Chapter 5, Page 21

WOW are they actually getting somewhere finally. It’s a question I think about a lot though. How much do you need to know about someone before you allow yourself to empathize with them? It’s also a meta-commentary on you guys as readers, haha, sorry you’ve been a bit of an experiment from my perspective. We know a lot about Mike thanks to me doing a bunch of exposition about his backstory (which he hasn’t revealed on his own) and very little about Bex and her motivations. Overwhelmingly she’s been the subject of a lot of scrutiny and angry comments despite Mike being the way worse of the two, behaviorally… It’s been very interesting to watch, and a little sad too.

The only news is that the MI book Kickstarter is still going, woo

and now a new development PDF reward has been unlocked and added to all premium tiers! For those who don’t want to wade through all my old Patreon posts, and a few new entries will go in there too to keep it fresh. I also did a writeup of two of my incredible guest artists, Monarobot and Abby Howard, if you don’t know who these guys are you should defs take a look.

Oh yeah and the Kallakore pin giveaway is still going, and we’ve got some entries~ Here’s a fantastic drawing by Blue, which I’m not sure if it is an entry but gosh darn it, LEVi in a bowtie.

If you’ve linked your entry in the comments anywhere on the comic page updates, I will see it! I’ll make a list of them tomorrow on the contest page so you can make sure I got in your entry, be it art or poem or soap carving or whatever~

*descends back into the comic mines*

229 Comments

  • Vanis

    As much as I feel for Bex… there’s something that need’s to be pointed out. Just because you are a human being, doesn’t mean you have inherent humanity… There are animals out there with more inherent humanity than some human beings … it’s not the body but a person’s character that gives them their humanity. Traits like compassion, patience, love, joy, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness… The more of these traits someone has, the more people are drawn to them… and although Bex has a few, Kalla has quite a few more.

    • shingworks

      So, do you think that a person needs to prove their worth in order to be cared about? Or is there some universal basic income sort of value to every person regardless of how easy they are to be around?

      • Vanis

        I think it’s a bit more complex than simply proving one’s worth… or having an intrinsic value within oneself… though, to be frank, showing one’s worth is helpful… and all life is precious, but let’s consider this.

        Are there times when we go out of our way to prove their worth to people… when in reality they’re really just trying to prove their own worth to themselves with an audience watching?

        It’s true, at some level everyone should be accepted for who they are… but if we as people don’t attempt to grow beyond who we are right now… there’s going to come a time when our way of living will betray us… stop working for us…

        A sprout can be excepted for being a sprout… but can a farmer still accept it if after several years it still hasn’t become a sapling or a tree?

        We can’t expect people to accept us for who we are… If even we can’t accept ourselves for who we are… if we aren’t becoming more than who we were.

        Bex has it rough… and I don’t know enough about her to really do her character justice… but I can see from your actions and words that she’s likely a deep reflection of who you are inside… That’s why I want to give you a gracious but honest answer.

        Do I think there’s some sort of basic and universal currency inside of us that gives us value regardless of how easy we are to be around?

        I would say yes… being alive gives us a priceless value in the eyes of our creator… and in some cases even in the eyes of our fellow human beings… But life is tough… people are cruel… problems come… and wishes die…

        We can’t expect life to be fair Shing, it’s just not how it works… I’ve attempted suicide because of this fact… but now…

        I found a purpose… in writing stories that share a message of hope… you do the same in your own way.

        Kalla has spent a very long time in the cave… she’s endured loneliness and hardships that neither Bex nor Mike could ever imagine… and while Bex isn’t wrong for wanting to make her own choices and find true happiness… she is wrong for wasting this time she’s been given.

        Bex, Mike, Kalla, Levi, out of the 4 of them, only Bex hasn’t taken time to truely reflect on her life. It’s true, Bex has remembered things from her past… but she’s focused on regret rather than resolution.

        Kalla has been patient with Mike, caring for him and trying to understand him… Levi has found new meaning despite his body being replaced with a new one… and Mike has made peace with his life despite it meaning he may have to stay in the cave for the rest of time.

        I think what would make the biggest Difference in our view of Bex and her situation would be for her to reach a point where she experiences a Paradigm shift… taking a leap of faith and trying to break out of the shell she’s trapped herself in all these years… if she chooses to humble herself instead of using her problems as an excuse for her behavior and actions, I think a lot of people would applaud her.

        Yes, we all have intrinsic worth Shing, and we don’t have to prove ourselves to others in order to justify our existence… but one thing is certain, more important than anything else we can do in our life… more important than finding someone to love and be loved by… more important than raising a family and making friends… more important than a successful career or a happy life…

        Is our willingness to grow in the face of adversity… and believe me… that takes the strength and courage of a hero to do.

        • The Wing

          Vanis, I support that opinion 100%. We get to choose for whom we care. We aren’t obligated to care for everybody. It may seem unfair that we place arbitrary values on individuals, but you can’t expect compassion and empathy of others unless you give them a good reason to care. People have a lot to worry about in their lives without caring for every random passerby. Give them a reason to add you to their list of things and people they care about, or don’t expect them to.

          There are some amazing, rare people who care about everybody and crumble to dust before their lives are over. The average person can’t handle giving all they have and receiving nothing in return. Care and empathy should be exchanged, not demanded.

          I’m hoping Bex and Mike can reach an understanding where they each share and accept their pain, because Mike isn’t letting Bex know why he cares so much about her dysfunctional family life and how she ‘abandoned’ her kids. He believes she isn’t worth caring about because she didn’t care enough about her family – which is perfectly understandable, given what his own family did to him.

          The fact that they’re talking now gives me hope.

          • Luke

            Maybe we shouldn’t care about everyone if it’s too emotionally draining, but surely we’d all be better off if everyone at least acted as though they cared about everyone else.

      • Spav

        Just my take on it- I absolutely don’t think that any person chosen at random has an automatic “social value” that can be safely assumed. For example: psychopaths (as in, people with diagnosable Antisocial Personality Disorder), at least those on the far end of the scale, have a thought process and priority system that would be incompatible with human society were they not inclined toward social camouflage in the interest of self-preservation. Psychopaths are predatory, remorseless, and at least 1% of the population- with that percentage possibly being low because they’re not easy to identify.

        Society is an inherently participatory system. There’s totally room for varying degrees of participation, but it quite literally isn’t safe to assume that a hypothetical complete stranger should be assigned some measure of automatic value and inclusion. Monsters exist, they have human faces, and they wield the blind compassion of others as a weapon.

        • Jaguarette

          Psychopats are still useful to society. We wouldn’t have a method of heart transplant if not for one of them. Sometimes a lack of empathy and some healthy disdain of other’s lifes is needed :)

      • Respect is a two-tiered system, I think. All humans deserve a certain basic level of respect for being human, or recognizing their potential, perhaps. But a higher level of respect beyond that has to be earned by a person’s actions, showing that they are, in fact, deserving of more respect, and deserving of trust, friendship, love, etc.

    • Cully Barger

      Basic human nature to sympathize with those whom we know more about their backstory, and to to be less sympathetic when most of what we’ve been told about someone is that they left their children for their career (yes, it’s implied that there’s more to Bex’s story, but I don’t think we’ve learned it yet).
      These are both flawed individuals, but Ms. Helmer has given us more exposition, more reason to care about Mike than she has – so far – with Bex.

      • Cully Barger

        Bex: “…I never would abandon you here. So why do you abandon me?”
        The response I would’ve liked to have heard from Mike:
        “Let’s review: I followed you to the Processor, returned your dropped pack to you, saved you from falling into a crevice at the Processor, tried to talk the Processor out of eliminating you, helped you against the attack creatures at the Processor, followed you down this rabbit hole…all while you were marching away from me. Tell me again who’s abandoning who here?”

        I find it interesting that the author declares that Bex has been “the subject of a lot of scrutiny and angry comments despite Mike being the way worse of the two, behaviorally”.
        Yes, Mike has seen some mood swings, to put it mildly. But to review, he has made what I would call pretty deep friendships with both LEVI and Kallakore, and he’s been more adaptive to his situation than anyone I know could be. Conversely, Bex has *murdered* Kalla – a highly sentient being, she caged LEVI, she’s been unable to make any associations whatsoever and has adapted only in that she’s gone into survivalist mode.

  • Jynxi

    Being cared about and respected I think are kind of different things. I have family and friends I care about, but have little respect for. The opposite can be true too, I respect plenty of people, but care little for them.

    I feel like we’re using a lot of words as if they are the same thing when they are not. Respect, Like, Care, Understand.

    Also Mike has chosen at least once not to abandon Bex, afterall he could have run off with Kalla at any point now. Yet here we are– he followed Bex all this way.

    • Margaret Hogg

      I think from Bex’s point of view he abandoned her back in the chamber with the processor by just passively watching that interaction, and now he’s just following her because he’s changed his mind and sees it in his best interest to escape. (And um, she’s not totally wrong?)

  • Vanis

    On a different but similar note, I think one of the reasons people side with Mike over Bex is partly due to the fact that despite his flaws… Mike doesn’t play the victim card as much… at least not as much as he did in the past.

    Mike has said and done some pretty hurtful things… that much is true… but things like that can be forgiven…

    The reason I like Mike more than Bex is because Mike tries to make the best out of his situation… adapting to the circumstances and making peace with them.

    On the other hand, Bex has to have things her way or no way… she doesn’t want to let go of the things that are precious to her in order to find peace or joy in a new area or experience.

    From what I’ve learned in life, people can forgive a bully… but to many, there’s nothing more repulsive than a victim who uses their problems as an excuse for poor behavior.

    It’s one thing to act wrong, but it’s quite another to justify your actions by bringing up your sad sorry life as an excuse, even if it’s only to yourself.

    That’s not to say that Mike is the good guy and Bex is the bad guy here… it’s just that while Mike feels like an Underdog, Bex feels like a little girl stuck behind glass, watching the kids play in the street and turning up her nose at them… putting them down because she wishes she were them, instead of going downstairs and playing with them… which would require her to give up something important.

    Don’t know if that makes sense but it’s how I perceive this situation.

    • skellagirl

      Sorry, when does Bex play the victim card? I can’t remember her ever doing that in the comic, am I misremembering?

      I do think a lot of people like Mike over Bex because of the inherent sexism in “woman leaving her family is evil and irredeemable”; it’s such an interesting backstory that Der-Shing gave Bex (as a character, but also as a black woman specifically), I’d bet literal money Bex wouldn’t be under nearly as much scrutiny if she were a man (a white man?).

      For what it’s worth, I like both characters equally. I really do; I don’t think I could pick a favorite between the two, they’re both amazingly written and developed and have such great flaws; they’re so different and yet so alike and I care about them both.

      Also re: your earlier comment about some people not having inherent humanity: I strongly disagree. Everyone has inherent humanity, even horrible monsters. To forget that is to forget that even horrible monsters are humans, and any of us can be horrible monsters.

      • Vanis

        No you’re not misreading, it just might be a little bit hard to spot at first, but read the last panel of Interlude 3, page 3, where Bex breaks down as she realizes she’s going to have a baby… she asks what will happen to her once she gives birth, wondering if her identity will always be “Mother” from now on or not…

        Now I don’t wish to judge her, I merely want to point out a few things.

        First, victims allow circumstances to define who they are and focus on the negative aspects of these circumstances… often using their problems as a way to shame or guilt people into doing what they want, rather than choosing to find something good in their lives to focus on… For Bex, having a baby apparently meant being less of a person for the rest of her life… something a victim would do.

        Victims also focus on themselves more than others… having little empathy for those around them even if those people have it worse than they do. In fact, it’s not uncommon for victims to go out of their way to one-up people who have more problems than them… making the people around them feel worse than they do already.

        In Interlude 3, Page 4, Bex’ Husband was having a rough time trying to understand why Bex was treating her pregnancy like a death sentence. Instead of focusing on what she might lose Bex could have thought about what she and her husband would gain. What it would mean for her, her husband… for there child… for their family. What it would be like to move onto the next phase… the next glorious phase of marriage and life… how much joy her child could bring to others in the future… but instead, as a victim she focused only on herself… the things she might lose, her prospects, her career… things that aren’t as important as our legacies… our children.

        It’s fine to work hard and do good work… but if we let anything become an idol in our lives… we’re going to end up empty and lonely in the end… just like Bex has.

        That’s one instance of Bex playing the Victim Card… the fact that her husband had to snap at her in order for Bex to see a bit of truth means something wasn’t working… something wasn’t right… and Bex’s self centered focus was largely to blame… if Bex didn’t want to have children then she shouldn’t have gotten married… doing whatever it took to make sure she never fell in love or got forced into a relationship might have been better than going through all the stuff she has up till this point…

        As far as people scrutinizing her more because of sexism, thinking she’s worse for for being a mother who decided to leave her family… it’s important to note that out of all the things people can do that are frowned upon in society… leaving one’s family is by far the most hated and loathed… It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman… the one who leaves their family is always hated… regardless of race or gender.

        So if the reason why people dislike Bex so much isn’t just because she left her family… what else could it be? Well, one answer can be found in the current page, Chapter 5 Page 21, When you look at it in light of the events which took place around Chapter 4, Page 35.

        Here we can see how a Victim uses shame and guilt to get what they want.

        In Chapter 5 Page 21, Bex says, “Despite how frustrating I find you, I never would abandon you here. So why would you abandon me?”

        This hurts Michael deeply and it’s partly true… however.

        In Chapter 4, Page 35, after being saved from falling to her death by Kallacore, Bex does the following.

        She doesn’t thank Kallacore, to whom she now owes her life.

        She doesn’t thank Kalla for going out of her way to bring her a gift.

        And to top it all off, When Kallacore asks Bex if she knows where Michael is, Bex replies with a harsh, “Does He know where, I AM? Or Care?”

        Still, Bex would never abandon Michael right?

        Surely she’d at least give Kallacore information she could use to find Michael, Right?

        Wrong!

        Bex had the gall to lie that she hasn’t seen Michael since the floor of the lava tubes collapsed. Sure Bex could have been worried about what Kallacore would do to her if she found out about the Murder incident she was involved in. But since Kallacore doesn’t remember any of that… all she had to say was that she last Saw Michael by the pool.

        Instead, Bex continues playing the victim card and goes so far as to snub Kalla by calling her a “Thing.”

        In this instance, Bex wasn’t just being a victim, she was being downright obnoxious… not to mention rude, ungrateful, conceited and a few other things I could mention.

        If Bex wanted Michael to accept her inherent humanity… why didn’t she try to see Kallacore’s first?

        If Bex doesn’t want Michael to Abandon Her, why did she abandon him first?

        So, moving back to the last pannel of Chapter 5, Page 21, where Bex shames Michael, saying she’d never abandon him… she’s an outright liar, not to mention a Hippocratic.

