It’s Tuesday which means it’s time for Crossroads Comics!
This week while I finish binging another nuzlocke comic recommendation, let’s switch gears to review an ask blog that I’ve been dying to spotlight since I finally caught up with it a short while ago: Ask the Traveller by Bagel. Ask the Traveller is regarded as one of the pillars of the ask blog community, and for good reason. Currently it’s one of the longest running blogs that is still actively updating, and it’s incredibly popular to both old and new fans of the blog. Why is that? Well, it’s mainly due to its incredible story, interesting revolving cast, and amazing art style, all of which I’ll break down below.
So just what is so great about Ask the Traveller‘s story? Well, the general gist of the story is that Ask the Traveller follows an Arceus, known as The Traveller, on their quest to reclaim their lost plates. These plates hold a fraction of Traveller’s power and the loss of them has halted the growth of Traveller’s universe. Thus, they travel the cosmos searching for where their plates may have gone in order to reclaim them.
However, this story is not quite as simple as that description might make you think, because there’s a couple other dynamics that we haven’t gotten to discuss yet. Namely, we’re going to analyze the Plates and the Universe, and what role they play in making this story so interesting. For those that are interested in avoiding spoilers, the main summary of the points I am about to make are that the author, Bagel, does very well to establish a sense of extreme moral ambiguity. Nothing is black and white, and though that can be a tough pill to swallow, it makes the reader’s experience with the story a far more interesting one.
First we’ll be discussing the Plates, as they not only make up a large portion of the blog’s cast, but also they play a very large role in the initial establishment of moral ambiguity around the Traveller’s quest. See, unlike the plates we are all familiar with from our Pokémon games, the Traveller’s plates have been given the gift of life. They are able to manifest physical forms and even if that form is destroyed, they are able to regenerate in due time. This allows them to take many different forms and engage with the worlds around them in a variety ways. This includes taking spouses, starting families, writing books, and creating places of refuge for homeless Pokémon. They are living their lives, and Traveller must strip that from them in order to regain her power. There also appears to be no chance for them to return once they are reclaimed, as Traveller has to strip them of their very beings in order to ensure it does not cause problems for themself or the growth of their Universe. So, in essence, this doesn’t frame the Traveller in a great light, and to some makes them a villain. This is reflected in the Plates’ varying opinions of Traveller. While some, like Sky or Pixie, seem to have a high opinion of Traveller, others, like Splash or Dread, make it very clear the disdain they hold towards Traveller. And this is not without reason. Over the course of the blog, we as the readers come to realize that Traveller ignored the well being of their plates in favor of the Universe and this is ultimately what caused them to flee in the first place. This neglect obviously hurt the Plates, and while Traveller certainly regrets it, they cannot undo it. Thus, their quest becomes something much darker, as they not only actively neglected their own Plates and are now stripping away their chance at life.
So now you might be asking, well what makes this blog so morally ambiguous then? Seems pretty cut and dry that Traveller is the villain here, right? And to that I say, let’s look at the second point, Traveller’s Universe.
For much of the beginning of the blog, readers hear mention of this universe and how much Traveller cares about its growth. However, it isn’t until the Pixie Plate is reclaimed that we get the big reveal. The Universe isn’t some vast space filled with galaxies and stars, rather, they are Traveller’s twin children, Space and Time. These unborn children will form the basis of a new universe upon a successful delivery. However, without Traveller’s plates, they are doomed to perish, as Traveller will lack the energy necessary to sustain them and allow them to finish growing. In fact, they and Traveller almost did die when the plates abandoned Traveller initially, and it was only by the sacrifice of Iron that the trio was able to survive and press on. So it makes sense that a mother, on the brink of losing their children, would become enraged at a situation like this. And this just adds a layer of moral ambiguity to the story, because without Traveller reclaiming the plates, the Universe will die, or at least remain unborn presumably for eternity. But in order to save the Universe, the Plates have to be reclaimed, which strips them of their life and very existence.
