Chapter 5, Page 25

Crab confessional

And obligatory MI book Kickstarter countdown: 12 days left :o The final guest artist featurette update goes up tomorrow morning, it’s a good ‘un

See you tomorrow with another page~


  • Glavos

    Levi head pats ftw

  • JepMZ

    Am I misreading the earliest chapters or did Mike almost committed suicide by attempting to take his helmet off and that’s why Bex tackled him?

    • Spark

      Yes, that was a suicide attempt

  • Becca

    Levi’s tips for human emotion, #251: a thrip is worth a thousand words

  • Bethany

    Self awareness! Confession! Something in the environment *is* fixing his brain! This is the kind of payoff you normally have to wait until the end of the story for, if at all!

    • Eversist

      I have some news for you…

      • Bethany Persons

        I know it’s ending, but I meant like, final few pages

        • ProphetZarquon

          More than one Bethany person?

          Do you remember what was discussed after getting out of the water???

    • Purplefelix

      I was just thinking about how the headshroom crown might be performing some brain chemistry rebalancing, figuratively and almost literally “clearing” his head

  • Mustachio

    I do think the Processor’s “updates” are addressing Mike’s issues rather well.

  • Sam

    It’s not “happy,” but ugh this is some satisfying closure.

    Pouring one out for relating to everything going well, so you quit your meds.

    • CosmicStresshead

      Solidarity fist bump

  • ObservantWolf

    Excellent page, brings threads together nicely!
    Now, Kalla or Bex calling? (likely Kalla)

    • shingworks

      thank you ;__; it was a tough page for me, I’m glad it worked for you

      • CosmicStresshead

        So much empathy with Mike right now. This page gave me some big feels ;_;

        Thank you for portraying mental illness in such a compassionate but honest way, Der Shing x

  • EveryZig

    Doing well and then self-sabotage is super relatable.

  • Vraal

    Yo, Shing.

    Virtual Hug.

  • awhorl

    Oh,those thrips! Levi stopped being an AI to me long ago; I can’t help thinking of them as a “him” and of him as being Michael’s child. By the same crazy logic that obtains in the reality I know, Michael explained throwing Levi into a pit by saying that he was protecting Levi from a worse fate–and now even as Michael is apologizing for messing up, he can’t understand anything that Levi is saying, and he is talking only about himself and his own feelings.
    Doesn’t that just model a certain kind of parenting?
    and it provides yet another example of the way that people who are badly hurt can become people who badly hurt others.
    I’m still wondering why the Processor turned Levi into a creature who could not communicate with Kalla anymore when she so dearly needed a friend; was it simply that information from the outside was too dangerous? But couldn’t Levi thrip to other thrips?

    Levi seems too much like the child who is everywhere, and sees everything, and has much to say, and needs so much, and may be the most important person in this picture, and is being ignored.

  • Ben

    He isn’t QUITE there yet; Penelope Goto appears (as far as we know) to have done her best to mitigate, and protect Mike from the consequences of his unprofessional, challenging and self-destructive behaviour, and he seems to have responded very badly (although his initial conversation with Bex does refer to this, so he was not completely unaware of this)

  • Lilian

    Yay!! Claps and cheers for Mike!! And then an adorable pat from LEVi.

    Really though, that’s precious.

    Nothing like a companion that can’t talk back in any meaningful fashion to bring out your vulnerabilities.

  • emmy

    There’s just something that has really resonated with my perception of Mike in these last 3 pages. He’s just admitting and accepting and fully realizing the extent of what he’s done to himself, Levi, Bex! Gah, earlier I had said I disliked him but this makes me feel so much sadness for him. Who doesn’t want to feel themselves? Who wouldn’t want to think they can be complete and okay without medication? Not that it’s on the same level but when I was younger I remember being told I needed to take my medicine and I was upset, I asked them why couldn’t I be allowed to be myself. Of course that was dramatic and childish, the medicine did help (and I certainly was not on the same level of needing help) but I emphasize with Mike so much right now.


    • Margaret Hogg

      I put off getting antidepressants for such a long time out of this idea that I somehow wouldn’t be myself anymore (because the depression seemed to define me in a lot of ways?) and I still struggle with a fear around getting help when I need it because like… the depression/anxiety is at least more familiar than the potential challenges of getting help, and then whatever comes after that. And also you just feel like you should be able to fix your brain and emotions by just thinking and examining them enough. So yeah, I feel this hard. You get a little better, and suddenly the idea that you’ll fuck that new betterness up is so scary that it’s very tempting to give up/fuck it up for yourself before you have to face that.

