Starslip by Kris Straub
As with my review of Altered Carbon, I've arrived at the Starslip webcomic party a little late, as in, the seven-year series is finished. However, that might add a welcome bittersweet flavor to each strip I read as I come closer and closer to the end. I have fallen head-over-heels in love with all of author Kris Straub’s characters, his artistic style, and his off-kilter sense of humor as he simultaneously pays homage to and lampoons the best and worst traits of sci-fi soap operas. With every click of the forward-pointing arrow I know I am coming to the close of an incredible story, but, like with any good book, I can't stop!
I come to Starslip via a recommendation from Penny Arcade writer Jerry Holkins on his site's blog. Penny Arcade being one of the few webcomics I read with any regularity, I didn't think much of adding more to my reading list. After having finished a lengthy excavation of PA's comic vaults, I was thirsty for something more and decided to give Starslip, Straub's best-known webcomic, a chance. I'm having trouble understanding how I lived life properly before I started down this path.
Starslip is a quirky webcomic series telling the story of the crew of the starship Fuseli, a former luxury warship refitted as a mobile art museum. Its main characters include: Memnon Vanderbeam, a hopelessly clueless museum curator who has somehow been made a captain; his pilot Cutter Edgeworth, a reformed space pirate with a steel eyepatch and an obvious drinking problem; and Mr. Jinx, a soft-spoken straightman hailing from an insectoid species known as the Cirbozoid.
Straub explores each of the characters with careful and thoughtful depth, and as their stories are revealed, the universe of Starslip expands. Though the initial premise of the comic is delightful enough (to reiterate: a former luxury warship refitted to be a starfaring art museum), it develops over time into something much more complex. The chief form of interstellar transportation, the starslip drive, operates by swapping its ship with the same ship in another universe that’s already where they want to be. The drive tries to compute a destination that is as similar in nature to the originating universe as possible, but as the crew of the Fuseli discovers, the resultant universe can often have deadly differences.
Add to this a war with a power-crazed time travelling conqueror, another war with the distant future that dare not act against its past for fear of destroying itself, a romance doomed by the harsh consequences of starslip travel, and a dash of genuine humor and love in almost every strip, and you’ve got yourself a winner of a comic. I wish that I had been reading Starslip from the beginning, but I’m glad to have found it and even more excited to share it with you. It is a shining example of brilliant art, story design, and humor all rolled into one that I can’t recommend highly enough. I wish the comic were still being produced, but all good things end, which Straub obviously knows, and I’m grateful to be able to go to his site to read his work again and again.