        Sure back in chapter 4, Page 35 Bex goes on to justify her actions by saying that the sooner she gets out and contacts the base, the sooner help will come for Michael… but wouldn’t it be better to just find Michael first and leave as a group at the same time rather than risking a lot of people’s lives just to find one man?

        So… regardless of Bex decision to leave her family, that’s not the main reason people dislike her.

        She’s self centered, hypocritical, manipulative, immature, emotionally unstable, and even racist (when it comes to Kalla). She regularly goes out of her way to make her problems, her feelings, her wants, her needs, her wishes, her fears, her actions, her thoughts be seen as the only ones that truely matter…

        It’s true that she does care, she does do nice things now and again… but when you’re constantly playing the victim, making others feel lower than you, snubbing someone who saved you by calling them a “Thing”, when you put yourself first before all others… and yet you expect people to identify with you… like you… it’s like burying a few gold nuggets under a truckload of manure… and asking someone to dig the gold out for you.

        The quantity and quality of positive traits found in a person’s heart are more important than what they’ve been through… some of the nicest people in the world have some the biggest problems… some the worst people in the world have some the smallest problems.

        Again… To many people… there’s nothing more repulsive than someone who uses their pain in order to justify their imoral behavior… to manipulate their peers, to make themselves feel special.

        Why are victims hated and bullies forgiven? Because bullies respect power… but victims don’t even respect themselves.

        • evileeyore

          “he things she might lose, her prospects, her career… things that aren’t as important as our legacies… our children.”

          I cannot disagree more strongly with this sentiment. Children are only as important to a /person/ as they wish them to be.

          To the continuation of society? Yes, children as a whole are important. However that does not mean every /individual/ must raise children.

          There is room for childless people.

          Side note, I prefer Bex to Mike… mostly because she chooses to act rather than be acted upon.

          • Android 21 3/7

            “Children are only as important to a /person/ as they wish them to be.”

            Okay, I myself intend to remain childless, but that statement still rubbed me very much the wrong way. This is not an ambiguous abstract value like pride, honor, or even virginity. Children are actual people. The fact that they exist at all as a life form in need of nurturing, guidance, and with inherent potential makes them VERY important, even if the parents don’t think they are. It’s exactly WHY I intend to remain childless. I don’t have confidence or faith in my ability to raise said life form into a functional adult. You might say it’s a matter of my opinion, but I just can’t dismiss any person as “unimportant” regardless of what age they are.

          • JJ

            @Android, I take evileeyore to mean that you mostly have a choice whether you want to have or even associate with children. E.g. in the life I’m living I’d have to actively look for opportunities to nurture or guide children. Doesn’t mean I consider children unimportant or less valuable when I meet them.

          • Android 21 3/7

            @JJ Well I most certainly hope that’s what evileeyore meant because, in the context of this comic with Bex leaving her children for permanent Mars colonization, it sounds like evileeyore meant children’s value is 100% subjective regardless of whether they are hypothetical or actual.

          • evileeyore

            @Android 21 3/7 “…that statement still rubbed me very much the wrong way.”

            It was meant to rub people the wrong way. It’s very much counter to societal expectations.

            “This is not an ambiguous abstract value like pride, honor, or even virginity.”

            /All/ values are ambiguous or abstract. All things have only as much value as one wishes to ascribe them.

            Society /favors/ the raising and nurturing of children, but that’s still a debated topic, still an unsettled discussion (concerning how to, how much, how far, etc).

            However, that does not mean that ideal must be inherent in every member of society and to act as though it must be is presumptive. I mean it’s not wrong per se, I’m just pointing it out for discussions sake.

            “You might say it’s a matter of my opinion…”

            Both that and a matter of your personal values, which are not shared by everyone (which is more the point of what I’m saying).

            I made the decision to never have children, but for different reasons than yours.

            “I just can’t dismiss any person as “unimportant” regardless of what age they are.”

            Whereas I dismiss people as being unimportant all the time. I am far more helpful and forgiving (even nice) to children, because they are children, than I am teens and adults, but I go out of my way not to have to encounter children.

        • ErictheTolle

          Why is it Bex who is expected to live for others, and not Michael? Why is she expected to sublimate her needs and desires to others, and not Michel? Shouldn’t you be condemning in harshest tones Michael’s career on Mars? His past actively suicidal and currently passively suicidal nature? What about Michael’s selfishness in screwing up so badly they needed to expend the huge amount of resources required to replace him? What about his selfishness in not doing his best to notify humanity of an alien presence on Mars?

          Oh wait, he’s a man, so all that, from his inability to follow basic procedure, to the suicidal episodes to the massive contempt and rudeness he shows everyone is not only acceptable, but considered heroic.

          Seriously, Michael is shown from the beginning to be a damaged, awful person, who takes his damage out on everyone around him. The excuses people make for him are fascinating, in a “what is this creature I found under a rock” sort of way.

          • Vanis

            @ErictheTolle

            Bex doesn’t need to do anything she doesn’t want to do bud… However, that’s only if she doesn’t expect anyone to do anything for her sake.

            The moment she expects people to bend over backwards for her yet doesn’t want to lift a finger to help them in return is when she stops being right, and by her own actions, forfeits the privilege of being defended.

            Only abusive people want things out of others without offering them something of equal value in return.

            Did you ever stop to think about why Michael is suicidal? Men don’t like to admit it but they’re far more hurt than women are in western society… they’re expected to be strong and gutsy out in the world but tender and feeling oriented when they’re with their wives at home… Men are made fun of by society when they cry… but are expected to do so when their wife talks with them about something sad…

            Men have been trapped in a paradox… if you feel deeply, your a homosexual… if you stand up for yourself, you’re a sexist patriarch… if you tell your wife “No” you’re abusive, and if you say “yes” to her you’re a doormat…

            Have you ever stopped to consider what it’s like to live in a world where no matter what you do… no matter how hard you work… no matter how long you are patient… no matter how often you bleed for the people you love… they still turn around and bash you for being a man?

            Don’t judge a man till you’ve walked a mile in his shoes… maybe when you have you’ll know about the thorns in his feet.

        • zach

          I agree with the sentiment, but disagree about which one is playing the victim more. Bex May use it to justify things, but Mike’s internalized it.

          “For Bex, having a baby apparently meant being less of a person for the rest of her life… something a victim would do.“

          As far as I know, that’s true of becoming a parent. You are reduced to ‘mommy’, socially and in your own life. And that thing that replaces it can be wonderful, but Bex never showed interest in that. She very clearly was doing it for her husband. That he snapped at her (he didn’t HAVE to, what’s wrong with you? He totally disregarded her fears, wants, and needs.) meant just as much that he didn’t want to hear her truth. You can have a fulfilling life based on ambition, it IS a legacy. Marriage doesn’t NEED children to be healthy, even if sharing something you love like children would bring you closer. Granted, every such marriage I know of is based on respect, not love.

          • Marion

            “You are reduced to mommy”

            ????!!!!

            You are ELEVATED to motherhood.

            Grumble… Effing Postmodernists and their nihilistic view on humanity have done a real number on Western society if people can so easily claim that succesfully reproducing equals ‘being reduced’… grumble grumble…

          • skellagirl

            Won’t let me reply directly to Marion, but… not everyone sees motherhood as an elevation. Some people really do see it as a reduction of who they are.

            Motherhood can be a beautiful thing, but look at how society views mothers. They are very much viewed in relation to their children, and lose their sense of who THEY are, and/or who they were before motherhood. In a very real sense, it’s possible to lose all sense of individuality, and/or to lose sight of who you are outside “mother”, because society foists that label so strongly onto mothers that it becomes their one and only defining feature.

            In that sense, it is VERY possible to be “reduced” to mommy.

            Don’t act like one life fits everyone equally.

    • Margaret Hogg

      This is interesting, because to me Bex’s survivalism is making the best of if the situation, while Mike’s “making peace” with a system that’s actively eroding him.

      • Vanis

        If you grew up feeling like nobody loves you… that your life doesn’t matter and that no matter how long your live nor how far you travel… nobody will ever accept you… when an opertunity presents itself it’s unlikely anyone will scoff at it for long.

        It’s true, Bex is trying to leave… she’s trying to survive… but she’s also running away from the truth…

        And it’s true that the System Michael is making peace with, has been eroding away at him… however… when was the last time Michael really belonged? When was the last time you saw someone Besides Kalla accept him, problems and all? There’s a reason why people take drugs… become homosexual… become furry… murder… sing… dance… any and all of it comes from a desire to belong… to be worth something to someone… and you’d be surprised how far someone will go just to grasp a wisp of acceptance… even if means their demise.

        • zach

          You speak so clearly, your biases pound me in the head.

          You have made so many assumptions.

          The reasons people do drugs are for pleasure or to escape. Grief, responsibilities, inhibitions… unless it’s something they’re letting people pressure them into.

          I had my first crush at 7, you presume to know why it was on a boy?

          Furries, you actually got right. I can read furry comics without being told liking men is disgusting and pathetic, even if it never comes up.

        • zach

          Need edit button!

          To your first paragraph, I do agree. I pretty much am Mike and hoped to escape to Mare Internum when I was growing up. Like Steve Irwin.

        • Firebee

          Wait wait wait. ‘Become’ homosexual??? Are.. Are yous aying people become gay cause they feel no one loves them…????? Cause thats… So glaringly wrong and offensive

        • Petra

          Yo as a lesbian you can go fuck off.

        • Stop

          Wow I’ve seen some really hot takes in these comments but this is arguably the worst. Please don’t ever talk about gay people if you’re going to lump us in the same category as murderers for the sake of your argument.

        • Lusli

          DUUUUUUUUUUUUDE people do not ‘become’ homosexual. Your statement is so wrong on so many levels
          Are you implying that heterosexual is the True Way? Are you implying that gays actively choosing to be gays JUST TO BELONG because no one loves them? What. Just what.

          Should I cry or should I laugh. YOur comment is a trainwreck.

        • Margaret Hogg

          I’m not saying it’s not tempting, I’m saying I don’t think it will be great for him in the long run. Kalla gave up trying to escape, and stayed in Mare for maybe eons before Michael arrived. She expressed regret about it.

          Also joining with everyone else that that “become homosexual” comment is WTF.

    • Firebee

      Except: Mike does act like a victim. He acts like every one is out to get him even when they’re trying to do everything they can to help him. He avoids things that make him better because he doesn’t think they help. He drags people into bad situations with him and then acts like they shouldn’t be mad at him (See: his suicide attempt getting Bex stuck down here with him) and probably other things I don’t rememebr

      Bex and Mike have a lot of similar flaws, but Bex just ended up the unlikeable one at some point

  • Asterai

    “Must I *bleed* before you can see that I am hurting?”

    I’ve had a very similar conversation once before.

    • Vanis

      To be honest, even though I like Mike more. My heart goes out to Bex more than any of the other characters… I pity Bex more than Mike because she’s trying to find meaning in her life… even as her way of living sabotages her relationships and happiness…

      I’ve seen it time and again in different places… we say we hurt but we beat up the people who hug us… we say we are fine while we contemplate suicide… we look for truth while spouting our lies… and we think that we’re worthless when somebody dies.

      Tragic as it is… in life there’s only so much people can do for us when we ourselves, by our actions forfeit certain rights and privileges those people would like to bestow on us…

      We have to accept ourselves before we can accept other people…

    • ben

      I believe the quote you refer to is “… if you prick us, do we not bleed?”

      • shingworks

        The two quotes are pretty different. Yours is “aren’t we all human in this basic way?” the other is “must I prove that I am human in order for you to treat me as such?”

        • evileeyore

          Coincidentally, the answer to both is ‘yes’.

          • skellagirl

            It shouldn’t necessarily BE ‘yes’ though.

  • Retterhardt

    CALLED OUT hot dammm

  • Doge

    @Bex and everything she just said: I know this and I love you

    Also finally drew the gals for the contest:) https://dogebode.tumblr.com/post/172161318171/i-love-these-space-ladies

  • You raise an interesting point, Der-Shing; from the perspective of us, the readers, it seems very easy to see why Mike is the way he is, and why he acts the way he does, but without knowing more about Bex people have taken into their own hands to make guesses about her.
    Also as you point out, Mike has never told her any of the things we know about him, but a lot of commenters have judged her as if she knows everything we do. She has almost no context for Mike’s behavior because she knows almost nothing about him.
    I do wonder if the same treatment would have been given to Mike (vis a vis commenters) had the narrative been different. My bet? No.

    • Ben

      You are missing an important point.

      The structure of the story means that we MUST have a detailed, albeit selective and incomplete, view of Mike’s life and circumstances. We don’t need that for Bex, and don’t have it in anything like the same detail.

    • Lauren

      I think if Mike had been introduced second everyone would’ve liked Bex immediately and saw Mike as a villain. The whole thing would be far less nuanced. I mean, Bex is right–she really didn’t do ANYTHING to deserve Mike’s scorn (or at least, not until they were both deep into the caves and Bex unknowingly killed Kalla) and she is only ever mean to him defensively. He is actually a big asshole and the reason we sympathise with him is because he was introduced first, while he was extremely vulnerable, and the reason why a lot of people don’t sympathise with Bex is because she’s later, as a foil to Mike. “Bex is so terrible” comments partially exist because we were primed to think of her that way simply because the character we were following thought that about her.

      What I’m saying is Mare Internum’s narrative forces you to see grey values in both characters and doing it any other way wouldn’t be nearly as good.

      • evileeyore

        Interesting in that I feel exactly the opposite. I sympathize with Bex and almost despise Mike. I empathize with him, greatly, but that he has continued to wallow and fester where Bex has pushed to move forward (despite still being emotionally raw as well) makes him a ‘lesser person’ to me.

        If I knew them in real life, Mike is someone I would pity but avoid, while Bex is someone I would enjoy being around.

  • Ellie

    AGH YES FINALLY

  • Malefantasy

    Yeah, you should learn to RESPEC wamen!

    • zach

      But her can’t re-spec her without a workbench.

  • Luces

    In a more conventional scene,that would be the “now kiss!” moment. But even if Mike would be not gay, there is too much bitterness between these two to be even just friendly.

    • Solanuma

      With conventional you mean clicheed, right?

  • ObservantWolf

    Yeah, I thought people were being too hasty to hate on Bex, figured I’d wait until the end of things to see where things went. Gonna be interesting to see how this interaction shakes out!

  • Karyl

    Ok, Don’t know even now if I favored Mike over Bex for sure- I think it was Bex killing Kalla that put her on the off side for me-and Mike might be more sympathetic for the pederasty enacted on him- but they are both quite flawed and quite human. I think I like Kalla best really.