      Honestly I feel like that was whole idea underpinning Kalla and Mike’s talk by the lake. (God I love this comic)

  • mmk

    Yay! More Levi *and* personal growth!

    Sitting and reflecting upon your *own* baggage (instead of everyone else’s) is never easy to do. Still probably got some ways to go, but still… Think this might be the first time where he’s thinking about his issues instead of running from them.

  • addela

    ah, man. i didn’t even know what the concept of “self-sabotage” was until i started going to therapy. it was eye-opening. i realized how badly i’d been hindering myself from making progress – i was doing it consciously AND subconsciously, and things i’d been blaming on other people were, in fact, my own dang fault. :p

    i really feel for mike – it’s good to see him express some self-awareness on this page.

  • HousePet

    Yeah Bex really needed/needs to hear this. Then she would have some chance of understanding Mike.
    So hoping she was standing just out of shot listening, or Levi will have a chance to explain it to her later.

    Also, I can confirm that withdrawals are… awful.

    • Dew


  • AGV

    Welp, break time is over

  • Natalie

    Thoughts caught between “Oh Mike :(” and “Progress!!”.

    I hope Bex gets to understand that Mike does regret his actions so that these guys can combine their powers and bust out of here!

    Also, where’s Kalla?

    • Now that we’ve had a hugely emotional moment, Kalla appears, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and carrying her towel, to announce “I’m going with you!”

      (Can’t be too serious for too long, sorry!)

      • Spongegirl Circleskirt

        How in the heck did she get a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?

        • ProphetZarquon

          It’s the Guide 2.0

  • Ben

    So… enter Bex, to confess that she is deeply conflicted about abandoning her husband and children (Mike doesn’t appear at all concerned about Mr Egunsola, if that is his name) ….. THEY ARE BOTH ALIKE….. AND THEN THEY KISSED…… no, not really.

    I still can’t foresee the ending, although right now I’m betting that Mike stays – because he has no real option – and Bex returns to the Hab, in accordance with her orders. The Processor then seals off the surface exit (remember the Surveyors? The Processor has capabilities far beyond what we have seen)

  • Clameron

    Cripes, sorry, I was reading the comments on the page 21 and HOOBOY I actually got enough feelings that I wanna bother to comment.

    The lack of sympathy for Bex is fucking unreal. And this isn’t a, MIKE IS SCUM thing, I think both of them are complex people shaped by trauma and expectations and stuff. And people love to make presumptions, and the fact the reaction to Bex is so damn NEGATIVE while knowing almost nothing about her is just…. it’s sad. It breaks my heart.

    There is so much we don’t know about either of these two. We got to see glimpses of Mike’s past, and all kinds of social stuff easily skews us in favor of him. But if you stop and really look at yourself, this comic, and what we know of Bex, I don’t believe there is NEARLY the evidence to condemn her. We don’t know ANYTHING about her!! We only really know she left her kids, and the feelings of societal expectation re: motherhood and caregiving she obviously felt extremely distressed by.

    I’m of the impression that Bex had children and discovered too late she didn’t want to be a mother. That doesn’t mean she hates her children, or has truly abandoned them. She’s obviously in their lives. She obviously loves and cares for them, and probably hides her feelings of inadequacy or just. God, I do not doubt she sees herself as a monster for not getting the “natural” maternal instincts, but I do not think she wants her children to feel unloved, or to suffer. That’s my impression of her so far, though. I am excited to see these two talk, and to learn about their histories and just… everything.

    Mike and Bex are both complex, fascinating people. I want to get to know them better.

    And also, for anyone who might not be able to empathize/sympathize with Bex? I wish to god I could find it, but there was a heart-breaking confession bear meme posted to imgur about a woman who only realized post-birth motherhood wasn’t for her. And it wasn’t post-partum depression, either- there are a LOT of women who only learn afterwards this isn’t the life they want. The woman on Imgur never spoke her truth allowed and was committed to raising her children in love, but she ultimately regretted her decision to give birth.

    It’s honestly not all that rare or weird.

    • Nathan

      Bex knew before she gave birth that she didn’t want to have children (this is shown in her first flashback). She was pressured into going through with it by her husband, who promised her that being a mother wouldn’t change who she is.

      My problem with Bex as she is written is that we never actually see her abandon her family. We are told she has, but the circumstances are kept hidden. Are we meant to think that going on a mission to mars constitutes abandonment? That her family effectively disowned her because of her career? How old are her kids? How long was her mission supposed to last? Was she given an ultimatum by her husband? If so, why did he give her his assurance in the first flashback? None of this information is made available to the reader.

