I realize too late that I kind of gave away the Shocking Twist Ending of this series in the title of the first post. I debated going back and changing it, but then realized I'd rather just get it over with and that I'm also very lazy. Anyway!
The University of Chicago, like all universities, has a variety of stereotypes, in-jokes, and bits of humor that only make sense to one who's been there. This particular strip uses several of these UChicago-specific bits, and I'd like to highlight them.
First off, "the Econ department's network of geosynchronous spy satellites." UC is well-known for its economics studies, to the degree that there's a school of thought named for it. Any department that well-funded and that influential probably has its own satellite network to spy on people all over the world, right?
Second, "they all just disappear outside of Cobb every night!" Cobb is where a large proportion of English, sociology, philosophy, and most other liberal arts classes are taught, and thus there's always a huge crowd of pretentious liberal arts majors standing outside and smoking. Hence, the joke about the cigarette smoke hiding their activities. As an English major myself, I always had at least one class every quarter in Cobb, so I was well-acquainted (and disgusted) with this phenomenon, and I wanted to mock it.
Lastly, the stone circle that Isaac and Ida are investigating in the second-to-last panel is indeed just outside Cobb; it was donated by the class of 1903, as you can see by the partially visible date behind Ida.
I'm moderately proud of this strip. It's the second part of a series, so it's connective tissue, leading from the opening problem (where do the "that guys" come from?) to the final confrontation. Thus, I had to work a little harder to put the jokes in, but I still have quite a few I'm proud of:
- The idea of a "smarminess index"
- "B-but robots and aliens are always evil!"
- "Almost instantaneously!"
- "Oh crap! Suspense sure is a bitch!"
Art-wise, this strip has its flaws—the size of Isaac's face in panel one still gives me fits—but I like what I did with the dramatic lighting in panel 4, and the flashlight beam in panel 5. The heavy shading in most panels also makes it a little more claustrophobic and emphasizes the late hour of the setting.
One final note: Isaac's shirt is an in-joke for anime fans. The 90-degree shirt was worn by a character in the supremely amazing six-part series FLCL (or Furi Kuri, or Fooly Cooly, depending on how you write it out). Unfortunately, I can't find a good image of the original shirt from the series, but trust me: it's there. I added a few more of these anime in-jokes in other strips; I'll point them out as they show up.
Keep watching for the final chapter in this thrilling three-part saga! Excelsior!