  • Tim F

    Damn if this isn’t therapeutic (in the way a deserved smack in the head can be) for those of us with a little of whatever Mike’s got. It sucks to think you are drawing from life here, but it feels real.

  • Magdalene

    I don’t really look at the comments ever, but I’m sad to hear that there’s a lot negativity directed at Bex – I really like her a lot and I have since the start, she’s just so human and believable, and I sympathize with her.

    • RedDwarfIV

      Being human and believable makes her a good character, not necessarily a good person

      • skellagirl

        Do you think Mike is a good person?

    • emmy

      I completely agree. I do like Mike in some ways but his shifting moods and erratic behavior (despite knowing his story more) still make me hesitant towards him. Bex at the beginning was friendly and inviting and Mike brought her into this situation with him. Has he even really acknowledged that?? I find Bex trying to survive, she’s been attacked and snubbed by Mike and the environment I don’t blame her for being so defensive. I like Bex more than Mike and am hoping for the best for her (Mike to, of course).

  • weirderthanweird

    Mike’s eyes are definitely glowing. I wonder if that helps him see better?

  • Brushtail

    Mike is slow to trust other humans, because humans have hurt him in the past. We know this, but Bex does not. Bex has also been hurt, but more by societies expectations than by a single person. I think Mike feels close to Kala because she is not human, and therfore not as threatening, but I doubt he’ll be able to explain that.

  • Ben

    Dear oh dear oh dear. WTF is Bex babbling about? relativism and identity politics in action!

    I know someone who spent most of his professional life pursuing an avenue which proved to be a dead end. It was the end if his career, in effect. He was a very professional engineer, but proved to lack judgment. I had the opportunity to go into that field, and didn’t, for reasons that didn’t involve my rejecting the field – I just did something else.

    Does that affect his “essential humanity”? He was a good bloke, a good crewmate and we still meet occasionally. He was a loving father and is still happily married; just lacking in professional judgement. Am I more or less “valid” or possessing or lacking humanity, because I fortuitously took a different path?

    I’ve known, and worked with people who were likeable but incompetent, likeable but competent, who I just did or didn’t like because we could, or couldn’t get on; were they more, or less “human” because of that? Does “recognising their humanity” relate to the fact that I think they might be full of sh*t, deluded or plain wrong in some respect?

    Sorry, Bex, but “it’s all about me” doesn’t cut it.

    • DavidJCobb

      This reminds me of a comment on a previous page, where someone criticized Bex for “identity politics” because she didn’t want to be imprisoned by a coercive and threatening alien. He described her as selfish and morally deficient because she stood up to someone who was threatening and imprisoning her. It was a super gross sentiment that betrayed a total and hypocritical lack of empathy.

      A few pages later, of course, that same alien tried to coerce Mike by exploiting memories of child abuse. I wonder if that commenter realized he was wrong and decided to reevaluate the mindset he was using to approach the comic.

      It would be hilarious and sad if he later posted a similar gross dog-whistle-y comment with the exact same problems — on a page where Bex explicitly calls out a lack of empathy and even uses the word “empathy,” no less. I would find it almost hard to believe, even.

    • “Relativism and identity politics in action!”
      Sorry, but what in God’s name are you talking about?

    • Margaret Hogg

      I mean I think this kind of ignores that they’re in a life or death situation here, not an office. Bex THOUGHT she was looking for Mike to get them both out. When she finds him, it turns out that not only does he not want to leave, he resents her efforts. I think it’s kind of crazy that people are calling Bex the selfish one when until he saw her (unfortunately killing Kalla, oops) he hadn’t actually (as far as I can remember) thought about her fate at all.

      Not to mention she still doesn’t know a thing about his past or any of the juicy flashbacks or heartfelt talks with aliens we’ve seen. But sure, identity politics.

      • Nyzer

        IIRC he assumed she was dead right from the start. He himself barely survived his fall.

  • Esn

    Hm. Some random thoughts.

    From what I’ve seen so far, Mike is perhaps more-or-less likeable because in his default mode, he seems to care about others more than himself, even when he’s being a huge ass. He kinda wears his heart on his sleeve and isn’t very self-aware. Sometimes this translates into caring about what others are DOING, and passing judgment (although his biggest unfair judgment-passing on Bex, just before the cave collapsed, was tied to a former childhood trauma, so he kind-of gets a pass…)

    Bex on the other hand is a huge deal more self-controlled, self-contained, and perhaps would rather walk away from people than try to change them. She also is far better at keeping secrets. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why some people might like Mike more. Whatever his flaws, he’s absolutely horrible at keeping secrets; his real self eventually comes out, and you’re pretty sure that you’re getting to real deal (even if it leads to some awful first impressions). Bex seems far more calculating in how she views human interactions, and seems fairly good at controlling how they do (up to a point… the exception is her lashing out at the processor, which maybe was caused by something in her history we haven’t seen yet). And so, it’s hard to shake a suspicion that she may see others as tools to achieve her ends (e.g. tying Levi on a leash). We’ve seen that that’s not entirely to case – for example, her interaction with the Martians after she first imprisons Levi, and her crying after one of them dies – but a fair number of her interactions have been sort of… controlling.

    I guess maybe she feels that Mike has also been kind of “controlling” in judging her – the difference is that Mike sucks at it. The whole reason he lashes out at people like he does is that he’s horrible at actually being able to control what others do, whereas Bex is somewhat more competent at it (maybe…).

    Maybe people are just more frightened by Bex than they are by Mike. Who’s a more dangerous enemy to have?

    • ben

      … Be, on the basis that Mike hasn’t yet killed anyone?

      • emmy

        But Bex wasn’t really aware (that we are know of) that Kalla wasn’t part of the Processor? She had been attacked different times and likely couldn’t communicate with Kalla. I understand that she did kill Kalla but from her perspective wasn’t it all for self defense in a dangerous environment?

      • okno

        mike brought bex down there, scared the hell out everyone in that scene where he basically caused her to be in this shit with him. he doesn’t need to kill anyone to be dangerous.

      • shingworks

        You could argue that he irrationally sent an intelligent creature that had no say in the matter to the ??? zone. Threvi seems to be okay with it now but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fucked up.

        • zach

          That one is not knowable. LEVi was being mind wiped and used as a slave, but seemed happy. It’s really Levi’s call.

        • Esn

          Well, my views on these characters are not quite set in stone because there are still mysteries in their backstories that haven’t been well-explained yet. What Mike did with Levi, and what caused him to make that decision, is one of them. Bex’s reasons for leaving her family, and the exact circumstances of how it happened, is another.

          Neither of those is affecting how I feel about the characters yet, because I think I don’t have enough information to go on.

    • ErictheTolle

      There’s a lot of words I would use to describe Michael, but “Likeable” is pretty much opposite to all of them. Maybe people just skip over every interaction he’s had with another human being on Mars.

      • Cait

        Yes. This.

  • goiaba

    “you treat that martian with more respect than you do me”
    (maybe, just maybe, it’s racism)

  • Kent

    Story telling is an interesting art.
    I believe that as the audience we have become conditioned to identify with the main character, their motivations, and assume they are the hero of the story. Sometimes just because we are introduced to that character first, or they get the most screen time. We will justify their actions as necessary at times, even when those actions are “bad”, “mean” or “evil”.

    We want Mike to succeed, either by getting “home” or being happy in MI. We want Bex to get home, but to a lesser extent, and only as an extension of Mike’s happiness.

    Had this begun as a story about Bex from the beginning I think there would probably be a lot more hatred towards Mike for what he does and more sympathy for Bex and the hardships that have led her to this point.

    • Lilian

      I think there is valid point here. I found myself a bit confused by what felt like an abrupt change of focus as the narrative shifted from Mike to Bex.

  • Giulia

    This page (and the related author’s comment) remind me a lot of this quote:

    “It’s always surprising to be reminded that while you’re watching and thinking about people, all knowing and superior, they’re watching and thinking about you, right back at you.”
    (Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full Of Sky)

    Mike is right in wanting to find happiness and peace, but Bex has as much of a right to find her own happiness and to be considered, well, a complete, complex person, with her needs and emotions.
    I think Mike forgot about that for a while, and while I don’t really like or dislike one of them over the other (they’re both complex and flawed characters), I think in this specific discussion Bex has every right to be hurt and annoyed by his reasoning.

  • Sam

    Well, actual favorite character is probably Kalla, but I absolutely empathize with Bex’s frustration. I understand why Mike behaves the way he does, but he’s still been a complete ass towards Bex.

    I also read ‘inherent humanity’ differently than how kind or compassionate Bex is. More that Mike has been completely unforgiving of her not being what Mike wants her to be (?). Bex is completely correct that Mike couldn’t even be professional with her (even if we know why, and what Mike is dealing with). Mike lashes out, then reconsiders, then gets flip and impatient when Bex isn’t as receptive as she was before.

    “Am I automatically just supposed to like you” is not what she’s asking for. She’s not asking for Mike to like her. She’s asking for him to not belittle her and judge her decisions that he’s never tried to ask about.

    I don’t know. I’m a little confused by the reaction, but not really surprised. I don’t post in the comments on Meek either because I find myself empathizing with Rana and Pintar a ton, even if I don’t ‘agree’ with them, lol.

    • shingworks

      Yeah I think you’re reading this right. She’s not asking to be best friends, just not to be treated like a pariah by someone who probably shouldn’t be throwing stones anyway. She just wants to go home~ like she’s said several times.

  • Xain903

    Interesting perspective shift and I’m glad you pointed this out. It’s easy for us to say ‘I’m objective and don’t have any bias’ in a vacuum. But in practice that’s where we start to realize that in a lot of ways humans are designed to judge and stratify each other based on our perspectives. It’s a lot easier to think we are being fair than to really scrutinize our behavior and ask ourselves deeper questions.It’s easy to go by our gut and dislike people who annoy us, but sometimes it’s deeper than that.

    • Android 21 3/7

      >A< That's why I hate conflict! I hate when people argue. Emotions running high, sometimes the problem is something else, sometimes there's no right answer, sometimes there is, but you just can't see it and by getting the answer wrong, you cause horrible damage to someone.

      I think perhaps it's why conflict in fiction is actually a relief to me. I'm not obligated to take a side, especially when there is no right answer like in this case. I can just observe the events to the end, while suffering no adverse effect from the feud.

      • Lilian

        Conflict avoidants unite!

  • LostYooper

    I don’t feel like Mike was unfriendly to Bex until they were down at the volcano site and he had a mental break down, and he was a bat-shit crazy raving lunatic for most of the time down there talking about mind control and whatever else. I feel like most people would put all those ravings, even if some of them were directed at you in a different light. (Not saying they were right to say, just, crazy people say crazy stuff.) Then they didn’t see each other again until he caught her chopping up his new friend, and they didn’t even really interact at that point, he just high-tailed it out of there before even saying a word to her. Admittedly he was a prick to her just before they saw the Processor, and he seemed mostly sane at that point. I guess what I am getting at is they have interacted with each other for like, what, 4-6 hours and she’s acting like he has been mistreating her for a lot longer than that. Also – Der, are you going to release the original dialog between the characters? I had to re-read a lot of it to see why she was so mad at him and a lot of stuff seems to have changed since I read it years ago. Just curious! I like it now, it fits the story better I think than the original stuff.

    • JJ

      Besides the snide remarks Bex quotes on this page, Mike also refused to learn Bex’ name – even in chapter 2 he still calls her “cricket lady” first.

      • ben

        Mike is mentally unstable – his first appearance was a failed suicide attempt, and he has medication (which he neglected, to some unknown extent). That’s been the case from the start of the story. It has also been made clear that he has a childhood trauma which left him with serious problems trusting people. None of that makes him likeable, or intrinsically in the right, but its all part of his character as defined in the story.

        Bex, we don’t know. We see her living what appears to be a comfortable, prosperous lifestyle, with a husband whose principal fault, so-called, is that he appears to feel that having married him and produced at least two children, that’s her first priority, and she is defaulting on her responsibilities. He appears to be some sort of evangelical Christian, but considering that Bex (and presumably he as well) are Nigerian, that doesn’t surprise me much – its quite common in that part of the world.

        It’s hard to see him as some sort of pantomime monster, especially as we saw Bex calling him (from the driverless car, so presumably immediately before joining the Mars project team) giving the impression that she was still trying to “have it both ways” – abandon her family but still be part of it.

        If Bex is sniffy because Mike has been pulling her leg about being “cricket lady”, at a time when he was under extreme stress, or about the sort of mockery and humour and professional bickering and jealousy which is all part of life in isolated communities, she has no business being on the Mars project at all.

        sorry, but for me, she has been “offside” from the beginning, and isn’t helping things at all now

        • JJ

          I don’t quite follow how this relates to that Mike didn’t care to memorize Bex’ name.

          Just maybe Bex is also sniffy because merely 3 pages ago Mike didn’t protest Kalla saying that they don’t need Bex and then proceeded to mansplain to her what she is capable of doing.

        • The point you’re missing is that while all of us know these things about Mike, it’s because they were shown… Through flashbacks, to the readers. Bex has no way of knowing all these things about Mike which may have changed her actions towards him.
          Also, despite the fact that obviously it’s difficult to be a single parent, why couldn’t her husband have been supportive of her choosing to pursue a career, even if it took her away from her family? Would a man who did the same be under such scrutiny? It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the other people on Mars had kids on Earth.
          As to Mike’s comments about her, to some degree it would be fine if they knew each other, and were the kind of friends that enjoy that sort of teasing, but they don’t, and they aren’t. She’s right; it’s unprofessional of Mike to have said these things to her, and given that she is a black woman I would be more than astounded if this was the first time a white man talked down to her, and derided her accomplishments.

          • Android 21 3/7

            I think the main difference here is, the people who have children on earth (like the guy with the “World’s #1 Dad” mug) most likely have temporary contracts, spanning perhaps 3 years at most. Bex is a permanent colonist.

    • shingworks

      Original dialog? I actually haven’t changed anything, haha… It’s somewhat verifiable, because I have a friend doing a Russian translation with translated pages coming out a day or two after mine, and there would be a big disconnect if I had been retconning I suppose. By rewriting I just mean I had to write the script for this page over and over until I settled on the current iteration.

  • Reyna

    This is a really powerful page and it’s bringing up a lot of discussion. I have to say I really appreciate your use of this story as an experiment to turn the readers’ gaze inward, Der-Shing. This is very well done.

    As a follower of Jesus, I believe that every person has immeasurable value because they are a person, because they are made in the image of God. We live in a broken world, and people do not always act “worthy” of being loved or respected – but this intrinsic part of their being never leaves them, and God’s love and valuing of them never decreases.

    Evil is always the result when we take away people’s humanity in our minds – when we stop seeing someone as an equally precious SELF made in God’s image. This is what made possible the Holocaust, slavery, racism, and all the genocides of colonialism.

