The first thing that popped out at me were the colors. I've never seen such a colorful webcomic, so brillianty contrasted, and yet it's never overwhelming. I think a big part of it is that black outlines are rare and instead colors with shades complementing the colors they contain are used. Every single page is a feast for the eyes and I don't think the comic would be half as good otherwise.

Wonderful characters. There's not a single person here I don't want to know more about. Best of all, NO ONE is superfluous - there's no such thing as a background character in this comic. Every single individual is important in their own way, and no one lacks for screentime. Admittedly, I can see Achilles getting annoying for some people but I thought nearly all the jokes involving him landed perfectly.

According to the teaser, all the characters are supposed to be representations of trauma, which I'm a bit conflicted about. On one hand, using characters as an allegory in this way is kinda preachy, and it makes the world feel less 'real'. Steven Universe is one of the worst examples of this sort of thing - fusion is supposed to represent romantic and sexual relationships, which leads to some really disturbing implications between Pearl, Amethyst, and Garnet. The moment that stands out to me the most is probably Pearl tricking Garnet into fusing with her even when Garnet doesn't want to, for no other reason than because Pearl finds becoming Sardonyx to be "fun".

On the other hand, Hello From Halo Head is a lot smarter than Steven Universe.

Clair copes with trauma through repression. Her belief is that if she just doesn’t think about it, and rejects it whenever it appears, it won’t have any power over her.

The consequences of this mindset are shown repeatedly throughout the comic; Clair is a workaholic, she has difficulty relaxing or having fun, she’s easily offended and riled up, and she has very deep-set control issues.

The purpose of Halo Head, according to Clair, is to “keep Chloe busy” - in other words, rather than helping Chloe work through the trauma on her own terms, she wants Chloe to adapt the same coping mechanism she uses, believing that it’s the only correct way, or at least the superior way to deal with trauma. This is why she refuses to respect Chloe’s decisions, even though she had previously told Chloe that, in Halo Head, she could do whatever she wanted.

Appropriately enough for the avatar of repression, Clair is an angel. She evokes the Christian philosophy of self-denial, to forgo excessive or 'dangerous' luxury and cut yourself off from pleasures derived through the senses, so that you can fill yourself with 'righteous' love: love for God. St. Jerome, known for compiling one of the first translations of the Bible into Latin, wrote in a letter to St. Rusticus,

“Always have a book in your hand and before your eyes; learn the psalms word by word, pray without ceasing, keep your senses on the alert and closed against vain imaginings. Let your mind and body both strain towards the Lord, overcome wrath by patience; love the knowledge of the Scriptures and you will not love the sins of the flesh. Do not let your mind offer a lodging to disturbing thoughts, for if they once find a home in your breast they will become your masters and lead you on into fatal sin. Engage in some occupation, so that the devil may always find you busy.”

Dante’s "Purgatorio" expands on this mentality even further. In his travel through Mount Purgatory, Dante sees that in this realm, aspiring souls must learn how to live penitent lives through repression of love towards worldly things and embellishment of love towards Christ. For example, men who loved wealth and riches are forced to lie prone, and recite ad infinitum the Psalmic phrase, “deleth adhesit pulveri anima mea vivifica me iuxta verbum tuum“, “My soul cleaves unto the dust, quicken me according to thine will”.

Halo Head, like Purgatory, is a place of healing. It’s meant to teach the inhabitants how to effectively repress “wrong” thoughts, while embellishing “right” thoughts.

But it is here that Clair encounters the supreme problem: Repressed thoughts don’t cease to exist. They simply manifest in different forms. What forms? Demonic forms. Shadows of the psyche which eternally hound the repressor with temptations, spreading doubts, eroding the foundations on which the repressor has built her penitence.

For those who are unfamiliar with the works of Jung, the concept of “the shadow” is a projection of everything a man considers evil or that he is ashamed of. It is an embodiment of the aspects of himself which he has repressed in order to remain penitent. In “The Practice of Psychotherapy”, he writes

“…In this way things repressed and forgotten come back again… How can I be substantial without casting a shadow? I must have a dark side too if I am to be whole; and by becoming conscious of my shadow I remember once more that I am a human being like any other.”

According to Jung, approaching darkness with morality hurts the righteous as much as the wicked, becuase good and evil are two sides of the same coin. They can't exist without each other.

The Christian approach to evil, classically, was that the righteous must continually endure temptation and doubt while never faltering in faith towards God, until the day that God destroys evil, so that only good remains in the universe. After all, nothing in all of creation is Jehovah's equal, so if evil is not sourced from him, it must be sourced from Man.

