Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Caught In A Web: Starslip Crisis

Kristofer Straub's "Starslip Crisis" makes for an interesting parallel to Brad Guigar's "Evil Inc." in that, while they share certain generic, thematic and format-related aspects, Straub's series has that one critical component that "Evil Inc." lacks: variety.

There are certainly enough similarities to sustain a comparison: both strips poke fun at a specific genre (superheroes in "Evil Inc.", sci-fi in "Starslip Crisis"), both are littered with simple yet tremendously funny characters, both are well-written, and both use the daily punchline technique within a larger structure of ongoing storylines.

The main point of divergence, I think, is the way each series runs those storylines. For the most part, "Evil Inc." has a singular focus; all storylines are tethered to the company and its employees. The arcs aren't necessarily contingent, but Guigar typically has one narrative unfolding at a time while everything else is on hold.

"Starslip Crisis", by contrast, bounces back and forth between a number of plotlines all running simultaneously - earlier in the year, one of the series' protagonists went off to military school, and Strauber started alternating the focus between the school and the rest of the characters. Going further back, a war that had been discussed in the periphery suddenly took center stage as the cast blundered right into the battle. Events are constantly occuring outside our field of vision, and that has the added effect of broadening the scope of the story. It also allows Straub to stray from the A-plot from time to time, and that helps break up any tedium that might set in over an extended period of time.

The fact that Straub is able to milk the science-fiction genre for every drop of parodical comedy will probably come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his work; truly, the best thing about "Starslip Crisis" is that it manages to take the most basic aspects of science fiction and make them funny. You don't even need to be familiar with the genre to "get" the jokes; there's no direct appropriation of, say, "Star Wars", that would require insider knowledge. The humor is for everyone. :)

Anyone who samples Straub and finds him to their liking would also be advised to read "Checkerboard Nightmare", Straub's previous series which chose, as its subject matter, the very medium of webcomics itself, and managed to be every bit as amusing.