    • Lilian

      As another follower of Jesus, I second this comment. Whenever we strip our opponents – ideological or otherwise – of humanity, evil results.

  • Kyle

    Bex is a terrible scientist. At the first sign of intelligent alien life she killed it, and is willing to destroy ALL of said alien life just so she can (might be misreading this) prove to herself that she isn’t a bad person for leaving her family behind.

    Obviously she’s experiencing a lot of conflict when it comes to this, and she’s struggling with identifying if she’s pursuing her dreams or being selfish. Since Mike is quick to point out that selfishness (I thought you said you were a good mother/I never said that) they are basically divided by the notion that one of them is being selfish. Either Bex is, because she’s become so self centered in pursuit of her dreams, or Mike is because he thinks Bex shouldn’t have abandoned her kids to go to space.

    On the one hand, Bex subconsciously agrees with Mike hence never saying she was a good mother. She isn’t willing to admit that obviously (says her kids will flip when she tells them she met THE guy behind Levi but turns out they refuse to speak to her) and that gives her a sense of being in denial. It feels like she’s doing all of this to, like I said earlier, prove she isn’t a bad person because she clearly has some amount of lingering guilt. If you go back to the beginning of chapter 4 where she kills the alien, it would appear that she recognizes the life around her but at the same time when you acknowledge her resulting behavior, she’s a terrible person. Her sympathy vanished in her interaction with the processor, and while Mike has grown to appreciate the ecosystem Bex has set out to accomplish what she wishes without any regard for the consequences DESPITE THAT CRYING. A completely alien ecosystem decided Bex wasn’t a good mother (because even Bex thinks deep down she isn’t) so she’s going to DESTROY ALL OF IT. (Chap 5, pgs 2-4)

    In the end, Bex has repeatedly been shown to be in complete denial about her motivations, and is willing to do anything to stay within that denial. Mike has gone Jane Goodall. Mike adapted to the system, Bex wants the system to adapt to her.

    • Kish

      Bex came into the Mare Internum as a survivalist, not a scientist. Like I appreciate having a scientific curiosity both on and off the job – but she quite literally fell into a survival situation. She is arming and defending herself, not taking any chances and proactively taking measures to keep herself safe and hopefully return to the surface.
      For Mike, since page 1, self-preservation hasn’t been high on his priorities. He’s more inclined to passively experience his environment and do kinda stupid shit like splash himself with alien water – sort of a “nothing to lose” kind of attitude. Bex has a lot to lose so it makes sense to me that she responds more fearfully/cautiously to her environment

  • Derp

    Everybody Got Problems: The Webcomic

    • Middle American

      You sir (or madam), receive the gold star. Mike and Bex are both normal humans, and awful humans. And, they are both unremarkable for it.

  • Amani Garvin

    Bex is voicing the words of every black woman ever right now. Constantly having to prove your humanity, and take care of yourself is the struggle. Always strong, and never understood. I really do appreciate her character, and understand completely everything she’s going through.

  • arteopteryx

    I have worked as a barista for almost 5 years, so I’ve learned to delay an even somewhat-rounded assessment of people until after they have their food and coffee. While it’s telling of certain facets of a person’s character to see how they handle the everyday stress of caffeine-withdrawal and hangriness, that’s not nearly the whole person.

    How long has it been since these folks had coffee or a fresh-baked croissant? Has Kalla EVER had either of these?? :O (poor thing) What about sleep? (do Wollaria even sleep?)

    Joking aside, I guess my point is that I’m definitely one for deferring judgement and being open to the revelation of different character qualities, both in fiction and irl. Especially since these characters -are- so complex.

  • Jonas

    So according to Bex, humans deserve empathy, but all other creatures are free for the killing to use as specimens or just because hey, they look scary.

    • Jonas

      you’ll get empathy from me when you show empathy towards others, that’s the bottom line. It’s not a one way street. Bex is very much a one woman show. Her way or the highway. That’s the impression I get from her portrayal in the comic, anyway, and I probably forgot half of what went on in the story six months ago, which is due to the format’s limitations.

      She had no empathy for Kalla. Kalla is still just “that Martian” to Bex. It’s strange that a scientist wouldn’t immediately try to ask Kalla all kinds of questions. I guess Bex just wants DNA samples or whatever. Material that she can collect and put on a pin. Very surface level science.

    • Jonas

      also, he didn’t abandon her, he just very obviously came running after her. Bex didn’t notice, apparently.

      This comic is frustrating. I gather the author wants us to root for Bex, but that’s just really hard for a lot of us because Bex isn’t portrayed as a particularly likeable character.

    • Edmund

      At this point, collecting samples is not a priority. You’ve fallen into a bigass cave with incredibly limited supplies. Your coworker’s face is 30% giant fungi. You’re not going to go rooting around collecting little science samples at that point.

      You’re going to get the hell out and back to your base so you can recover, resupply, reconsider. Make a plan. Get a better map written up from your current findings. THEN you go back for samples and question-asking.

      • Edmund

        And that’s even if you intend to go back. For all we know, Bex considers the whole place too much of a threat to return to. Let’s not forget, the processor seemingly wants to keep anything that enters from leaving, and immediately went hostile when she refused to stay. That is not an ideal first contact situation.

        Maybe all she wants to do is get out, get a rescue team, get Mike (and maybe Kalla) out, and never fucking return to that flytrap of a sea.

  • Tess

    Honestly, just skimming the comments section I’m baffled by how much people hate Bex. She’s a complicated character, but this level of disdain is kind of disturbing. I don’t have anything to add to the conversation, just helping fill out the…unofficial survey.

    • Alex

      Same, until I remembered that she’s a female black scientist in a sci-fi comic. Knowing some of sci-fi’s biggest fans…. I’m really not surprised. People are bending over backwards all sorts of ways and, I think, showing some truly ugly parts of themselves in doing so.

      • Nyzer

        I… really think it’s got a lot more to do with how Mike was given much more screen time and many more sympathetic moments.

        Don’t forget that Mike is gay, which tends to draw more scorn than being black/female from “that” audience.

        • Tess

          I think that a) we actually don’t know Mike’s sexuality, we just know he’s not straight and b) this comment implies that there is a particular audience that will react negatively to queer characters and characters of color. Lots of self-proclaimed liberals still shelter unconscious biases against black characters, especially black female characters, and are more likely to judge them harshly.

          I’m surprised you would claim that a gay white man is more likely to “draw scorn” than a black woman. That seems like a very broad judgment and, honestly, a little ignorant. Every minority group faces different sets of challenges, and it’s certainly not easy to argue that one holds privilege over another.

          • Nyzer

            Sorry, I should have been clearer – the same audience that tends to get riled up over someone’s sexuality also tends to assume the flawed “you’re either gay or straight” mentality. Or equally incorrect mentalities.

            As for the claim… well, it’s interesting that you’re going to call out my claim (that people dislike gay or simply “not straight” characters more than they do black female ones) and not Alex’s (that the dislike for Bex stems from her race and gender).

            My claim is mostly anecdotal; I’ll certainly cop to not having gone out and done any research or anything like that. But on the other hand, I haven’t seen ANY comments in here judging Bex for being black, female, or both at the same time. (Though they could already have been deleted.) Which makes Alex’s claim equally flawed.

            I’ll admit I hadn’t considered the idea of an unconscious bias, though.

      • Cait

        Very much agree with both of you, Tess and Alex. I am so used to comics comments sections that are kinder than this one…

      • brokenidealist

        Alex, I think you hit the nail on the head. Which makes Bex’s dialogue on this page all the more poignant — she might as well be speaking directly to those readers who hate her, not just Mike. Damn, that makes me sad. So very sad.

      • Marion

        Yeah, because that’s the answer to everything, isn’t it? When people disagree with you or don’t like the shit you’re shoveling on them, just call them racists. Here’s a few other words you can use, or better, insinuate: ‘homophobe’, ‘transphobe’, ‘islamophobe’, ‘alt-right’, ‘nazi’.
        This is very important, because if you want to be the Good Person, you have to point out Other People Who Are Not You as the Bad Persons. If you acknowledge that Other People are just that; other people with their own, well-reasoned opinions but deserving of respect (as Bex would say) for just being human, then you wouldn’t be able to feel good about yourself for simply having the right opinions! That means you would have to actually DO stuff or actually CONVINCE other people with actual ARGUMENTS! Can’t have that! Far easier to call everybody who disagrees with you ‘racists’. It worked for Hillary! …err…..

    • Margaret Hogg

      Honestly if be fine with the crit of her choices, if not for so much blind support for Mike. Guys, they’re both flawed and somewhat selfish people with complicated pasts, reacting to some fucked up shit. Mike being hurt in the past doesn’t negate that he’s hurt other people. Bex’s hurting people doesn’t negate the past that informs her character. Each of them has arguably hurt themselves The most. The best part of the comic is the depth of character.

    • Retterhardt

      I’m baffled, too! There’s such harsh judgment of Bex that it seems that some people are forgetting the details of the story for the sake of passing their judgment. It’s kind of upsetting.

      I can empathize with both Bex and Mike even if I don’t like what they do. You know, I can even see why people might be upset about Bex even if I don’t agree with them, and that annoys me, too. Ultimately, it seems to me that empathy can be emotionally difficult whether you’re successful empathetic or not (like if you try to be empathetic but can’t get past X flaw in the character).

      And I can’t even take the high road or anything (which otherwise might be some comfort), because I’m just another person judging other people in the comments, too.

    • Ember

      Yeah, maybe it’s because I left an almost-marriage because I knew if I stayed on that path I’d eventually run away screaming (abandoning the children I was being pressured to have) but I have been in almost full support of Bex from the start. Reading these comments has been shocking, but it sure does make me appreciate parallax.

      I think most of the Bex-hate totally misses the mark, but it has been interesting to see the defenses of Mike that I never thought about. That said, the idea that one of them must be RIGHT and the other WRONG is overly simplistic and I would say pretty disrespectful of Shing’s story telling skills.

  • Mal-l

    To be fair to Bex on the killing Kalla thing. I imagine once you’ve been hounded by crazy creatures wanting your fingers anything slightly weird looking hits the “kill it before it kills me” button.And spending another second in the mare internum hits the “please get me out of this death pit” button.

    • LostYooper

      I don’t blame her for killing Kalla, I honestly thought Kalla might be a “villain” when we were first introduced to her, and even for a little bit after that with some of the off color stuff she said.

    • Jonas

      It would be nice if Bex herself at least allowed the idea that maybe she *gasp* made a mistake there.

    • Lilian

      Yeah, I can’t hate on Bex for killing Kalla. I liked Bex when she first appeared in the comic. Found her much more pleasant than Mike. I’ve done my own battles with mental illness and have lived with someone else who has their own. While those experiences win my sympathy for Mike, that doesn’t mean he’s a great guy or all that likable. In fact, he’s a jerkwad.

      Now when it comes to Bex, the whole leave-the-family-I-wasn’t-sure-I-wanted-on-a-different-planet-for-life thing was a big turn off for me.
      Would my feelings about Bex be less intense were she a man? Possibly. Probably.

      People here were willing to discuss the pressure women face to have children and like it, but in my experience there also exists a pressure in the other direction. This pressure says women are slaves to their own healthy bodily functions, children are monsters to be feared instead of little people, and a woman that desires marriage and motherhood has sold herself out to the patriarchy. Being raised in a “conservative” setting and working/interacting in a “progressive” society exposed me to both pressures.

      But I don’t think Bex’s sex is the only factor. I’m a pretty family-oriented person. When I look back on the hurts I’ve experienced regarding what I perceived as slights against my family/sense of family, I did not just perceive those hurts from women.

      I’ll repeat what I said in an earlier comment: even if men (or women) are given a social pass to do something that women (or men) aren’t, that doesn’t mean said something should be considered okay in general.

      BUT Bex and Mike are still people and are still more than family choices on one hand and jerkwad behavior on the other. I don’t have to be comfortable with someone’s choices or fully understand their perspective in order to respect them, care about their well-being, or value their humanity. If making mistakes justified being written off completely, we’d all be screwed.

      Besides… I get the feeling that when it comes to stories by Shing, conclusions are best left until the stories are actually over.

  • Whachamacallit

    Well Bex did start off on a bad foot when she killed Kalla. Poor gal has had an upward battle since then :P

    But I’m pretty sure past that though, you nailed it on the head. We see most of this story from Mike’s perspective, so we understand and sympathize more with him than Bex. I’m sure if the story was from Bex’s perspective, we would’ve been very antagonistic towards Mike.

    However, I think that in regards to Kalla being generally better liked than Bex, it’s two factors: First, Kalla’s is actually an amicable person. She’s never really been a jerk at any point, so it’s probably easier for us to like her. Maybe she’s a bit depressed after sitting in the MI for billions of years, but who wouldn’t be if that happened to them?
    Secondly, I think it’s also because of her introduction and her nature as a non-human. When Mike is introduced, we quickly learn that he is aggressive and a big jerk. With Bex, her first intro seems fine, but her second appearance in Ch.4 I think is right after she killed Kalla, which of course made people hate her.
    In the case of Kalla, since she’s not human, people were either intrigued by her, or terrified by her in her introduction. And I think fear is probably a bit easier to overcome than anger in this regard.
    I mean, if Kalla actually had gotten angry at one point, and either aggressively confronted Mike or Bex, or even attacked them, I doubt people would be thinking, “Wow, Kalla’s a jerk!” Instead I think people would be terrified of her.

    • Whachamacallit

      Oh, also I noticed that Mike put his hands under his armpits. He does that when he’s stressed, right??

  • DavidJCobb

    She’s referring to Mike abandoning her, but he actually did return to help her during the Processor’s last attack on them? Only time I can remember him running away is when he saw her kill Kalla, and by now I think she knows enough to maybe grasp the reasons there.

    The rest of what she’s saying is right on the money, though.

    I went and double-checked: Mike goes from snarky to abrasive around Page 24, and it’s almost his last interaction with Bex before his breakdown inside the cave — a breakdown that quickly turns against Bex. Even *that* isn’t enough to get her to leave him. The whole reason they end up trapped is because she inadvertently damages the cave while stopping his apparent suicide attempt.

    It’s ridiculous to call her the bad guy in this story.

    • Lilian

      I think Bex handled Mike’s breakdown remarkably well. It takes real courage and security to stand in the face of a mentally unstable tirade. She’s certainly no “bad guy”.

      Really, the baddest guy we’ve met in this comic has been Mike’s uncle. The Processor is certainly chilling, but I don’t think we call an AI a true villain.

  • Gillian

    Just for anyone curious, ‘Agbaya’, which Bex refers to Mike as above, means elder who beats the younger. It can also mean the person is immature, or not fulfilling their duties.