      We can infer all sorts of things based on various social cues and facts and statistics. But I don’t believe drama like that should be kept from the reader. Not when it’s part of the story’s over-arching conflict.

      Mike has basically the same problem for me. He seems to struggle with abandonment, but he was never abandoned. He was taken advantage of by someone he trusted. I could see this giving him issues with authority, but why abandonment? Again, the real narrative work that is supposed to drive the character is hidden from the reader. I find this very frustrating.

      • Nathan

        I should note it’s possible the information I want as a reader has been provided at some point in the story and I just missed it. If that’s the case then I apologize in advance.

        • CosmicStresshead

          Many of your questions about Bex’ back-story have been answered or alluded to in flashbacks or exposition: most notably that she is a permanent colonist on Mars.

          It strikes me that her husband’s initial encouragement was more a result of him not realising that the crisis she was having was more serious than just ‘normal’ apprehension – a misunderstanding possibly influenced by a societal expectation to raise a family that took hold more strongly with him than with Bex.

          This, to me, translates as an unfair pressure from her husband, even if he didn’t realise it. Emotional forcefulness can be a nuanced beast like that. It seems to me that she had all the intention of seeing her kids upbringing through, but in the end, she wasn’t built for it, and ended up tearing herself apart.

          In my view, having read the comic over several times, we have enough information to build up a decent picture of what her motivations might have been for leaving. She tried to prove herself as a worthwhile person by going through with motherhood, and found that she couldn’t do it and now, deep down, has to fight her internalised shame.

          To your points about the information being hidden – some people might be able to read more between the lines based on their personal experience and resultant degrees of empathy toward this particular character. That this hasn’t happened for you isn’t really so egregious an oversight by the author as you seem to think. In my opinion, obviously.

          • Nathan

            I had forgotten that Bex was a permanent colonist. My fault for missing that. Seems like an odd status to have for a tiny base with a constantly rotating crew. Kind of hard to believe it would even be allowed.

            I empathize with Bex, and Mike. I just think both characters are underdeveloped, which makes their conflict feel underdeveloped (in my mind) as well. Mike just needed to talk to Bex for a minute to completely change his view of not only her, but himself. Better late than never!

          • shingworks

            It’s been explained before (in the comic through piecemeal exposition and in the site glossary or whatever) but countries set up outposts that are filled by people either from that country or not, sort of how they do it in Antarctica. There is a permanent hub “city” called Point Intersection where people arrive and leave the planet, and where most people reside if they’re not stationed somewhere. Devotion is a newer base and is meant to be operation at full capacity, but is in a lull at the moment thanks to people being moved off this project and new people arriving, etc. Bex is a permanent colonist but is part of a sort of skill-share organization where the members hop from base to base sharing information on how to live more comfortably on Mars (in Bex’s case, she is here to set up an insect farm). The freight vehicle that brought the last shipment (and Bex) is headed out to one base further past Devotion, and on its return was supposed to grab Mike and take him back to Intersection.

          • Clameron

            All of this, basically.

            Also IDK if it was clear, but when I say “lack of sympathy” I mean from the readers, lmao. Not all obviously but yikes, there’s a lot of folks eager to throw Bex on the bonfire. People debating whether or not humans have inherent humanity in the comments a few pages back, like. That really creeped me out.

            But yeah, @Nathan specifically- I think there’s plenty of groundwork and hinting in the comic already. Der-Shing is a very smart and thoughtful storyteller- go read the comic again and you’ll see there was a lot of foreshadowing early on for stuff we get confirmed later. The clues are there, and you might be surprised at the dots you weren’t able to connect earlier. It can be really subtle… Mike losing it at the tiny cleanin LEVI bot bumping against his foot early on & suppressing. And Bex’s desktop wallpaper… lots of neat lil nuggets.

            As for abandonment, well, here’s what I picked up: Mike was obviously a very intelligent, very emotionally unstable kid (and adult, but). CSA, parents divorced, dealing with sexual identity stuff, being put in advanced placement classes surrounded by kids way older than him, having friendships fall apart due to mental illness…? Yeah, I can understand why he might have abandonment issues. Dude had an incredibly isolating life, looks like. Sometimes by circumstances and sometimes by choice. Additionally, mental illness really warps your perception. Even as you actively self-sabotage and chase away people who love you, you still feel hurt that no one is seeing past your shit and trying to dig you out of your hole. Armchair psychologist time, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised by a diagnosis of BPD.

