Title text: Things are looking good for the eclipse--Nate Silver says Earth will almost definitely still have a moon in August.
In this New Year comic, Cueball and Megan share some of their (or Randall's) thoughts about the ending 2016 and the new year 2017 (hence the title). 2016 was a year which many people eagerly awaited the end of because of its increased turmoil (terrorist attacks, controversial political events in numerous countries including the election of Donald Trump for president in the United States and Britain voting for Brexit) as well as the deaths of an unusually large number of well-known and beloved celebrities (several of these died in the first few days after Christmas).
Instead of simply condemning 2016 as a terrible year and expecting 2017 to be significantly better, Megan observes that much of what made 2016 bad is the effect that it will have upon future years rather than the actual events themselves (for instance, a divisive U.S. presidential election has caused significant controversy in 2016, but President Donald Trump actually took office and began to affect the world as President in 2017). Megan specifically states that 2016 was bad was because of the things it sent us into 2017 without. As it is known that Randall is a Hillary Clinton supporter (as shown in the 1756: I'm With Her comic), an additional reading of that line could be that we are headed into 2017 "without" a Hillary Clinton presidency. It can also refer to the many dead celebrities passing in 2016, (at least three famous musicians/actors so recent that they died after Christmas Eve), as we would be without all of them in 2017.
Cueball claims that they should still have hope for the future, but Megan states that people had claimed that many of the bad things that did happen in 2016, could not happen (for instance Trump and Brexit). And as these things did happen, she foresees even worse events occurring in 2017, that we did not even think would be possible.
However, Randall also offers a glimpse of hope in the last few panels when Cueball observes that, just as all of the bad things in 2016 were unexpected, good things in 2017 that are unexpected could also happen, which should make us less sure what good may come of 2017. As such, he argues that we should hold on to our hope even though things seem difficult right now.
As the conversation unfolds, Megan and Cueball encounter an uprooted tree and cross it like a balance beam. This is a visual metaphor; the dead tree represents the end of the old year, while the crossing represents the transition into the new year. This is similar to the magical toboggan from Calvin and Hobbes that serves as a metaphor for their conversations, mentioned in 529: Sledding Discussion and 409: Electric Skateboard (Double Comic).
In the last panel Cueball mentioned that 2017 will also have a cool eclipse, going through the central parts of North America. This may also serve as a reminder that the Earth continues to spin on despite all of the human turmoil going on on its surface. This is literally true, as the eclipse Randall is excited about is caused by the orbits of three celestial bodies lining up just right (the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon).
Cueball then also notes that 2017 is a prime number and states that prime-numbered years (prime years) have always been good to him. He thus illustrates the positive attitude that people can choose to take in order to see all that which is good and to spread a little bit more cheerfulness, and Megan is ready to take this positive view, although she may not totally buy in to it. This could also be a pun referencing the saying "being in his prime years".
If Cueball represents Randall (born 1984) he has lived through the following prime years: 1987, 1993, 1997, 1999, 2003 and 2011. If they have all been good years for Cueball it seems unlikely that he represents Randall, since Randall's wife was diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. Of course they were also married that year, but it would not seem likely that he would consider it a good year. First during the just ending year 2016 could she have been declared free of cancer, as it takes a five year follow up after end of treatment before the disease is declared defeated. Of course, we do not know how old Cueball really is, how much thought he/Randall actually put into his seemingly off-the-cuff remark, or whether those years were actually good for Cueball. But Randall does like math and would likely always know when a year is a prime number.
The title text is a reference to Nate Silver who is well-known (in the United States) as an election polling analyst on FiveThirtyEight. His model allowed for a higher chance that Donald Trump would win the presidency compared to other similar models — though the fact that he still favored a Clinton win may be contributing to getting humor from the idea that he may be "wrong" again, and the Moon could possibly vanish in 2017, making the year definitely worse than 2016. (Earth and Moon are so close in the space order of things, that any event affecting Moon orbit seriously will almost certainly end our civilization too.) This is accentuated by the qualifier "almost definitely", which is of humorously low confidence for presenting a fact as certain as the Moon not somehow disappearing within the next year.
In the background of the first few panels of this comic, we see a fallen down tree, but a sapling growing in it's place. This may be a subtle message by Randall that there is still hope, and that things will be alright in the end.
Randall previously mentioned his excitement for the 2017 eclipse exactly three years earlier in 1302: Year in Review, where Megan complains about not having seen an aurora during 2013, and she really hopes they don't cancel the 2017 eclipse. So this comic is the second time Randall has expressed concern that he will miss the eclipse. Leading up to and after the eclipse Randall released six more comics on the subject: 1868: Eclipse Flights, 1876: Eclipse Searches, 1877: Eclipse Science, 1878: Earth Orbital Diagram, 1879: Eclipse Birds, and 1880: Eclipse Review.
There have been three previous New Year's comics with only the year used as the title: 998: 2012 in 2012, 1311: 2014 in 2014 and 1624: 2016 in 2016. This is the first odd-numbered years (and thus of course the first prime year) using only the new year as the title.
It is also the first New Year comic (in general) that has such a depressive mood. This thus follows the trend of several sad comics that all seemed related to the election of Donald Trump.
- [Cueball and Megan walking outdoors]
- Cueball: Can't wait for this stupid year to be over.
- [The two approach a fallen tree]
- Megan: I can. This year made the future scarier. So much of why 2016 was bad was because of the things it sent us into 2017 without.
- [Megan has hopped up onto the tree trunk and begins to walk along it]
- Cueball: You gotta have hope, though.
- Megan: You say that, but you also said all this awful stuff couldn't happen, and it did. You're as clueless as the rest of us.
- [Cueball also walks along the tree trunk as Megan stops and turns to look at him]
- Cueball: Well, if we're wrong about which bad things can happen, it's got to make us at least a little less sure about which good things can't.
- [Closeup of Megan hopping down from the tree]
- Megan: I guess.
- [A distant shot of Megan and Cueball walking along again]
- Cueball: Plus, 2017 has a cool eclipse in it.
- Megan: Ooh, yeah!
- Cueball: And it's prime. Prime years have always been good for me.
- Megan: Sure, I'll take it.
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