    I think that Bex’s outrage at Mike is a little bit irrational, and her treatment and respect for the Martians here is really reprehensible. It’s completely devoid of respect for them, and what they might face when humans learn about them.

    On the other hand… Bex is on the losing side. It’s easy for us to side with Mike, because this seems like a happy ending for him. He seems much happier than he ever did on the outside since he came here. He is with his friends, Levi and Kalla. He doesn’t feel the crushing terror and paranoia he felt when he was out at the site. He’s on the traditional hero’s journey.

    Bex, however, is going through another, separate struggle. She isn’t being as flexible or empathetic about it as Mike was, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if she could overcome it? To find her way back to that place she had just carved out for herself, to be a mother as well as her own person?

    But somehow I feel she is not going to. Her and Mike’s struggles are opposite to one another, and there is likely not an ‘everyone’s happy’ scenario. And I think Bex knows this. She knows that her story is likely to end here. And I think she is truly scared for it. Perhaps one of the reasons we distance ourselves from Bex is because we can see she is headed for a ‘bad ending.’ But I can’t blame her for her fear.

    • Sumgai

      Well I don’t know if that’s entirely true.

      Ostensibly no one is going to spend time checking the cave-in, despite existing scientific interest (they were mapping it, right?) and the missing personnel, because whatever organization runs this show would assume it to not be worthwhile, right?

      If that’s the case then if Bex or Mike manage to figure out what they actually want, and if they need to leave the cave to get it, all they should have to do is keep mum and explain that anyone who didn’t return died in the cave in. That should make the site even less interesting for exploration. The mare will be discovered, eventually, but that needn’t be now.

      It’s Kalla that throws the wrinkle in things.

  • Shadow

    Just got to say that I love this page and how haunted and sad Bex looks speaking from the darkness of the cave. Like she’s withdrawing both physically and psychologically.

    The idea that she was expecting to find others like her, and that she hoped Mike would be a kindred spirit is a powerful one. It suggests (to me) just how emotionally vulnerable she must of been even after her final, non-reversable decision to go to Mars – and desperate for validation amongst those she probably considers her peers in this aspect.

  • Ben

    Mike is genuinely mentally disturbed, including a failed suicide attempt and medication. Added to that, the realisation that Bex has abandoned her family to come to Mars must be about as hard a concept for Mike to accept, as it is possible to conceive – considering his history of neglect, abuse and related trust issues. Add to that, the knowledge that his irrational behaviour towards his superior officer/manager has, for practical purposes, resulted in severe and probably irreparable professional harm.

    Bex’ problems, however, are self-conceived and self-defined. It is probably more common than not, that women pass through some sort of identity questioning when they become mothers. It’s a huge, life-changing event, but it’s very common and most women pass through it and take joy in the situation.

    Hence the remark earlier about “relativism”. It’s hugely arrogant for Bex to take the position that her self-defined issues, which really fall under the term “first world problems” are equivalent to Mike’s clinically defined mental illnesses.

    • DavidJCobb

      So Mike’s issues are shaped by his environment and upbringing, but Bex’s issues aren’t?

      “[Having kids is] a huge, life-changing event, but it’s very common and most women pass through it and take joy in the situation.”

      Awesome! It’s good for moms to be happy. But contrary to what you’re implying with that remark, it’s also perfectly valid for Bex to have more complicated feelings on the matter. Those feelings aren’t trivial or “self-defined first-world problems.”

      They also aren’t even relevant to the behavior you’re criticizing. It’s pretty gross to see someone in a survival situation demand an ounce if sympathy from a man whose life she saved and react to that with, “She’s just being unreasonable because her ladybrain can’t handle motherhood.”

      “It’s hugely arrogant for Bex to take the position that her self-defined issues [gross aside removed] are equivalent to Mike’s clinically defined mental illnesses.”

      She literally just met Mike at the start of the comic. She doesn’t know about any definite mental health diagnoses, doesn’t know about his past trauma, and probably hasn’t even had any spare time to stop and process the breakdown she witnessed. She doesn’t even have the information required to take that position.

      • Tess

        Totally agree.

      • Ben

        Well, ‘scuse I, but Bex abandoned her family, nobody did that for her or to her. So let’s think about that. What does she mean, “you are judging me”? Does she mean “I cannot possibly be wrong, because that’s not how I define the debate”?

        We don’t get a lot of background for Bex, but it seems that her family don’t share whatever has driven her to Mars. That’s 3 to 1 against. For all her posturing about identity, she has left her husband with the very real task of raising those boys. Does she judge him, for regarding her as wrong in that?

        From the little we see, there doesn’t seem to be anyone else in the picture; but what if he moves on? She still seems to feel she is involved; what if that proves unfounded? Who gets to judge who?

        It really isn’t that simple.

        • Firebee

          Bex has never been confirmed as a permanent colonist besides a paranoid assumption on Mike’s part. Bex’s words on the matter was that shes here on a six month contract. And considering her mentions of needing to get back for people, it seems pretty obvious that she’s supposed to go home eventually.

          She didn’t ‘abandon her family’. She left for a relatively short period of time to do a literal dream job then come back. Tons of people go away for months at a time for work related events.

          Bex’s problems aren’t that shes a whiny lady who can’t handle the lady jobs, its that her husband seems to demand that she drop everything about her life and only focus on her family.

      • Sam

        Also… “most women pass through it and take joy in the situation”? We don’t have any formal diagnosis, unlike Mike, but she was showing symptoms of postpartum depression—and her husband’s reaction, while understandable from a human perspective, was not addressing that.

        This also just seems like a weird thing to say about pregnancy and motherhood? It’s a hell of an assumption to make. Pregnancy is ROUGH on your body and PPD can be very bleak.

        And no, PPD doesn’t only affect “first-world mothers,” either.

      • okno

        thank god there’s some sanity in this comments section.

        • shingworks

          yeah LOTS of assumptions floating around, it’s a little :\ to read.

          • Android 21 3/7

            XD I really try hard not to assume myself, but our views on life, the universe, and everything are all tainted by our own lenses.

          • Lil

            I’ve been cringing the whole scroll down, but I hope you don’t get too discouraged… Some of the same people are obviously floating around adding gross comments en masse, and I’m sure there are a lot of readers who sympathize with Bex who look at this comment section and say “nope” and leave.

            The lack of empathy and understanding is incredible, but I’m sure there are maaaany quiet Bex sympathizers who are too exhausted by all of This to comment.

          • JJ

            Yeah I’d call myself a Bex sympathizer, insofar as I find the negative reaction to her blown out of proportion and resent the omnipresent notion “but they’re both flawed”. (I don’t totally root for her, since she’s a bit distant and closed-off; but I like her no-nonsense attitude.)
            Sometimes I feel like I don’t get around to commenting about how I positively engage with the comic, because I feel compelled to respond to pretty baseless accusations against her. Ah well, the eternal allure of “someone is wrong on the internet”.

          • Marion

            Personally, if it’s any comfort, I dislike BOTH Mike AND Bex. I’ve followed this comic off and on, largely because I follow ‘The Meek’, but unlike ‘The Meek’, the characters simply don’t do anything for me. Too self-centered. Too rigid. Why should I care about characters who only care about themselves? It’s like watching icons in an arcade game, one trying to ‘win the game’ by assimilating and the other by ‘escape no matter what’, and because they are so solely focused on THEMSELVES and don’t interact like normal humans would, they don’t interest me in the least. Give me human interaction in a story any day! I don’t give two shits about ‘who is right’.
            We are told over and over that both Mike and Bex ‘have problems’, but frankly, I don’t care. If you want me to care, you, as the writer, will have to MAKE me care, and one way to do that is by making them, well, HUMAN and LIKEABLE despite their ‘problems’.
            The only characters I feel sorry for aren’t even characters: I feel deeply sorry for Bex’s children. How awful must it be to know that you are so horrible to your mother, that your mother so hated having you and hated having to care for you that she just couldn’t WAIT to bugger off to the furthest space colony she could get to. A recipe for teenage suicide if ever I saw one.

    • Katie E

      Its not a “first world problem” that every woman doesn’t need it to be her life’s ambition to be a mother above all else. Not everyone wants that. Yet somehow we all still act like that is a woman’s job first and foremost.

  • R

    (clunky English warning) It’s hard for me to believe the way some readers talk about Bex is not influenced by race and misogyny in any way. I like both characters the same, even at their worst. But I think people are more prone to forgive Mike than Bex. Like all the time. Mike mocked her, passed judgment on her motherhood (to put it nicely), when she asked why he hated her, he went on a monologue about her being strong and therefore not needing to hurt her sons (or kill Kalla, is what is hinted at).

    I think this is all intentional and that it’s also a test for the readers. As der-shing said, how much exposition on a character do you need to feel empathy for them? Why should you need it to begin with? Afterall, everyone deserves respect and the benefit of the doubt. Not just the white man that got full chapters and interludes on him so we can know more about his past. There’s also the fact we only get to see a piece of Bex’s past right after we see what registers as ‘murder in cold blood’ in the heat of the moment. Which must also be why so many people completely ignored how worried Bex was about Mike, about a dude that she knew for only a few hours. Something that didn’t pass through Mike’s head for a single moment.

    For all I know, Bex is an awesome character and it’s not because she’s ‘strong’ (because she really isn’t, or not like Mike and the processor say). It’s because despite not being strong she does what needs to be done. But I think this comic would really be something if it got people to think “why do I dislike her?” in depth. I mean, not just trying to offer some weird, vague explanation on why she’s “dislikeable”.

  • I think it’s also easier to empathize with Mike because we spent a HUGE amount of time with him; getting to know him, his history, how he thinks, and even see him attempt to pull himself out of this situation and viscous cycle (that he got himself into–which again is something I think a lot of people can relate to).
    And then when Bex shows up again, the first real impact she has on us readers is a brutal murder of a beloved character.

    It’s kind of like when I was watching “Dial M for Murder” for the first time. I found myself rooting for the killers at first for much the same reasons; we spent the most time with them at first and got to understanding them before we got to know the good guys.

    At any rate, I love psychological stuff like this, so keep it coming!

  • March

    if it’s any comfort to anyone, I find Mike and Bex to be annoying in equal measure!!!!!


    ok now let’s be real. we don’t need to like one over the other. there are times in this comic where I have liked and disliked Mike AND Bex for their own reason – but this is why this is a great comic. The characters are complex and interesting. They don’t allow us to put them into little “good” and “bad” boxes. Nobody’s history excuses them from unkindness, but it can *explain* some of it. M & B are like little reflections of ourselves. It’s tempting to really like or really hate – M&B just hold their anger at each other and chose not to consider or know the other’s pain. That’s easy. But to accept a person’s whole self? To challenge what we want to think about somebody? That’s effort.

  • Eyesauce

    Haha finally my babe Bex is standing up for herself :,,,) I’ve felt so sorry for her through this whole thing aaaaaaaa
    All I could think of was this video lmao:
    https://youtu.be/4v0kmguT994
    Get him Bex!

  • Max

    Shing… weighing people’s reactions, there is something crucial we should never lose sight of: while we have accompanied Bex for some while, it’s Mike we the readers have spent most of our time following, he was the one first experiencing everything in here while we watched – for better or worse, he’s our protagonist and hero.

    As such, we all unavoidably identified to some degree with him and got emotionally invested less or more. Flawed or not, it matters less than you think in this specific context – plenty of stories revolve around hard-to-love anti-heroes the viewers/readers nevertheless end up rooting for.

    And because of that, anyone antagonizing our “hero” unavoidably ends up getting disliked, basically by default. Needless to say, showing up and dispatching our hero’s “best friend” and only companion (in a rather gruesome way no less) does nothing to help.

    So pardon me for saying so, but I believe the entire readership’s experience of these two characters has been staged and skewed to a degree that made any other outcome essentially impossible. Intentional or not, there was never any way most readers could have ended up anything other than siding with Mike and against Bex, regardless of what any of us might otherwise think of their archetypes in a cool, impersonal, detached and dispassionate context…

    • skellagirl

      “And because of that, anyone antagonizing our “hero” unavoidably ends up getting disliked, basically by default. Needless to say, showing up and dispatching our hero’s “best friend” and only companion (in a rather gruesome way no less) does nothing to help.”

      I personally see the story as about both of them; we may have spent more time with Mike but I think Bex is just as much the main character of the story as Mike.

      Also, I’m very puzzled as to why people keep bringing up her killing Kalla as some Irredeemably Horrible Savage Uncaring Thing, when Bex clearly had no idea who Kalla was, why she was important, that she was any different from the other countless hostile lifeforms Bex has encountered, that she had any connection to Mike. Bex saw an alien and had no reason to believe that Kalla wasn’t hostile or going to kill/maim her. Bex killed in self-defense. Preemptive and ultimately unnecessary self-defense (as Kalla didn’t mean her any harm, I’m assuming), maybe, but it wasn’t cold blooded murder like so many people want to paint it as.

      • Edmund

        While I would have liked to see Bex attempt communication with Kalla before killing…

        We have those spade-headed dealies that tried to smash Mike in two without any attempt at talking. We’ve had large fish with needles instead of heads. We know LEVI was smashed by something. We’ve seen those “FLUID SAMPLE PLS.” leggy guys that sounded like they wanted to politely dissect Bex.

        I’d forgiven Bex’s immediate attack on Kalla pretty much the moment after it happened. She had no idea. As a reader I’ve seen how this Sea has a horrifically inhospitable side. I assumed she had too. Admittedly, it is an assumption based on information Bex may not be as aware of.

        It does strike me as curious that this gets included in the list of “stuff Bex has said and done” when it comes time to criticize the protagonists. Perhaps because we are so less privy to Bex’s emotional side, we are inclined to include these other interactions for lack of better information regarding her behaviour?

        • skellagirl

          Kalla’s large and intimidating, and has a habit of stalking people (she stalked Mike for a while before they finally properly “met”, iirc)

          Every single creature Bex has met has been hostile to her, she had no reason to think Kalla was any different. That she didn’t attempt communication was a mistake, yes, but it doesn’t change the ultimate fact: that she killed in self-defense.

          I’m not necessarily trying to paint Bex as perfect because she’s not (neither is Mike), but I agree with you, if people are going to criticize her, do it for things she’s done that are actually problematic lol

    • shingworks

      Yep, which is part of my question up there. TBH, this argument between the characters is constructed, not really based on a personal conversation I’ve had. The characters do represent certain things that I won’t lay out because I think it’s good for people to practice interpretation on their own. But I come from a very specific type of family, with a certain medical history, and live with/ will care for, for the rest of my life, a person who is incapable of emotionally connecting with me in the way you’d expect from a 100% mentally “there” person, which is a privilege for me but which I’ve heard described by others as a prison sentence of sorts.

