[RECAP] Questionable Content: Robot Rights and Responsibilities

Monkeys Fighting Robots

Questionable Content by Jeph Jacques has always been a strange chimera of a webcomic – it’s a slice of life story, detailing the ins and outs of an indie group of friends somewhere in New England, with artificial intelligences and high-tech robots as an unquestioned, unremarkable part of its setting. Over the last few years, QC has explored its sci-fi side more and more with a trip to a space station and an ex-convict AI character. Then, on February 15th, it wrapped up one of its strangest arcs yet.

RECAP (Spoilers Below!)

Questionable Content, Faye Whitaker, Roko Basilisk
Questionable Content, Strip 3311, September 18 2016

The arc began on September 18th with the appearance of Roko Basilisk, an AI cop. She’s investigating the robot-fighting ring that Faye does repairs for, and plants the idea in Faye’s head that somebody might be taken advantage of. That “somebody”, clearly, is Bubbles, by her anti-human, passive-aggressive boss Corpse Witch.

It takes a little while for things to come to a head, and it’s May – everybody’s favorite foul-mouthed ex-con – who sets things off. She comes to Faye and Bubbles with payment for their work, and to fix up her face. While she’s there, Roko Basilisk springs a badly-thought-out raid on the shop. Corpse Witch manages to scare her away with smooth talk and a heavy implication that she’s been paying off members of the force and government officials. Then afterward, she turns to May, and attempts to blackmail her –

Questionable Content, Corpse Witch, Faye Whitaker
Questionable Content, Strip 3365, December 2nd 2016

-with predictable results. Go Faye. Just as predictably, Faye is fired, and Bubbles refuses to speak to her or come with her. Faye takes it pretty personally, but it’s May (genre-savvy and world-weary as always) who puts it together for her that Bubbles is being blackmailed.

Bubbles, on the other hand, is coming to some conclusions of her own.

Questionable Content, Bubbles
Questionable Content, Strip 3374, December 15th 2016

It’s here that matters finally come clear. After the loss of her military squad, Bubbles began to develop severe PTSD, and Corpse Witch offered – under the table and illegally – to partition the offending memories away. However, it turns out that CW had also encrypted them – and demanded 10 years of servitude in exchange.

It seems like an impossible situation. The encryption is too strong, and there is no option that doesn’t give CW time to delete Bubbles’s memories. Then, a new figure presents themselves.

Questionable Content, Spookysuit
Questionable Content, Strip 3391, January 9th 2017

Yes, that’s how they introduce themselves. It’s possibly the scariest line in the comic to date. Turns out they’re an AI, far more powerful than any ever encountered in comic before, and they’re offering to help Bubbles recover her memories, with no strings attached. Suspicious? Suspicious.

Spookysuit (as dubbed by the fandom) sends Emily into Bubbles’s mind to get her memories. She does so with gusto, but there’s a problem…

Questionable Content, Emily Azuma
Questionable Content, Strip 3400, January 20th 2017

Turns out Corpse Witch deleted the memories anyway. However, this makes things a little easier. There’s no longer anything tying Bubbles to CW, and Bubbles makes this very, very clear, before walking away forever. She’s free.

Corpse Witch, however, hasn’t escaped justice. Spookysuit apparently has some very strong opinions on people like her, and after getting the truth out of her – that deleting Bubbles’ memories was an accident – they give her a choice. An eternity with them, or the cops. CW chooses the cops, rather reasonably.

Then, it’s just a matter of cleaning up loose ends. Spookysuit signs the building over to Jeremy, hands over the evidence to Roko Basilisk, and tips Emily off to further research into AI mindspace. CW is arrested, Faye and Bubbles are cleared, and all is well. And the only answer we get – so far – about Spookysuit’s origins is the final comic of the arc.

Questionable Content, Spookysuit
Questionable Content, Strip 3418, February 15th 2017

Questions, questions and more questions! All else aside, three things are now certain: Bubbles isn’t going anywhere as a cast member, Spookysuit is bound to return, and the QC universe has just gotten a lot more frightening.

What were your thoughts on this arc, and what do you think is going to happen next? Comment below.

Elliott Dunstan is a semi-professional Canadian nerd with a special talent for reading way too fast, spouting weird trivia, and latching emotionally onto that minor character with a one-liner in the second episode. Elliott was born in 1995 and is mildly annoyed by this.