It’s this sort of moral dilemma that makes Ask the Traveller such an interesting story, especially as it draws close to its conclusion. While it is long, it’s well worth reading the whole backstory because it makes these discussions about the morality of Traveller’s actions far more interesting. All in all it is a top notch story that really makes you think and question what you know.
Due to the nature of Traveller’s quest, this blog as quite the rotating cast of characters of all different shapes, sizes, and makeups. Without getting into spoilers, this ever changing cast makes for a very interesting blog. While the core cast member of Traveller remains the same, the characters that they are interacting with vary, and while some characters are recurring, overall most of this rotating cast is only available for a limited time. This not only incentivizes interaction, since readers will want to get to know this character before they’re gone for good, but it also keeps the blog fresh. Ask the Traveller has been running for over three years now and the overarching story plus the constantly changing cast has allowed for that. It keeps things interesting and also means that the author of the blog doesn’t have to worry about how to keep the blog relevant when the narrative and cast provide that naturally.
In addition, the fact that the different characters are so differently from one another is very interesting. While they may have similar motives or stories, they are all unique and distinct from one another. It really drives home the points I mentioned earlier about establishing moral ambiguity because all the members of the cast feel like real people with real families, real desires, and real dreams. They are just so well written and it is great to see such a wide array of characters used so well in this story.
The Art Style
Ask the Traveller‘s art style is beautiful, to put it bluntly. Not only can you really see the improvement as the blog progresses through its years, but the scenery and character designs become increasingly interesting as well. This aspect, of course, you can see for yourself so I won’t spend too much time on it, but I just wanted to emphasize how strong it is. Since Ask the Traveller does its response primarily as art, rather than solely in text or in a hybrid text-art model, having strong art that is easily readable and is pleasant to look at is very important. And Ask the Traveller excels at this while also showing continued growth over its years of life.
All in all, Ask the Traveller is a great blog to read and I highly recommend it. It’s only available on Tumblr but it’s well worth binging, especially since we are nearing the end of this epic tale, with only two more plates to go. Also be sure to support the author, Bagel, as well, since they put a lot of hard work into this blog and definitely deserve more credit for it.
And without further ado, let’s check out the rest of this week’s lineup!
PMD: Chanterelle That sounds like a great idea!
PMD: Explorers of Life Brainstorming a new plan of attack.
PMD: Wildfire Fennekin is on the case!
Pokémon Rising Shadows Time for a restful sleep?
Pokémon X Adventures Gonna need more than a type advantage to win this fight!
Renegade’s Redemption An important lesson.
Shinka: The Last Eevee The predator closes in on its prey.
Dear Sergio Where’s Dublin off to?
In Blood We Rise I wonder what that’s all about.
Pokémon Abridgestery Dungeon Onwards, to Tiny Woods!
PMD: Anamnesis Something’s missing here!
PMD: Burning Solstice What happened here?
PMD: Restoration Looks like her fall has been halted!
PM: Tangled Hm that’s really odd.
Slumber Town Now what’s all this?
The Legend of Incineroar Can they save Pikachu in time?
The Long Way Mewtwo…
Deadly Syns Yeah this can’t be good.
For What It’s Worth Yeah this ain’t ending well.
Jet’s Black Nuzlocke What does Zekrom want now?
Kurukkoo! It’s the gym!
NuzRooke Sun The Internet buddies finally meet!
PMD: Adventures In Viraska I think it’s finally over! Or at least, this phase of the boss battle is.
PMD: Keepers of Light Aaaand she’s off.
PMD: Mystic Island Oh jeez that’s terrifying.
Pokémon Royal Interesting backstory we have here.
The Caretaker Uh ohhh. What did he see?
Ask King Zamazenta Bold of the king to invoke the wrath of a god.
Ask the Sea We love to see someone so passionate about their wife!
Ask Savel A detour? Where to?
Ask the Traveller At long last, this leg of the journey has ended.
Crewel Intentions Oh joy. Him.
Don’t Dream An interesting chimera!
Genesis: A Gijinka Story Makes sense to me.
Illusion Siblings A meeting of the moms!
Penumbra A dramatic and cryptic end to this chapter.
Pokémon Explorers Comic A playwright? That’s so cute!