      I had to avoid the comments section for a day because it hurts to read that without being able to form an emotional connection, that it’s difficult to impossible to care about someone. That you might need to know more, or that you require a response in return, or to feel placated, or whatever. These same people who raise cactus, or collect toys, or keep pet reptiles, can’t wrap their minds around the idea of a human being who doesn’t interact or respond in the required way. There are plenty of people right now who are real breathing human beings who just aren’t capable of doing that temporarily or permanently. Even Mike, in the beginning, locks himself in his room for weeks in a depressive and suicidal state, and is berated by the commander for closing himself off (that scene was based on my real life, unfortunately). The Commander is responsible for a functioning base, and is unable to feel anything other than annoyance for Mike for not being able to consider her needs. So what about these people, who in real life are for whatever reason incapable of the social tit-for-tat that we baseline expect from every interaction? Do we reject them because they are of no use to us? I’ve known the answer since I was little of course, haha, and am a little disappointed to see that the responses are so similar now that I’m an adult. But, not terribly surprised.

      • Edmund

        I don’t know how to answer that very-much-rhetorical question Shing, and that has given me much food for thought.

        I do hope that my limited understanding of Bex in comparison to Mike has led me to pass no judgement, rather than overtly negative judgements. I’d rather not commit to that lest someone can find words of mine and tell me I can do better.

        I’d like to do better yet.

      • Margaret Hogg

        For my part, I’ve thrown out the word selfish a lot in the comments on this page, in relation to both Bex and Mike, but I’m not intending it as a judgement, really. I definitely see both as examples of mental and emotional struggles. I feel like depression and anxiety (for example) are both, by nature, “selfish” disorders, because they’re both (usually badly misplaced) survival mechanisms. I’m blown away by the characters you’ve created.

        I also really object to the idea above that the way the story was constructed “forces” the reader to side with Mike over Bex. I liked Bex from the start, was somewhat sympathetic to her backstory, was horrified when she killed Kalla, and continue to like her now. It’s not like I’m on her side and hate Mike (I kind of hope they both have happy futures, but… Yeah) but I AM kind of happy to have her tell it like it is (from her POV) here, no matter what the reaction.

      • Lilian

        Thanks for this comment, Shing. It helps me understand some of what it is you’re expressing. You’re getting at questions of whether human beings have intrinsic value regardless of their behavior, or whether their worth is defined by what they give to others/what others perceive them to be giving.

    • JepMZ

      I don’t know man. There’s some very recent webcomics where i just absolutely hate the main characters after being exposed to their past and every single conversation.

  • Ben

    … which is why I keep reading this comic.

    One thing that shows right through all the comments above, is that even at this late stage, and with what? Thirty pages to go? there is little idea, and certainly no consensus at all on how the story ends.

    Since the author has specifically ruled out “it was all a dream” and “they were dead all along”, the possible outcomes come down to (1) Bex leaves, Mike prefers to remain, (2) Bex tries to leave, but the Processor prevents her, (3) as (2) but the Processor kills her, (4) Bex leaves and returns for Mike. Assuming, at this point, that they are still within the transfer orbit window, Mike returns to Earth under restraint, or commits suicide after all OR isn’t allowed to leave for quarantine reasons. Bex stays, or has some sort of breakdown or change of heart and leaves in his place.

    That’s a lot of options.

    • shingworks

      Haha you’re right about that~

      • ErictheTolle

        So is there really only 30 pages left to go?

        I just have to point out, that at the current rate, that could make Mare Internum eligible for the 2019 Hugo Awards for Graphic Stories.

        I know I’m going to be nominating it, whenever it finishes.

  • rimmeh

    Always fascinating is observing how people will bend over backwards to justify their opinions in anyway they can when they’ve had them called out. I have never seen anyone’s reaction be, “Oh, perhaps internalized prejudices that I was not consciously aware of had an influence in my judgements!”

    People claim the story was “skewed” one way as far as sympathizing with the protagonists… ignoring that it isn’t just the material itself that skews these reactions, but what we ourselves have brought to the reading. And often what we bring runs deep and hidden, even to ourselves.

    Mare internum indeed.

    • Pylgrim

      Be careful while making that kind of blanket statements, or you would be falling prey to the same kind of prejudiced thinking you speak of.

      Let me illustrate with an example: A white man publicly denounces a black woman, in detail, for robbing him. A bunch of people gather around and are mostly supportive of the man. Some outspoken racists and/or sexists among them are the loudest ones. Then you drop by and sneer at the lot of them. You tell them how their internalised prejudice is driving their opinions and that they are incapable of admitting it.

      Turns out that the woman /did/ rob the man, just as he described. This does not validate the racists and sexists. However, it casts your own judgment in the same basket as theirs since it’s now proven that some of the man’s supporters were doing so legitimately (or at least with honesty) and not as a result of internalised prejudice. They are the people who supported the man because they /believed/ him, and who’d just as easily would believe the black woman if she was the one making the accusation.

      Readers are believers. Each time that the protagonist grows, and succeed, or even when they fail, we are believing that the writer’s intentions are for us to care for this person and see them to the end of their journey. From time to time, a clever writer will use things like unreliable narrators or heroes that turned out to be anti-heroes or villains. Literary tricks like that are possible and exciting precisely because the readers are supposed to believe in the protagonist.

      • hmm

        then it turns out the woman robbed the man because she was desperate and needed something, anything to buy food for her children before they all died of starvation. and the man is a rich guy who votes for policies that take away basic assistance.

        or the white man was a raging asshole who had stolen from her before and this was retaliation.

        or the woman stole from the man because she’s a kleptomaniac with clinical depression and a sad sob story background, and the man is angry she robbed him because he’s trying to survive in the world he abandoned his family for.

        i mean, we could go on.

        • Pylgrim

          See, you are doing exactly the same: You are presupposing that there’s /no way/ in which the robber could have been an intent malicious agent and the man an innocent victim. Why?

          That said, that’s not the point of my post, I’m not trying to find the underlying causes of that theoretical crime, I am talking about how you cannot blame the way people believe in a narration (in this case, of a crime) without necessarily being prejudiced nor objectively wrong.

      • Alex

        “Interesting” hypothetical situation, incredibly similar to the strawman arguments that white supremacists use to argue that reverse racism exists, with absolutely zero relevance to the comic.

        • Pylgrim

          Excuse me, did you just skim my post to be able to cast a judgment? The post is not about “reverse racism” or proving that whites are victims or whatever. It was merely a way to illustrate how external participants of a narrative’s beliefs are not necessarily the result of prejudice.

          I ask you to carefully reread that post and this as opposed to following a knee-jerk instinct to think “hah, poor Nazi supremacist is trying to defend himself with empty rhetoric” and answer accordingly.

          If it’s any help to combat the prejudice you have displayed so far, I am not white.

          • Nyzer

            Jeez. Both responses to your post are… well, they’re certainly something.

            You’re right about making blanket statements. I’m sure racism plays some part in some way, but it doesn’t just boil down to it. Der-shing even mentions that she deliberately structured the story so the readers would see more of Mike than Bex so far.

            Jumping straight to the race card does everyone (well okay almost everyone) a disservice.

          • Lilian

            Thank you, Pylgrim.

    • Lil

      This is one of the best comments I’ve seen in this whole place. A great reminder for those of us getting bogged down by all the negativity.

      It’s hard to turn introspective when you’ve had your thoughts, biases, perspective called out. None of us likes it. But it’s probably the most important thing we can do, and an important exercise in the kind of empathy, consideration, and acknowledgement that Bex is asking of Mike (and us).

    • brokenidealist

      rimmeh, you summed up my thoughts exactly. The extent to which people will go to justify their biases and beliefs is fascinating, as well as staggering.

    • Lilian

      Hm. Perhaps internalized prejudices that I was not consciously aware of did indeed have and do have an influence on my judgments. I’ll acknowledge that.

      But it goes for everyone.

    • Lilian

      To elaborate, I’ll agree with “Lil” above that it’s so important to be willing to be introspective about your own biases and the limitations of your perspective. Humility and all that.

      But that still goes for everyone.

  • Pylgrim

    I could see how it is “a little sad” from your perspective, Der-Shing: You know Bex better than all of us and as you admit, you have withheld from us more of her backstory and motivations than you have done with Michael.

    You hoped that we, the readers, would be able to do what she demands of Michael: to accept her inherent humanity, no questions. But it is not that we (or Michael) are not accepting it. Accepting some person’s humanity is not the same as liking and although her problem with Michael is that he hasn’t shown her an inkling of respect, I think most of us the readers have. She’s just… hard to like.

    For example, at the end of today’s update, she’s recriminating Michael about the number of times she has “torn herself to pieces”… but has she actually done it in front of Michael? Every time she’s fallen to pieces or shown vulnerability, it has been by herself. How should Michael as any other than a “strong woman” if that’s all he’s seen? She’s a woman so determined that abandoned her family to follow her career. A woman whose first measures of survival in unknown situations are fashioning crude weapons and swinging before asking. A woman who faced basically a god and spurned it. And now she is stomping away with laser focus determination, something that she can only do because Kalla saved them and Levi is sharing its mapping knowledge with her. Has she said “thanks”, ever? From Michael’s point of view, there’s no other way to look at Bex as a legitimately strong woman, but also as one who is so full of it, of being a strong woman.

    I get that it is also easy to believe that the attitude she’s getting from Micahel is a result of her being a WOC, an avatar of every woman and every person of colour. However, while I agree that this is something that women and POC face every single day, in this particular case, I don’t see it being the underlying reason. The reasons, as I see them are: she’s earned some of it, and Michael is a jerk, happy to pile on top of it (or to get the show started).

    How would this work if you had gone the other way, I wonder? Show us Bex’s POV, her full backstory, an understanding of her emotions and the experience of seeing her grow as a character, while keeping Michael as a seldom-seen grouch, paranoid and abusive from the point of view of the few interactions he’s had with our heroine. Self-destructive, thoughtless, erratic, and apparently easily swayed by suspicious alien beings. Instead of being a story of personal growth (Michael’s) to which the deuteragonist is a foil, it would be a story of valour and survival, to which the deuteragonist is a patent hazard, if not an antagonist outright.

    Would you find the readers judgment of Michael a little sad, too, knowing Michael as you do (and we wouldn’t)?

    • shingworks

      Of course I would, haha. Unless they do intentionally malicious harm to others, I think that all people deserve to be treated with empathy, because I’m a filthy lib.

      • skellagirl

        I agree with you. It’s startling to me to see so many people here in the comments assert that someone needs to “prove” their humanity before they deserve to be treated as a human (IE, with respect, empathy, decency, etc).

        • Pylgrim

          I hope that this as a response to Der-Shing’s response to me doesn’t mean that you think that’s what I am alleging because it’s very much not.

          • skellagirl

            No, I’m not thinking that about you personally! Just making a general observation.

      • Pylgrim

        So am I, and that’s my point! It is sad, but not really telling of anything else but the fact that readers will ally themselves with the given protagonist of a narrative.

    • Esn

      That bit about Bex not saying “thanks” or giving anything back to those who have helped her (Kalla, Levi, even (mmmaybe…) the processor), and instead being as aloof towards them as she can get away with – this is part of the reason why I agree with you that she deserves some of what Mike is dishing out. And that has nothing to do with gender or race… actually, that’s sort of a flaw that I recognize in myself sometimes as well…

  • Lynne

    All the negative discourse about Bex is a bit discouraging to read. She’s definitely not a morally superior person, but I think that reader responses to her actions are a bit out of proportion, due to the way the narrative has led us to sympathize more deeply with Mike. Since Mike is the “hero,” I think that when he is in conflict with Bex (or when his ally Kalla is), some people latch onto her as the “villain,” which is a bit too simple.

    Mike is obviously the easier character to sympathize with because we’ve spent more time with him, learned more about him, and he’s very emotionally open. He uses his feelings as a weapon and a tool, even. Bex, on the other hand, we have only really learned about through her flashbacks; she’s much more closed off, and we haven’t seen her talking about herself the way Mike has. It’s a bit of a gender role reversal: usually it’s the woman who talks endlessly about her feelings and problems, and the man who’s closed off and cool. Men in media are usually afforded a certain benefit of the doubt by the audience despite their reticence: people are usually comfortable assuming the best of a male character who isn’t actively filling the role of a villain. Bex isn’t receiving that same benefit of the doubt, which is interesting but also disappointing.

    The aggressive behavior in this current conversation is a two-way street: Mike’s first line of dialogue on this page is “I’m trying to put my feelings aside to work with you” but that is wholly dishonest. He just sniped at her like a child on the last page, and his interactions with her have been, as Bex says, consistently unprofessional and judgemental. He doesn’t know her, and doesn’t care to know her, but is perfectly happy to make endless observations about what a terrible person she is. His head is jammed way, way up his ass.

    Bex isn’t perfect either, though. She’s self-righteous, and she is a bit of a martyr, but I feel that her particular brand of martyrdom comes from being hurt and feeling dehumanized over and over throughout her life. Her defensiveness is both a shield and a weapon. I think a lot of her feelings are justified and understandable, but she uses them to isolate herself from others, and she’s so upset by her previous interactions with Mike that she’s lashing out at him even now that he’s trying to help her, which is entirely unproductive when she needs every bit of aid she can get to leave this place.

    I think that people are giving Mike’s sudden 180 from “let’s get out of here if it kills us” to “life is great, let’s stay here forever” too much credit. We didn’t see any of the conversation with the Processor that changed his mind, and after spending as much time as we did with him struggling through obstacles both internal and external, determined to escape, it seems like it can’t be genuine (especially after his sudden concern at the Processor’s ominous words). And I think people expect a little too much from Bex in turn: as someone observed above, Mike went into this situation with nothing to lose (suicidal, alone, and professionally disgraced) while Bex has everything to lose. This is the beginning of a long-awaited, hard-sacrificed career, for her, and she still loves and longs for the people she left behind. How sad would it be for her to give up everything for a chance to follow her dreams and prove herself against all the doubt and criticism she’s faced, only to die a completely pointless death, right on the threshold of success? She’s been dumped in a hostile and frightening environment beyond anything she could have imagined, alone and without supplies or any form of communication. The stress she’s under is intense: this isn’t an opportunity for her to work through her fear and come out on top, like it has been for Mike. Her actions make sense from a place of desperation and fear, and even now that she is capable of communicating with the aliens, it seems unfair to expect a greater level of altruism and rationality from her than we do from Mike. Mike seems more “balanced” currently, but he’s still been a selfish, nasty, and judgemental person who has made wildly bad decisions throughout his journey. Bex is operating under unimaginable stress, and has been abandoned and villainized by her only human ally, and really, she’s got to be questioning her sanity in this situation. She’s not in a place where she can be altruistic and rational. She’s tired and hungry and afraid, and nothing around her makes any form of sense. I don’t think Bex is necessarily in the right (about anything other than Mike being a total ass to her, anyway), but she’s not really in the wrong, either. She’s doing her best to survive a dangerous and emotionally draining situation.

