Friday, December 25, 2015

Best Overall: Shifting Responsibilities

Schlock Mercenary is not a static comic.  Despite it's regularity that you can set a clock to and the fact that it's always my Best Overall, the only real constant storywise is that Schlock himself is in it somewhere.  Well, that and the humor which is always there.

The point is things move as the comic goes along.  Members of the Toughs leave or are killed pretty regularly, even with the ability to bring the dead back to life, there is a limit to who gets brought back or not.  More often the biggest change involves the ships the Toughs use.  There have been 5 singular ships until the end of the storyline Broken Wind.

At their core, though, Tagon's Toughs remained a mercenary group, they do what they do for money, and often try to get paid multiple times for the same job.  It's not that they can't be altruistic, they have on many occasions, but they usually get paid for their time and firepower.

Broken Wind changed that.  They have now become the defacto military of a resurrecting galactic power, one with a LOT of money on their hands, enough to buy a Battleplate just so they could scrap it and build a city with the remains.  That means the very core of what it means to be part of Tagon's Toughs and exposes a lot of the rather obvious limitations on them.

To be fair, they are superstars really, they STARTED multiple wars, fought in them, pulled off some amazing feats while fighting them (mostly surviving, AND getting paid), amongst a long string of other accomplishments.  But they are just mercenaries, so certain things get past them.

Like law enforcement, which they are wholly unequipped to perform.  Not the least of the problems is the fact that they are often on the ones which the enforcement is being placed on.  So they had to trade out their still active "kill the attorney drones" contract to an actually law enforcement mercenary group to handle the issue in the new city they built.

And still the issues keep coming.  Schlock just takes things without thinking of the concept of "theft," and their lawyer accidentally made himself Chief Justice of the new Supreme Court for the new city.  On top of all that they still have multiple ships, multiple captains, and a big honking space gun that can get them into way more trouble than they'd like.

They're also not really a military.  So then there's the crash course office work that all the senior officers had to take in a not-montage (Howard elected to skip it).  All this sums up to the very nature of the Toughs changing radically from what it had been before and things haven't finished changing yet.

It's one of the things that keeps Schlock fresh even after all these years.  With Sluggy it's more waiting for the loose ends to be tied up, Schlock prefers to use those loose ends to recreate the comic, the characters and the universe for as long as possible.

EDIT:  Just after I wrote this, Howard posted an interview where he states that the current incarnation of the comic will end 2018/2019 or so, then do a big time skip and pick up with a new cast (and Schlock will still be there).  So yeah, there's that.

Next time, Can't Live Without and a new year.  Exciting!  Also, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Standard: Vampires

Sluggy Freelance continues to call back to it's past with call back to the original Vampires story.

It's not the first time the well has been returned to, but I don't remember the other times very well.  Considering they were all Sam centered stories (as he is a vampire), that's not all that unsurprising.  The main one happened right before That Which Redeems, so that might be why I don't remember it well (over a decade ago, I might add).

But it actually reaches all the way back to that original story by tying up a loose end I don't think anyone remembered was a loose end.  That said, as soon as I saw it, I remembered the scene, so there's that.

The original Vampires storyline though is significant for Sluggy, as it was the first serious story of the comic, coming right at the beginning of the comic's second year.  I covered the first year in detail, so no point going over that, but I did reread the Vampires story.  It's a culmination event, surprisingly, as the various elements of the last year finally came together to drive the story forward, from Alyee's fear of Riff, to Val's sudden attraction to Torg.

That's not to say it is high quality, compared to early Sluggy it was something new and exciting.  There was a real sense of danger there at the time.  Torg and Zoe were in actual, factual danger throughout the story, and given the idea that the comic was supposed to have a revolving cast, maybe this was where Abrams was going to start the cull.  He didn't, in the end, perhaps this changed his mind.

It's not bad, I should say.  I enjoyed the silliness of it, but it isn't anything special.  Later stories would far exceed it, but it set a pattern of abilities and responses.  Alyee and Bun Bun would always be the muscle, Kiki would be distracted and poop, Riff would be reliable, but build something unreliable, etc, etc.  Sam continues to be kind of dumb, both on purpose and because, well, he is.  I think he got dumber after this, for comedic effect I assume.