            Annnnnd…. like… The comic is currently at what, 5 chapters? IDK if Der-Shing has stated a definite endpoint is coming soon, but I’m gonna guess we have a bit to go yet. I trust we’ll learn what we need to know in due time. :>

      • Margaret Hogg

        1. We have no idea if that plot point is being withheld because it still has bearing on the plot.

        2. It can be uncomfortable not knowing that but I’d argue it makes a better story and more compelling characters. I think you wanting to see those two plot points play out is really just wanting something to put you more at ease with who you sympathize more with, but that ambiguity and the questions it brings up about mental illness and coping mechanisms IS the plot (and why I love the comic so fuckin’ much) to me.

        • Margaret Hogg

          Also adding that I think the characters are INSANELY well developed, and character development doesn’t have to do with directly revealed backstory. Bex being afraid of motherhood because she was losing autonomy is reflected in her refusal of the processor’s terms. Bex being introduced as scientist who specializes in subsistence farming of alternate proteins is reflected in her survivalist approach inside the Mare. It’s not all laid out but it’s all there, and while I think some people are more sympathetic to it, it’s not underdevelopment at work.

          • Margaret Hogg

            And just to tack this on, I think someone coming to this story without knowledge of western[/human?] storytelling tropes would probably find Mike’s backstory and character development just as subtle. We automatically sympathize with Mike because we’re used to his kind of story being told. Even people who haven’t lived similar experiences, but who have watched movies and read books and played games, have enough info to fill in the blanks.

            The thing is, it’s a rough thing for a person to look at their reactions and say “okay, this reaction might be a result of bias.” The thing is, a person forming bias as a lack of personal experience or understanding isn’t REALLY a reflection on their character, and bringing it up in conversation shouldn’t really be an attack on them. What it IS about is trying to start a conversation about what experiences our society values, and what experiences are held up and “taught” to everyone in the form of media, and how that can result in stuff like, oh, a bunch of people dog-piling on one character instead of another based on equally limited information, for example.

            Anyway, this comment is getting pretty long and thinky. >_>

          • Lilian

            “The thing is, it’s a rough thing for a person to look at their reactions and say “okay, this reaction might be a result of bias.” The thing is, a person forming bias as a lack of personal experience or understanding isn’t REALLY a reflection on their character, and bringing it up in conversation shouldn’t really be an attack on them.”

            Thank you for saying this. This is at least part of the reason some people respond to accusations of bias the way they do. In my experience, many Western folks are conditioned to associate (at least racial) bias with abject moral failure and, yes, being bad people… even subhuman monsters. Is it any surprise such individuals would resist any related accusations being levelled at them?

            We all have bias – sometimes we just have *different* biases. It’s always easier to see the biases in those you disagree with.

  • JJ

    Hehe, blatant light symbolism in the last panel ^_^ I expect – nay, I demand – Kalla enters bathed in heavenly light, sporting a halo.

  • Ellie

    That was the sound of my heart breaking :(

  • seaweed

    I’m pretty sure the entire comics was written to write the “40 million year travel with baggage” line.
    Scratch that. 100% sure.

  • PositronicGirl

    I think Mike was so insistent that Bex was a bad person because her being down here was his fault. He says now that she didn’t deserve it, but I think before Bex’s speech he had convinced himself she did to ease his guilt.

  • Skello

    Man hoo doggy i’ve been reading through arguments on various pages and just wanna echo that the masses of people trying so hard to justify that Mike Is Sympathetic, Bex Is Not is absolutely wild. Purposefully ignoring very clearly written exposition and plot points to paint her as a bigger villain. Incredible.

    The people saying that Bex’s motivations can’t be understood, that they weren’t shown when they should’ve been, WILD – they’re clear as day to me. But i’m starting to realize maybe that has more to do with being AFAB and understanding what AFAB people go through – so, on that note, you’re absolutely killing it on creating a nuanced and subtly written character who speaks volumes to the people who understand even a bit what it’s like, Der-shing. Well done.

    uhhhh stuff on this page to talk about, uh uh showing what the processor is doing to Mike’s clarity is really awesome, you’ve done this exposition in a way that is neither dumbing it down or making it too smart and it’s just really beautifully written. A+

    • Margaret Hogg

      Yeah I definitely loved reading some comments that were like “The way the story is set up there was no chance for people to liked Bex! And her running away from motherhood? Who could sympathize with that?” Um, I liked her from the beginning and all the way through. I sympathized as someone who has been faced with social pressure to reach what’s still considered by many the ultimate life goal/source of worth for women and be told “you’ll change your mind some day,” when I say I’ve never wanted children… and also as someone actively facing the knowledge that laws in my country might change at any time and make it so that if I did accidentally get pregnant, I would have no legal say in the matter. =_=

      • Clameron

        Honestly bless you and Skello for saying how I feel, just in a far, far more eloquent fashion.