    • okno

      Loving this concept/comment!

      • Margaret Hogg

        Me too! Also have to say I’m a little worried Mike’s new peace could have something to do with the Processor’s gift.

    • Sam

      This is really insightful and well written. Thanks.

  • comespm

    Personally, I’m a little taken aback by this turn of developments. I understand there is some bad blood between Mike and Bex, but having them argue about one’s opinion of the other now?

    There’s a murderous biological machine wanting to transform them into parts of itself and keep them trapped forever. They should be running to the exit, not arguing about their feelings at this particular moment.

    There are places and opportunities for everything, but when running for your life and humanity is not one of them.

    • Ben

      Why call the Processor “murderous”? It’s a completely alien intelligence, of an undefined sort, pursuing a wholly un-human agenda with powers beyond anything humans can do; repeated resuscitation of Kalla, for one thing.

      If the Processor can resuscitate or completely change the nature of those within its reach at will – LeVi/Thrip, for example – does it truly kill them? IS IT murder? We don’t have the framework to discuss the question

  • Lord Hideous

    Finally, they’re talking. Progress! Now if we can get them to stop talking AT each other and start talking TO each other, we might get somewhere.

    Both of you, go back to the cave mouth where Kalla can join in, sit down, and TALK.

    Silly question about Mike’s bookmark in the Kickstarter- symbolism from the “Hanged Man” tarot card?

    • shingworks

      Haha, you got it. “The hanged man/ Fear death by water”

  • HousePet

    So I really just skimmed the huge amount of comments here, but this is my view of Bex:

    A bit hypocritical.
    She criticising Mike for ignoring her, but she hasn’t opened up to him at all really. She knew more about him before they met due to her kids loving all his shows. But then seems to have just assumed he would know as much about her.
    Called him Uncle a few times, but is sensitive about a few labels he has used for her.
    Mike is now trying to talk to her, and she is resisting, while complaining that he doesn’t talk to her.
    She knows he saw her hacking up Kalla and just seems to be expecting Mike to be absolutely fine about that, instead of traumatised.
    Basically, he hasn’t show any empathy towards her, because she doesn’t let people do that.

    • Ben

      A lot of the early interaction between Mike and Bex, strikes me as the sort of inter-disciplinary competition for status, jealousy, infighting over funds and areas of responsibility, and the like that go on all the time, in academic life. The Big Bang Theory has a lot of this, especially revolving around Bert the geologist.

      Mike probably isn’t a particularly pleasant person to meet, in that context. But, so it goes.

  • Some_Douchebag

    I am constantly judging and re-judging everyone around me at all times. You need a feel for what sort people you’re around, even if you only ever see (and induce from) one particular facet of them. I’m also absolutely certain that everyone else does this exact same thing, even if they don’t realize or admit it. If Mike is to forgive Bex for murdering (temporarily) his friend, I think it would be fair if Bex were also expected to forgive Mike for his treatment of her. Their actions are both the result of important survival mechanisms, after all.

    Also, wrt the “basic human empathy” thing. Sure, Bex deserves at least as much understanding and compassion as Kalla from Mike if we’re being objective, but Mike is a damaged man in a horribly stressful situation. Why would anyone expect someone like that to be objective? For that matter, why would anyone expect someone intelligent and ambitious like Bex to NOT say something self-serving like “you should respect me because I’m a human too!” in the same horribly stressful situation?

    While we, the readers, are presented with one of the themes this comic is developing, Mike is being presented with an accusation. If he tries to explain that he and Kallakore came to respect and care about each other, while he and Bex never had that sort of experience (due to more factors than can be listed here), it will only make her angrier and less likely to listen.

    The correct course of action for him here is to admit he was wrong, but then appeal to what she needs rather than how she feels. Get her talking and thinking about how his connection to the processor and the Internal Sea’s machines can be used by her to escape. I’m guessing Mike still wants a sense of control, and you can gain a lot of control over someone by making yourself their instrument.

    • Some_Douchebag

      Alternatively, Bex is a resourceful alien-killing badass who should have no trouble finding a suitable weapon. If he can provoke her enough, and can appear threatening while not really fighting back, this is a wonderful opportunity for him to fulfill his earlier death wish. It would also be quite a twist.

      Crack his skull, Bex. Be the destroyer.

    • Lilian

      “I am constantly judging and re-judging everyone around me at all times… I’m also absolutely certain that everyone else does this exact same thing, even if they don’t realize or admit it.”

      Lol. Yes, I do this too. I’m coming to conclusions the moment I lay eyes on someone. Those conclusions are often wrong, and always incomplete.

      Now maybe there’s someone here who is %100 objective in all of their interactions with everyone and never makes assumptions based on appearance/voice/ethnicity/profile on a medical chart/etc. BUT I’m pretty sure this is innate human behavior, so the trick isn’t trying to eradicate it but a) being aware that I do it and b) trying not to let it shape my actual treatment of others.

  • Ben

    HAS Mike spoken about his past and his situation? I don’t know that he has. The “swimming pool/parents divorce” thing is all presented in interludes and flashbacks, is it not? Penelope Gotoh certainly knows about Mike’s medication (as would be expected, given her situation) and knows about whatever is actually in his medical file, but whatever that is, it clearly isn’t sufficiently adverse to have precluded him from being assessed as mentally fit for the programme.

    Mike has clearly deteriorated under the stresses of the mission, and his relations with his commander have become antagonistic. His behaviour has become self-harming, both personally and professionally. Having had a good deal of experience of this sort of isolated situation IRL, I can easily envisage that.

    So, what of Bex? There’s various projection onto her above, of “the things a WOC/POC experience every day” but all we have ACTUALLY seen of her life shows a comfortable, professional lifestyle – swimming pool, baby shop, video link to well-groomed husband wearing spectacles. Her children seem to be about 8 and 10, and she has a doctorate and professional success, so she appears to be what – early/mid thirties? She calls Mike “Uncle” but that’s just a conventional thing – he is probably about five years older than her, say pushing forty. She is just showing a conventional form of address to someone who is senior to her, in context – her outgoing predecessor with an established professional profile (note that quite how TRUE her image of Mike, as presented on TV, might be is debatable – it seems to be analogous to Jaques Cousteau).

  • Margaret Hogg

    It just occurred to me that Mike essentially abandoned his kid as well—he forced LeVi to go down into the times and deactivate. He thought he was doing it to protect him, but being an AI, LeVi had no say. He’s also been shown to force people around him away (at least until he wanted to to Kalla) and the act of suicide would essentially be abandonment of any remaining friends or family, though we don’t have a good idea of who’s in his life anymore. The subtle parallels Der-Shing draws between these two seemingly completely, and the hugely different reactions it’s brought up have just been *kisses fingers*

    I think for me it’s interesting to personally see my own reactions to mental illness (and reactions of people I know) in both of them, and then see what parallelled behavior some people empathise with as suffering or people label as unforgivable, and try to figure out why. Does the pain of mental illness only warrant empathy and forgiveness when a person is “likable”?

    Honestly to bring this back to race (cause TBH I think it and gender do color people’s reactions to this comic, if just a far as who we’re “used” to being an [anti]hero in a story and how harshly we’re condemning essentially similar character flaws) it’s kinda to me echoing the media recently being more willing to attribute white domestic terrorism to complex individual histories and mental trauma, while attributing brown terrorism to personal decisions and ideology. Of course it’s a good point that we’d bond better with the first point of view presented, but it’s just surprising to me to see how many readers are much more willing to break down or explain away Mike’s selfish actions, while being a lot more monolithic in their opinion of Bex.

    Anyway just restating that I love this comic. It’s been really interesting to read and participate in the comments as well, and honestly I kind of want to make everyone I know read it and “hmm” over their reactions. It’s like a sociological study, kinda.

    • Ben

      Talking of “abandoning his child” it would be interesting to know what the project as a whole, think happened to LeVi. Mike has been hugely unprofessional, in deliberately destroying a major project asset and as far as I can see, covering this up as a technical failure encountered while exploring the limits of technology in a very hostile environment.

      That’s probably also a criminal action – “destroying federal property” or something of the sort.

      Penelope Gotoh told Mike that she attempted to prevent him being dismissed. That strongly implies that she sees Mike as a difficult, unreasonable and unpleasant colleague, but competent in his discipline.

    • Margaret Hogg

      Also, all I can think right now is it would be a real mindfuck if it turned out Bex somehow did reconcile with her family but somehow end up going to Mars later. I know that’s a pretty happily-ever-until-falling-into-a-big-alien-hole idea but still…

  • Jojo

    I like the glow to Mike’s eyes.

  • Edmund

    I know so much about Mike, his rationale, his past. I think he’s an asshole. A smart asshole with a good argument for why he’s like that. Still an ass. The thing is, I have an understanding of what’s going on with him. His dynamics are not a mystery. He throws stones and puts up walls of glass.

    Bex, I know so little. I want to know more about her than I do. She sometimes seems to do contrary things too, but I don’t have that same understanding of the relationship between what she has endured, and how it shapes her current choices. She communicates immediate intent, but the emotional and personal side of her decisions… I can’t see through the walls she keeps up. And I think that as readers, we do not like unknowns.

    I think a lot of us have mistakenly concluded we like characters because we sympathize with their actions, which we then see as good, bad, or justifiable. I think what we actually like in people, is our ability to understand them. And that only comes with communication: both rational AND emotional.

    I don’t like Michael (or at least, I would not like dealing with his bullshit). But I like that I understand him emotionally. I do not know if I like Bex, because I do not yet understand her. The irony being, of course, that the Processor has granted her perfect communication.

    It’s a catch-22 of not trusting your personal information with a stranger, and yet you cannot move past being strangers without trusting another with personal information. There is a difference between sharing our personal side, and justifying it. I have to wonder if the people Bex has dealt with, have only ever asked she justify.

    • Edmund

      I would also like to thank Lynne for that excellent summary of what we do and don’t know about each of the main human protagonists.
      I read that commentary after posting my own. Really, we know a lot about Bex – but Lynne’s comments about how Bex is emotionally closed seems to be the source of a lot of my own thoughts. Thanks for wording it way better than I did!

    • Fleece

      I agree that in order for the audience to root for a character, they need to understand them, to know their motivations. We know that Mike’s story goal is not be suicidally depressed and we hope he succeeds in that, but despite glimpses of Bex’ backstory, we don’t know what she wants besides getting out of this hellhole. Does she now regret coming to Mars and wants to get back to her kids? Is the thing most important to her indeed to be respected by her asshole unprofessional colleague? We can only guess.
      So far, I am mostly just rooting for Bex to not be hated by the other commentators anymore (she definitely doesn’t deserve it), witch can maybe be it’s own goal on a meta level, but not a character goal on a story level.

      • Fleece

        Of course, the question of why should Mike care about Bex the human is completely different from why the readers should care about Bex the fictional character.

  • soundofmind

    I know that both characters are flawed but honestly I’m cheering for both of them. I want to see them happy and safe, and I don’t know if that’s a realistic thing to hope for this comic but I like them a lot.

    Just thought I’d say that since I’ve been reading this for a long time and have been mostly quiet. <3

  • Retterhardt

    I just want to take a second and say how amazing this comic is that it can provoke such deep thinking and actual 500(+)-word literary analyses in the comments section.

  • awhorl

    Making judgments about people–if I have learned ANYTHING I could leave behind me to help the rest of you in the hive-mind, it is this: there is more in the negative space around the people you think you know than you can ever guess or fill in with your gut reactions. NEVER forget about that negative space–it’s the space that looks empty but is full of everything you don’t know.

    So withhold judgment. Collect information, sure–but withhold that judgment. Someone above said that they were judging people all the time every day–maybe not so good. Collect info about people around you all the time every day, yes, but hold back on the judgments. Then you won’t get into the position of having to “defend” them when new info comes in to adjust the pictures that are being filled out. This also leaves room for the people to grow and develop–and you won’t be stuck with an out-dated notion of them that you are really attached to (even if it’s awful, even if it feeds a grudge you’re carrying).

    Learning how to withhold judgment is an exercise in lengthening your attention span–uh, part of maturing. I can say this because I am on social security, and it has taken me this long to see the advantages. I sure CAN judge, believe me, but I won’t–I choose not to–because I am pretty sure I will be off base, and it isn’t worth it. You can have clear principles; that’s different from being a blame-thrower.

    And the process of gathering information is so much more interesting without getting bogged down in judging.

    Here’s a shout out to the Christians who commented above: Some passages in the Bible really appeal to me. One of them is “Vengeance is Mine, sayeth the Lord”–it can also be translated as “Judgment is Mine–ie not yours, so pipe down.” As in I will never really have enough info to make a final judgment to hurl at anybody, and am I glad, because that responsibility is unimaginably weighty.

    The human’s job is compassion. That is difficult, but doable.

    • Lilian

      The tricky bit is that we’re all I think naturally inclined to draw conclusions the instant we start interacting with someone. Frankly, I don’t think we can muscle our way out of that inclination just because we know it’s a moral wrong.

      However, I do appreciate the thrust of your comment. If one can both be aware of their proclivity to unfair judgment and strive to be compassionate in spite of that, that’s progress.

      Really, I agree with you a lot.

  • Natalie

    That’s an interesting perspective on why people don’t like Bex (that we know about the shit Mike’s been through more). I’ve been totally baffled by the hatred for her. I wouldn’t class myself as particularly unjudgmental, so I’m not sure that determines being pro- or anti- Bex.

    I feel like the dislike for Bex really started up when she killed Kalla. I feel like if we were following Bex the whole time, seeing her try to survive, and we didn’t know who Kalla was when Bex killed her, then people might have a totally different point of view on if that was reasonable or not and they might see Bex as just a survivalist. It seems like their dislike was basically through a loyalty to Kalla. I think I’ve always found the concept of loyalty a bit weird, so I guess it would make sense if that’s why I’m in the minority(?) of people who like Bex.

    Also, I guess maybe the silent readership might be more likely to like Bex for some reason and we’ve just seen more comments that don’t like her.

    I wonder how much gender and race come into peoples perceptions, too. I’d like to hope it doesn’t, but there’s no real way of knowing.

    Thanks for making me think, Der-shing.

  • Ben

    Cutting right back to the top of the column… Bex is taking the common relativist position that respect should be given, not earned, because there is no possible basis for it NOT to be given, without limit or reservation.