Being the first also means it tried to wrap things up quickly.  Only took a couple of months really, after quite a bit of set up.  Still, it changed what "story" meant in Sluggy, and nothing was the same after that.  The path of modern Sluggy began with the end of the Vamipres story.

The fact that he's calling back to it now, 17 years later, shows how important it really is to the comic as a whole.  The end of the comic is still some time in the future, but now it's closer than ever.

Next time, I talk a bit about Schlock Mercenary.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Personal Stuff

So with December well underway, I have some news.  You may remember a random nothing post a few months ago where I was making a point that there were personal reasons for not having a post.  I won't go into details, but ultimately it's leading to what's coming in January.

I'm moving.  My physical location, the blog is staying here.  Moving from central New York State to Texas.  Yeah, I'm going halfway across the country.  This move will have a serious impact on the blog as I won't be around to update it much at the beginning of the year.

So my plan for the rest of December is thus:  I have a couple follow up posts for The Standard and Best Overall series, and then I'll do another edition of Can't Live Without.  After that, the blog will likely be dark for a month or so.  I'll TRY to do something, even a review batch, but I make no promises as a move of this magnitude will take most of my time.  Once I'm back, I will start another long series (once I figure out the structure) and get back into posting.

So that's my heads up, the rest of the year will have posts, next year, won't start right away.  I hope you don't wander off (all 3 of you) in the meantime.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Classic: Not Quite Over

Trying to define a classic is difficult because it does vary between people.  For me, Errant Story is the Classic of webcomics, but that's because it changed how I viewed what webcomics were and what I was looking for in them.  Before, I was looking for more Sluggy Freelance, and it stuck for a long time afterwards.  Schlock Mercenary, GPF and College Roomies from Hell all fit that mold, but as Errant Story kept going, I found myself craving something similar.  Now my read list is full of comics like it, Gunnerkrigg Court, Derelict, Stand Still, Stay Silent, among so many others.

Errant Story took on the role of a Classic as it finished up.  During it's run, Lord of Rings made it's way to the theaters and show the classic version of the fantasy tropes, with it's clear divisions of good and evil and all that.  Errant Story, on the other hand, is the modern version of fantasy.  There is not strictly good or evil characters.  Hell, three of the comic's heroes, Sarine, Jon and Sara, are all basically assassins of one sort or another.  Ian himself isn't strictly evil, but someone whose motives are understandable, even if his actions aren't good in any sense.  Meji's goal is to gain the godlike powers so she can pass her class, possibly by beating her teachers in a magic fight.  It's a selfish group that becomes the heroes because, well, everyone else seems worse.

But they're not.  It's a political world that they live in, where there really isn't much of a line between good and evil.  They're all doing the best they can for their interests, which vary and conflict.  It's complex, and trying to navigate it is frustrating and difficult.  Even in the epilogue, the complexities don't go away even as Meji tries to use her godlike powers to help the world, things don't go as she intended.

And it didn't really end, nor was it intended to end.  Errant Tales was to continue the story, probably into the distant future.  The white room scene in Volume Seven was the first hints of this, giving the reader a glimpse as to what was to come.  It never happened though, the stress of readying Errant Story for a full publication as well as the many health and personal issues that plagued Poe and his wife ground the entire thing, both the commentary and Errant Tales itself, to a halt.  Will we see it in the future?  I don't know, I hope so.

The good news is that we have Errant Story as a whole, and complete.  It's a great read, wordy sometimes, especially early on, but it builds a wonderful world.  From there it creates a tragic story of vengeance, redemption and hope.  It's not perfect, nothing is, but it shows the way for other comics to follow, and that makes it a classic, THE Classic webcomic, and one everyone should read at least once.

And so after 7 MONTHS I'm finally done with this series, at least until Errant Tales begins, but for now I can move on to other things.  Assuming my work schedule isn't a complete terror.  Until then kiddies, and thanks for reading.