        I always liked and rooted for Bex. I mean, well, I love everyone, but you feel me. c:

        • Shweta

          +1 on the thanks. I had to stop reading comments. The hate for Bex was leaving me shaking.

          And — over on the Meek they’re doing an analogous thing to Rana, and in two other webcomics I had to stop reading + two I still read but had to stop reading comments on, it just *happens* to be the visible POC, normally WOC, who doesn’t happily take a support role, who gets vilified.

          At least here, people haven’t been wishing sexualized violence on the character? What a thing to be grateful for :/

  • Margaret Hogg

    Der-Shing, I want to just say… I’m SO glad that you created these last three pages. I was at first baffled and then (when I thought about it) unsurprised by the blowback against Bex, and I was happy enough to personally love her and the complexity of both characters, and wasn’t necessarily expecting you to resolve that in a direct way. Like, obviously the story wasn’t going to end without some character resolution, but I was expecting/okay with it being presented in a thoughtful, open “They’re both messed up! Your milage may vary on who’s worse! I’m just the storyline, I’m not gonna tell ya!” way.

    It’s… SO nice to me that Bex has her moment to be blunt about it. I feel like it pissed off some of the anti-Bex commenters but I think it’s really important to be blunt that even though we’re used to Mike’s reactions to his mental illness in the form of antihero tropes, and we’re used to his “type” as a sympathetic hero, in reality his actions are no less damaging to the people around him. And she’s doing that in a self aware way. She’s not saying she’s better than Mike, only that she’s no less deserving of basic understanding.

    • shingworks

      Yeah, it’s a tricky issue, I’m glad these pages are resonating with you. It’s taken me weeks to finally get to this part and commit to a “final” version, they’ve been kind of harrowing to post haha.

      • Shweta

        They are wonderful pages, and so needed, thank you.

        You’re sailing without a map some here, because you’re doing what we need in narratives but have in very very few, so y’know, be kind on yourself if it’s not all perfect right off? But what you have here is, uh, stellar (pun not initially intended but once I typed it what could I do)

  • awhorl

    I so wish that a copy of this remarkable graphic novel could be made available with all the comments intact. I know so many people who would find the combination enlightening (people joke that there are more therapists and social workers per capita here than in any other town in America) including some friends at the Africana Center.

    And as an author, Shing, you are golden, because here we are poised to accept any ending you will offer. The “common knowledge” that provides us with biases also provides us with expectations for the way a tale should end. For my part, I am ready to follow anywhere you lead.

    I will find the foreshadowing there in retrospect when all is done, I know, but I am afraid that if I look now, I will only see what I want–for everything to be “all better and nice”–rather than what may be right and true to experience. My brother spent a lifetime in the dark place and is still blaming others and driving away everyone who approaches. He is all alone. It is stunning to see at close hand. To see this tale reveal so much in such a compact space and in such an inviting, unassuming way is very healing.

  • awhorl

    About what is sufficient character development: A graphic novel isn’t a triple-decker: one wordless sketch can land it better than pages and pages of “factual” backstory available for analysis. I’ve thought but haven’t said until now that if Shing cheated and gave us a couple of Chibi-Bex frames, especially with the BIG SAD EYES, wouldn’t we all have melted? After that Bex would have had moral plot armor–she could do no wrong. We got that flashback of Child Mike’s sad eyes when the Processor was trying to push his buttons and pushed the wrong one–and we surely reacted!

    Much, much was communicated in the drawings–and it wasn’t open to the kind of analysis that narrative backstory would be. It worked differently.

  • ProphetZarquon

    I keep wondering “Why does anyone trust LEVI?”
    Also, any Expanse readers here?
    Does Mike remind anyone of The Detective?

  • Man, Mike’s last line there could just about be the tagline for this entire comic.

  • AcridSign

    Hey. Guess what? I found out thighfriend’s species. It’s a fucking Christmas Tree Worm. Look it up they look exactly the same minus being buried in someone’s leg.

    • shingworks

      The original concept is actually a cross between one of those and a chanterelle mushroom :]

      • Shweta

        a delicious wormfriend

  • japhet

    minor comment: “withdrawal” is misspelled here

    what a good page. i’ve waited so long to hear him say these words, and out loud, with a witness who can understand them. it’s such an emotional payoff

  • Sheridan

    I feel like everyone needs a golden Thrip to talk to.

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