Everytime I realize that the comic that has me the most on the edge of my seat is Starslip Crisis, I feel a moment of confusion. I shouldn’t, of course, given that I’ve been in this situation before… yet it is oh-so-easy to slip into thinking of the comic as just another silly strip with a daily punchline and lovable cast of characters.
The premise revolves around a pretentious curator sailing a traveling art gallery through space, accompanied by an ex-pirate and an alien with paralyzing saliva and a certain lack of understanding of human nature. Along the way they meet crazy artists, tyrannical despots, homicidal robots, benevolent monarchs – it’s your standard set of zany adventures, and Straub has a very good sense of where to land the punchline and unleash the laughs.
Yet somehow he is also able to take those characters and weave a compelling and intense story out of it. To pit these joke characters against epic adverseries and yet have them manage to triumph. He makes it work, and even more amazingly so, he manages to make the transition from one to the other seem entirely natural and, in fact, almost inevitable. The comic never takes itself too seriously, and yet it still manages to forge a connection with the reader and leave them genuinely affected by the plot.
Currently a war is being waged by Lord Katarakis, an insane space tyrant out to conquer… well, pretty much everything. He has control of a specific piece of art that, when viewed in a certain context, renders those viewing it essentially mind-controlled.
The fleet opposing him – of which Memnon, protagonist and curator, has found his ship recruited into – is tricked into viewing a massive projection of the art, thus removing all resistance to Katarakis’s plans.
Except that Memnon realizes that viewing a projection of the art is seperate from viewing it directly, and this changes the context and snaps him out of the control. Because of his pretension, because of his devotion to art, because of his very nature that has been the punchline of the strip since day one… because of all that, he is the only man able to stand against Katarakis. Storylines that have been building up in the strip for years have come to this one moment in which he will have a chance to prove himself, a situation that he and he alone could make possible.
From the beginning it was obvious that Kris Straub had a command of humor, and could ensure the strip was fun day in and day out. And it was not long before I became impressed with the depth he could imbue in the shallowest of characters. And I even slowly came to realize that he could produce some dramatically powerful storylines.
But I think this is the moment were I am really able to see the grand tapestry - to see that the story being told, for all its disparate elements, could not be told without every last one of them. Before, I have enjoyed all the individual pieces of the puzzle – now I am able to see them brought together, and it is hard not to be impressed.
I’m not sure precisely how this storyline will end. Memnon may pull off something incredibly badass, or he might end up fumbling his chance and require Mr. Jinx to save the day. Maybe we’ll even see Zillion and Colonel Samuel Q. Breckenridge… or maybe not.
But regardless of what will happen, all I know is that was has happened has been awesome enough to leave me decidedly eager for more.