We could all use a little change

One of the most interesting things about Penny and Aggie is the fact that the two title characters don’t necessarily turn out as who you think they will be.

Penny represents the popular crowd – she is charismatic, manipulative, apparently shallow. Aggie, on the other hand, is the type most webcomic readers would be more likely to connect with – she is the outcast, the poet, focused on creativity and remaining true to her ideals.

Yet somehow… Penny has become the more interesting figure. Perhaps it is because there is more room for personal growth and development (though the path to true maturity is laid out for Aggie as well.) Perhaps it is because the need to explore such a seemingly different personality has resulted in a much stronger presence. Perhaps it was simply an attempt to break stereotype – and encourage readers to be patient before making judgements, one way or the other.

Regardless of why, it has meant that Penny has had a bit more screentime (or it at least feels that way) – and somehow she’s ended up as the actual star of the show. She has matured, though she largely remains the popular girl, the queen bee – but she genuinely cares about her few true friends, and her social awareness also demonstrates a pretty powerful core understanding of how people work.

In the current storyline, her ex-boyfriend (who she still loves), has just emerged from being hospitalized after a stabbing. Upon recovering, he reunites with Penny in a remarkably effective scene. Shortly thereafter, announces his plans to ride off and “live the American Dream” – and he invites her along.

And that is when things get good.

We abruptly launch into the sort of high-concept scene that T is so fond of: A convention of Penny’s future selves, assembled to vote on which future she should head towards. Some of them are harder to visualize Penny ending up as, but none of them seem impossible – and all of them have a distinct voice and design. T and Gisèle clearly had fun with them – and with the challenge of defining them in the span of only a few moments.

They talk about the future, and about the pivotal decision of whether to follow Rich or not. Both paths clearly have good and bad potential outcomes, and any manner of possibilities along the way. But the chances of actually making a life with Rich seem low, and they vote, and decide to let Rick ride alone by a landslide…

And Penny – Penny as she is, not as she might be – shows up to have her say, and it is possibly the comic’s best moment yet.

“I am not a person-in-the-making, I am a person now.”

That’s a powerful line, and the speech that follows it is even more heartfelt. Penny is going to follow her heart, decide her fate based on the now, rather than the future, and leave with Rich, no matter how crazy it seems.

And here’s the thing – this is a terrible idea. I don’t think it will end will. I think that Rich is making a mistake by running off without a plan, and Penny is making a bigger mistake by pursuing him…

…but I’m rooting for them to succeed.

That’s the accomplishment here – that is the demonstration of the power of this scene. I know this will end poorly. I know this isn’t going to work out. But I can still tremendously admire Penny’s decision, and hope for it to turn out for the best. And in the end, even if things completely fall apart, it was her decision to make – and I suspect she will emerge the better for it, one way or another.

I am curious to see where it goes, certainly. I mean – title character, you know? Is the comic going to follow her new adventure? Let her fate go unknown into she rolls back into town a few months down the road, after things have gone south?

I’m really hoping the next page or two doesn’t pull some silliness to bring it all to a halt before it begins – stepping back from the decision to leave would not just be disappointing, but thoroughly undermine the power of the scene itself.

But… we’ll see what happens. And if Penny vanishes from the comic for a time, to discover whatever lies in wait? That just might mean a chance for Aggie to take center stage, and for us to learn what she is made of.

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