Friday, October 3, 2014

Best Overall: Story

Story in Schlock Mercenary is kind of a hard thing to break down, because it never really ends.  The story began with Schlock signing up for Tagon's Toughs, and continues to this day.  It's a space opera, one that never really ends but just keeps going.  There are divisions for stories, of course, but they often simply fold into one another as the comic goes on.  Determining the ending point of my choice to represent Story in Schlock was kind of hard because it rolled right into the second Schlocktober fest.

Still, picking The Teraport Wars as the representative of Schlock's story seems an odd choice.  It's fairly early on, only 2002 (the comic started in 2000), it doesn't have all the deep character stuff that would drive later stories, it's not really focused on the Toughs or any one character, and it's long been overshadowed by later stories.

I think because it doesn't have all that is why it should be the representative because Howard really had to dig deep for this one.  Until this point, most of the stories had been short, maybe a month if that.  Teraport Wars lasts almost 6 months.  It's a truly epic piece compared to the rest, and it feels epic.

I think what helps though is that Tagon's Toughs are both a small part, and a major part of the action at the same time.  They come in late, long after the battle is over and are there for patrol and technical expertise, nothing more.  Yet they quickly fill in a much larger role that gets bigger and bigger until the very end.

Nearly every character gets something important to do.  Schlock in particular shows his chops as an intelligent solider, asking for help when he could do no more, and acting when necessary.  The character, whom I stated was pretty one dimensional last time, showed he was a bit more.  Meanwhile the rest of the cast gets to flex their strengths, from Tagon himself to the grunts on the ground.

Petey himself gets his first real moment of awesome, and gets humbled a bit as well.  He's often shown as someone who knows every angle, but in Teraport Wars, he's outdone several times, despite being linked up with the original fleet mind.  I liked this humbling as it shows he's not infallible.

He's not an idiot though.  In fact no one, as the old trope goes, is holding the idiot ball.  They are all going by the information they have and executing their best options with that information.  Given the scale of the story, it's quite a surprise that no one carries that ball around.

Which isn't to say they can't have their actions questioned and they adjust as needed.  Petey does it and Breya does it as well.  Neither are presented as stupid because they didn't think of it, but once it was presented, and confirmed, they changed how they reacted to the situation.

It also sets up oh so much of the comic to come after.  The note block under the first strip outright says it won't mean much later, since bigger events will come soon after, but it sets up so many of those events that I suspect that Howard only had a rough draft of what was to come because without this story, none of it would have happened.

At the top of the list is Petey, who earned a great deal of Tagon's respect, enough that Tagon placed him into the chain of command as an officer.  That, along with the initial fleet mind concept created to deal with this story would set up the Fleet Mind (capitalized because it's important) and basically save the galaxy, or at least not destroy it right away (that plot is still up in the air).

It would establish Xinchub as one of the main antagonists for the Toughs for much of the rest of the comic, and through him would establish the nannite issues that would arise much latter in the comic and in the current story line might result in outright civil war.

And it would also produce the Gavs.  One guy, unfrozen from our era (so Howard could include various pop culture references), duplicated 950 MILLION times, turning him into a demographic.  The results wouldn't be seen for a few years, and I'll bring it up later, trust me.

It's a great story, an important story, and while at the beginning of the first year it was suggested to skip this, and a lot of other stories, I think it's too important to do so.  Oh, the art isn't as good, boo hoo, I've read comics with far worse art for the story.

And the great thing is?  This is only the beginning.  Later stories would be even better, though often not nearly as epic.  But that's fine, it doesn't need to be epic to be far reaching, but this first big story needed to be.

Next time, Character.  Until then kiddies.

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