpretation. Alison has been repeatedly, consistently, thoroughly established as someone who cares deeply about the welfare of humanity at large.

    • Tylikcat

      I don’t think Alison does know what matters to Max. She knows a narrow superficial set, and an even narrower less superficial set… which she cut off because she had to tableflip. I’m pretty sure there’s more to Max than that, and I’m not even especially inclined to like Max. (Note: This is an argument in favor of talking to him and getting a better feel for what’s important to him and *then* making an appeal, rather than trying to do it based on minimal information.)

  • Weatherheight

    It’s a bit late, but our local news featured this…

    “At Arbor Court Retirement Community at Alvamar it was an anniversary 72 years in the making. The couple said their Valentine’s Day plans tonight include watching television together. The couple reiterated that it isn’t what you do, but who you are with that matters.”

    Ain’t it the truth.

    Happy belated Valentines Day, everyone, and may all of you know true love.

  • “a sterile appeal to heroism and Machiavellian mind control”

    Furnace and Patrick as the two poles of Alison’s moral compass?

  • Setting aside the coat and the arguments, there’s an interesting visual contrast between wide eyed and idealistic Alison, and intense, Hulk Smash! Alison

  • Rugains Fleuridor

    *takes potato chip*
    *eats it*

    Chips brand chips. Providing the daily dose of salt professors need! TM

    • SmilingCorpse

      Your comment reminds me of that hilarious scene in death note. “I’ll take a potato chip…AND EAT IT!!!”

  • Mitchell Lord

    “You know there’s a middle ground between a sterile appeal to heroism, and machievellian mind control.”

    …Nice one. AKA: “You don’t have to become Patrick.”

    • Tylikcat

      I love that Alison is terrified of becoming Patrick when she does not appear to have the skillset to become a Fuller Brush Salesman.

  • Bob

    Okay, moral self-inspection aside, I love how Gurwara has chip dust in his beard and ‘stache. I just like little details like that.

    • Edward L. Howell

      They do look like they are coated in neon cheese 🙂

  • masterofbones

    Lol, talking to people is force? That is *really* bad logic there. Being persuasive is the exact opposite of force, and should be encouraged.

    People are afraid of competent persuaders because it makes them question their free will, not because it is unethical. If a certain tone of voice can get me to change my mind, how much power to choose do I really have?

    But that’s a scary question, so “manipulation is evil”.

    • Stephanie

      Alison acknowledges in the very next panel that that was a false dichotomy. You’re responding like the page ended at panel 3.

      • masterofbones

        She still claims that Machiavellian manipulation is equivalent to mind control.

        • Stephanie

          No, she doesn’t.

          • masterofbones

            “Machiavellian mind control”. Since Machiavelli makes no mention of mind control, the intent of the phrase must be to equate Machiavellian tactics with mind control.

    • Zorae42

      Not really. Persuasion can be 100% unethical, just depends on how you’re using it. It’s why car salesmen, credit card companies, and loan distributors have the reputation they do. They all employ completely non-violent intense persuasion in order to prey on people in need for profit.

      Of course, those are all pretty far to one side of the spectrum Alison mentioned in panel 4.

  • Tuan Taureo

    Meanwhile, all I can currently think about is grumpy philosophy class teacher guy gleefully munching snacks like a /popcorn gif and clearly having the time of his life. X’D

  • Daryl McCullough

    Have I missed something? I thought Alison was talking about one person. Why use the pronoun “them”?

    • palmvos

      this was asked way down thread by a Pablo T. I believe. I recommend the thread of responses to understand. they, them have emerged as the gender neutral way to refer to people both in singular and in groups. Also, despite much guessing Alison seems to be trying to conceal Max’s involvement, part of that his hiding the gender involved.