This is why, every time Clair fails to get Chloe to behave, her solution is just to “try harder”, even though every attempt made to guide her this way has backfired horribly. Since Clair believes that her way of dealing with trauma is the only correct one, there can be no fault in it, only in her own abilities. Therefore, if she just keeps trying, everyone else will eventually see it her way.

Chloe, on the other hand, copes with trauma through disassociation. She has emotionally distanced herself from the world around her, and avoids forming attachments.

For example, when Chloe sees Pepper, another resident of Halo Head, fishing for raw materials, she asks him why he’s engaging with Clair’s monetary system. Pepper responds “because if I have the means to make myself happier, I’m gonna do it.” Chloe then asks why he wants to makes himself happier - implying that she isn’t happy and doesn’t want to be.

From Chloe’s point of view, Halo Head acts as a sort of manufactured Plato’s Cave, designed to exploit the time and effort spent by its inhabitants and direct it towards an illusion with a set of simplistic, easily comprehendible laws and enforced through a basic reward system. Better for the anarchic to avoid the reward entirely - at least their actions will be their own that way.

In Purgatory, the ultimate law governing life is that after sundown, souls are incapable of climbing any higher. The sun, allegorically representing Jehovah, symbolizes how spiritual cleansing is capable only through divine grace.

For example, the prideful souls on the first terrace of the mountain must carry heavy stones on their backs while ascending as a way to instill humility into their spirits. If they attempted to ascend faster by removing the stones, or continued to cart the stones around after sundown, they would be barred from entering the second terrace by the Angel of Humility. Ascent up the mountain is only possible through adherence to the law.

Just as the Rule of the Mountain ensures that individuals can’t take any cheats or shortcuts on their way to Heaven, Clair’s monetary system is designed so that the inhabitants of Halo Head can only interact with it in the ways Clair wants them to interact with it - they can’t take any detours on their way to prosperity and must go through her in order to live comfortably, since she’s the only one capable of converting liquidity into items of real value.

However, at its core, Halo Head is a liminal space. Beautiful though it may be, it is only a tool to Clair, something to be used as an instructor and motivator, so that a state of mind may be reached whereby the memory no longer poses a threat.

Like Purgatory, it’s a place designed only as a way to connect two disparate destinations. Even though the men in the boats are singing upon arriving at Purgatory, no soul actually wants to stay in Purgatory. Purgatory is an inconvenience they must pass through in order to get to where they’re going.

This is the reason why Clair has been completely unable to influence Chloe in the way she had hoped. Clair takes it as a given that anyone in her right mind would want to avoid the severe pain and trauma associated with the memory, and embrace the bliss of living in a world custom-tailored to ensure her perpetual happiness.

But Chloe, rather than fleeing pain, has chosen to deaden herself to pain. She's emotionally isolated herself out of a fear of forming attachments which may one day come to hurt her, whether by turning on her, as implied by the memory, or by being lost to her. As such, the supposed benefits of interacting with Clair’s monetary system don’t really apply, because in deadening pain she also must deaden pleasure.

I am reminded of a blackpill video where the uploader said that he would rather maintain his current life of isolation, painful though it may be, then get married and risk becoming a “betabux”. Lacking goals and intimacy, all that’s left for Chloe is a kind of bitter emptiness maintained by a sarcastic facade, which she nonetheless perceives as being an easier, safer path than the path of attachment and avoidance.

Even after all that text there are so many amazing little details to this comic left to talk about, some of which I didn't even notice until I saw people in the comments pointing them out.

Clair literally draws the world into existence through a purple crayon - a classic literary reference.

Each character's house is also a metaphor for their personality: Clair lives where she works, Chloe sleeps out in the open, Pepper's house is friendly and accommodating but we never see the upstairs, and we never see the inside of Mars's house at all - only the grim-looking outside.

The true nature of the traumatic memory is hinted at through eyes - Clair always has her right eye closed, Chloe always has her left eye closed. Pepper's left eye is revealed through his mane when he's shocked, Achilles's right eye gets blackened after Mars punches him.

I honestly can't think of a single flaw to this comic. If I were held at gunpoint and forced to point out the nitpickiest of nitpicks, it's that the scene with Pepper and Achilles after Achilles gets the black eye is really long, and all the other characters are put on standby while it plays out. I don't know if I'd call this a flaw since it's such a plot-crucial moment, but in real time that scene took over a year to play out fully, which meant a whole year not seeing Clair, Chloe, Mars, or Peachy-Keen at all. Even on a subsequent read-through the length of it really stands out, since the pacing was so delightfully quick beforehand, whereas here it felt like there was a lot of friction in the build-up towards Pepper's revelation about what Halo Head is.

If I wasn't so impressed by It's a Hard Life, this would be my favorite comic. I can't say enough good things about it. It's as close to perfection as is humanly achievable.

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