    • awhorl

      Wow: “Common relativist”–the word “respect” needs careful definition here. The personal respect that is earned is valuable indeed. Let me not for a minute devalue the honor that is due to those who demonstrate through their actions adherence to hard-won values that are shared.

      But I think we may be talking about something else here: the term has been adopted to mean a baseline courtesy that lifts people above the level of warring individuals who will give each other no quarter at all until certain signals are exchanged. It includes behavior that allows others to pursue life, liberty, and to the extent limited by law, their own happiness–yes, these are Enlightenment notions. But they are also necessary now and in the world of MI. There are too many people in a world where cultures are not shared, where many individuals simply can’t communicate for health reasons, where disabilities are invisible, and where the weapons of language turn out to be far more lethal than we ever imagined.

      The problem is that the damage done to people by language and gestures perceived as deeply hurtful is physically invisible and is FAR different from anything imagined or intended by the people who did it–regardless of where they were on the scale of intending harm to being oblivious to being well-intentioned. Cliches that circulate are so off base. Oh wow.

      Members of my birth family were hurt in this way, but I wasn’t, being the baby by ten years (long story), and for decades I simply couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t just “get over it.” Perhaps you can’t take someone else’s word for it. I don’t know. But it isn’t so hard for me now to see how far from the starting line such an experience can blow a person, and how hostile the environment continues to feel no matter what. And this goes for any kind of hurt–take it and apply it to whatever situation you want, cuz it may just fit.

    • brokenidealist

      There is nothing difficult nor personally compromising in showing a very basic level of respect to any individual — the basic respect one receives from others, because it makes life easier for everyone. It’s given because it is practical to do so when living in any society, and has nothing to do with what one does or doesn’t deserve. Showing that same basic level of respect is also part of behaving in a professional manner. That is what Bex is talking about here. It’s not a “relativist positon” at all — treating others with a basic level of respect is part of not being an a**hole.

  • Timothy C Miller

    Honestly? Nothing about Michael endears me to him. He has a very serious tendency to give up and be mad at people for suggesting that maybe he shouldn’t. I worry that I’m missing something about Bex, but in general, I like her more. She’s active and direct, and she has a much clearer capacity to admit when she is wrong.

    I realize this is my first post, but there are my two cents.

    • japhet

      you’re not missing anything, really a lot of the bex hate comes from a place of misogyny, misogynistic assumptions, and misogynistic expectations

      • skellagirl

        Sorry this is sort of offtopic (For the record I agree with you; I said earlier in the comments that I’d bet actual money Bex would be under less scrutiny if she were a white man), but is your username an OFF reference?

  • Firebee

    You know, I always see these Bex vs Mike discussions, and a ton of theories about why so many people hate Bex more, but I’ve never seen the reason I think shes more disliked despite being a pretty similar person to Mike in many ways brought up.

    My theory? Its because we see more emotions in Mike. Bex spends the entire comic after the fall in the same surly, defensive, grim survivalist mentality. But Mike? We;ve seen him at high points and low points. We’ve seen him angry and defensive, despondent and depressed, suicidal, but most importantly we’ve seen him happy and relaxed. We’ve seen Mike smile and laugh and make dumb jokes with Kalla. We’ve seen him make friends.

    Bex hasn’t done that. And I think thats the main reason people are quicker to hate on her then they are with Mike. We haven’t seen her happy and smiling and getting along with people. With good reason, but when you see some one being happy and nice and likeable, its much easier to forgive their giant glaring flaws and take their side against the person who just seems angry all the time.

    • Margaret Hogg

      Honestly I think her first interactions with Mike and the crew are this. She’s friendly and open. She persues Mike even after seeing him argue with Goto. They have a casual conversation and joke around. We see her happy in her past photos. When she’s been at her lowest it’s around motherhood, and many people haven’t allowed her those feelings because they’re seen as selfish. We get less page time of it, of course, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t seen her full range of emotion.

      • Firebee

        I definitely agree, we did see her having all these emotions. But they also feel over shadowed by everything that happens, as well as being more distant. I find it rather easy to forget things that happened way back at the beginning. So its almost like that side of her has been forgetten

  • Yelena Rossini

    I just re-read the entire comic, and I have to say, it is truly incredible to me how kind Bex is, and has been throughout this story.

    She asks for Mike’s perspective, not automatically assuming he is at fault for the conflict with the commander.

    She risks her life to stop Mike from killing himself when he tries to take off his helmet – against orders from her superior officers, who order her to abandon him.

    She admits her ambivalence about her decision to come to mars as a permanent colonist – while also showing us that her kids love LEVI, and presumably mars exploration as an extension of that. We’ve seen how her husband betrayed his promise that “You can be a parent and all the rest of it” – and how she has tried to cope with the ways she has been forced to break a bargain she never wanted to make.

    As soon as the processor allows her to communicate with the other life forms, she stops attacking them – and even, immediately after being threatened with dismemberment, tries to help one of the martians!

    We’ve seen how the processor has turned Kalla, Levi, and Mike against her (convenient that after Kalla dies, she forgets her decision to try and leave, and Mike has his mind changed by a manipulative alien recalling his experiences of abuse), and how in spite of that she didn’t yell at Kalla, or at Levi, and when Mike creepily looms out of the mist at her she immediately is trying to help him – even after he threatened her, tried to kill himself, and ran away from her.

    Even now, Bex doesn’t ignore Mike, and just keep walking – even as hurt, and confused, and threatened as she is, she stops to try and communicate with him.

    Bex has had to fight against other people trying to absorb her her entire life – into a certain idea of marriage, of motherhood, into the processor itself. And in spite of all the fighting she has had to do, she is still willing to risk life and limb to help someone else – even someone who seems to have given up the will to fight.

    Bex is an incredible woman, and an incredible character. Thank you, Shing, for giving us such a wonderful, kind, courageous, imperfect heart to this story.

    I can’t wait to see how it ends!

    • Izaria

      THANK you for this comment. I was getting depressed at all the Bex hate, and you’ve summarized my feelings of her here much better than I could have.

    • japhet

      this is such a succinct and accurate summary, thank you

    • alexikakon

      This, this, this, this, this. 100%.

  • Ben

    I started by agreeing with that comment, and ended by having little or no idea what you were saying, or trying to say.

    Yes, Mike owes Bex the “basic courtesy” as you describe it, as she does in return. He owes her professional courtesy but isn’t compelled to regard her discipline as valid.

    Coming to “cultural incompatibility” Bex is playing this card quite hard, one of the first things we learn is that she is a Yoruba, from Nigeria, and clearly regards this as important. We don’t in fact, know Mike’s nationality, and we only know that he told Bex he was “not straight” to avert an issue he didn’t want to discuss – so he may, or may not be a reliable informant in that respect.

    • Ben

      Re-reading the early pages, Mike is seen to be American (badge on his jersey). Penelope Gotoh also refers to “negligence” apparently perceived by Mission Control, so there may be a suspicion that Mike immobilised, deactivated or destroyed LeVi.

    • Margaret Hogg

      =_= Bex isn’t playing the Yoruba card hard. Mike asks where she’s from and she answers. If she’s “playing the card hard” it’s by virtue of just being Yoruba, being black, being written with a dialect. Literally just parts of her character. If you can’t read a black character as not flaunting what is just their character, you maybe need to examine your preconceptions.

  • Diana

    We’re reading the characters’ stories with an overview provided by Der-Shing, which gives us information that neither Bex nor Mike possess as they work their way through the storyline. They are just two walking wounded people who are trying to survive in a bad situation the only ways they know how, from their own woundedness. The only one who knows for sure what they might be thinking or what their motivations might be is Der-Shing and she ain’t talking(much).

    Personally,I’m willing to cut them both slack, as long as they stop yapping at each other and get moving. Survive and escape now, settle differences and sing Kumbayah when you’re safe, kids.

    I hope that however the storyline plays out, no matter what decisions are made for what happens to all the characters, that all of them find some measure of peace.

  • Anastasia

    So. I am a new mom (my baby is 2 months old) and I feel so strongly for Bex. I don’t think people understand how demanding children are of your every moment, your energy, your love. It is impossible to quantify and there’s no practice runs before you’re there. I used to call myself an artist but I haven’t so much as picked up a pencil to doodle something in the past 10+ weeks because when I’m not at work (corporate job) I’m at home nursing, feeding, changing, and simply seeing to the comfort of my child 85% of the time. It is very rewarding but also can be horrifying when you look back and reflect.

    Bex has had to give up so much of herself. She’s had to make so many hard decisions in the quest to preserve her selfhood. That’s what the tragedy is. Mike has had space and has been granted time to discover himself and change over the course of this journey. Bex is still in a wholly different mindset. She still has those instincts that ate her up before – giving of herself, her time, her emotional energy – worrying about and tending to other people because she still fundamentally has so much compassion for people around her.

    Maybe I’m projecting, but Bex has been asked to be so many different things at once – mother, wife, scientist, survivor, friend… and Mike has been asked to be one thing, which is respectful.

    • brokenidealist

      Thank you for sharing the new mom experience — for those who have not or will not experience motherhood for whatever reason, it helps give us some perspective.

  • Parsnip

    Dang when did his eyes get all glowy

    • Parsnip

      Eye, I guess

  • Petra

    I’ve loved Bex from the start and I still do, even though I’m not sure how much I’d like her… it’s hard to judge because for the overwhelming amount of time we’ve seen her she’s been in a very stressful survival situation, and that skews how she responds to things.

    I think the Mike vs Bex debate misses something key. One doesn’t have to win at the expense of the other, at least for who’s right. They’re both right! They’re also both wrong. Morally, Mike’s done worse things deliberately but in a compromised mental state and we don’t fully know the context of him sending LeVi away. Bex has done something worse (killing Kalla) as an accident in a life-or-death situation. Mike’s more outwardly emotional but Bex is the one willing to attempt to reach out to someone even when she’s starting to hate them, which is something I really admire. If she were really cold and unemotional, she wouldn’t do that.

    Bex hasn’t really expressed gratitude when helped but come on, neither has Mike, and Mike’s more willing to spit help back into someone’s face when he’s in a bad mental state.

    By debating whether or not Mike OR Bex is The Good Person, you’re already missing out on half the important stuff. Thanks for doing this, Der-Shing.

  • AznTigress

    Oh look, Earth is in the process of doing their own mare internum. http://www.iflscience.com/technology/scientists-construct-biocomputer-made-living-human-cells/

  • Bran

    Bex is doing anything a white man would have done in her situation, and is being judged by…a white man…for doing it! (And judged by most in the comments section too, apparently) Racism and misogyny is alive and well! People are just *trying* to be “civil” about it—but there’s is nothing civil about debating how many humanity points someone gets because of choices they’ve made—it’s actually a violence and condones violence.

    So what she killed Kalla; nothing dies down there, but nothing really LIVES either. That place is anathema to someone like Bex. She loves her kids, but she also loves science and as the opportunity to go to Mars—growth! So what she’s a little closed off, a little distant—she did try to be friendly with Mike at the beginning and he put the kibosh on that pretty quickly, in favor of judging all her life choices. Mike doesn’t care about anyone or anything but himself, and will try to drag anyone around him down into his pit. I pity him, but he is a poison. Bex has her issues, but she’s trying to get out of there so she can go deal in her own way. Bex is great and she can be mad if she wants! I’m way more invested in what happens to Bex at this point. She’s the last one actually trying for something like life.

  • Hexxtech

    Writing this from mobile because the conversation down here in the comments is quite intriguing to me and I couldn’t help but add my two cents.

    On the subject of Bex and Mike, the story has been a bit skewed in Mike’s favor simply because it’s more relatable for a reader to encounter outright abuse toward a character rather than a character that has seemingly abandoned their family. Now, whether that choice was correct or not (I believe she did the right thing for herself, but I wish she had made the choice after her boys had grown up and were able to navigate without their mother, which again may be a skewed view due to how the story is written) it’s easier for most passionate readers to identify with or feel sympathy for the “abandoned,” and (sadly) the “abused.” I don’t believe it has anything to do with gender roles. If their sexes were switched or the same, we would be in the same predicament.

    I heavily disagree with the notion that becoming a mother “reduces” you to motherhood. I do not by any stretch of logic intend to say that every woman should aspire to be a mother. It’s just not for everyone. However, being one does not somehow gut your career, or your life. My mom, for example, managed to have both myself and my brother and raise us both alone with a full time job. She sent me to private school for part of my life before having to move me to public school because of the lack of income. She asked for child support from my father only at the most dire of times, managed to be a GREAT mother who did everything for us with minimal financial support, and now owns a thriving business that she loves. Her literal dream job. I am now out on my own, my brother still lives with her. She is still the center of our support system, and remains both an amazing mother AND businesswoman, whose perfect day now consists of taking her dog for a nice long hike in the mountains.

    My experience may be rare but it’s certainly not unheard of. So making the excuse that you can’t pursue your dreams or further your career while being a mother – as some readers would argue, which is why I am so interested – is an alien concept to me. It’s harder, absolutely! But not impossible.

    Just my two cents on why people may favor Mike over Bex. I honestly don’t enjoy either of them in particular. BOTH have problems they’re internalizing when they shouldn’t be. But me? Kalla and Levi fan forever. :)

    Killing Kalla may also have been a nail in Bex’s coffin now that I think about it…

  • mmk

    Jesus. Wtf. Ok. If I were in Michael’s shoes, I’d go WTF too. If I were in Bex’s shoes I might be frustrated too.

    Perspectives vary. Values vary. A whole lot of things vary.

    Both characters are immensely complicated (which is great, btw), and neither fully understands the other. *People*, in general, are immensely complicated, and no one can *fully* understand anyone else. You can only try to approach people compassionately and respectfully…which is *extremely* difficult to do. It’s only expected that such things don’t occur easily.

    Der-Shing, sorry you feel :-/ and annoyed re: the comments here, but you *should* feel awesome that you have created characters complicated and multi-faceted enough to even elicit these comments.

    People are not wrong in what they’re saying here. There’s no categorical imperative or absolute right way when it comes to perception of others. Different people will view people differently.

    Whatever though. Enough philosophy, gender studies, or whatever. More LEVi, less drama. (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

    • mmk

      * [approaching people with compassion and respect] is *extremely* difficult to do universally.

      And no, I don’t see Michael as being a pool table, so the bounds of perception are at least fuzzily defined. To what extent…who knows. I’ll leave that to someone who reads books & stuff

  • We already knew that Michael was a troubled person, rejecting authority, trying to kill himself, etc. Why didn’t Bex know that? There’s a lot to be said for the self-fulfilling prophecy of *expecting* someone to be responsible and behave decently, but did Bex really expect professionalism from Michael?

    Perhaps the readers identified more closely with Michael than Bex precisely because we understood him better. And, of course, he was introduced to us first.

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