seawasp (seawasp) wrote,

SCHLOCK MERCENARY: Resident Mad Scientist Review and Plug

As most of you know, I am and have been for several years a fan of Howard Tayler's magnificent hard-SF Space Opera Comedy Webcomic Schlock Mercenary. Schlock Mercenary focuses on the adventures -- and frequently MISadventures -- of "Tagon's Toughs", a strangely assorted group of space mercenaries led by Captain Kaff Tagon, a hard-bitten military man who is a LOT smarter than he lets people think he is, and featuring the eponymous Sergeant Schlock (see icon), a 500 pound carbosilicate mass which looks if you're charitable like mobile mud with eyeballs, and if you're not charitable looks like something Mike Rowe would have to deal with in the "Dinosaur Cage Cleaning" episode of "Dirty Jobs". Together with the rest of the Toughs, who include everything from the synthetically-created ambassador (previously living bomb) Ch'vorthq (now ship's cook), Ennesby (once an AI for a virtual boy-band, now sort of advisor and gadfly), illegally-boosted human members, Uniocs (a one-eyed species), and Dr. Kevyn Andreyasn, company scientist-engineer who is responsible for the invention of the Teraport drive, a FTL drive system which early in the series completely disrupted the FTL economy of the Galaxy by breaking the monopoly on FTL travel previously held by the Wormgate system (controlled by the extremely nasty F'Sherl-Ganni species who had, until then, been the Hidden Powers in the Galaxy).

Schlock Mercenary is also notable for being one of the few absolutely reliable webcomics. Howard keeps a significant "buffer" of strips at all times (I think I've seen it go over two months) and he posts a new comic every single day, and has done so ever since June 2000 -- more than TEN YEARS of uninterrupted updates.

Schlock Mercenary: Resident Mad Scientist continues the adventures of the Toughs as they perform various missions for "Petey", the super-AI who was once the control system of the Tough's starship "Post-Dated Check Loan" and who later became unified with multiple other AIs to become the nigh-omniscient "Fleetmind". During these missions, they become entangled in missions that place them directly against another expert mercenary force, discover a threat to the Galaxy itself, and force Kevyn (the Resident Mad Scientist of the title) to tamper with the very workings of space and time.

This is one of the best storylines of the series, which is saying quite a bit. It showcases Howard's ability to do something that is incredibly hard: tell a serious SF/Space Opera story while maintaining comedy. Comedy is serious business and it's even harder to do it when you're playing with science-fiction concepts that might make even more serious "real" SF writers balk. Howard handles it all with an aplomb and dash that I can't help but envy. And the little bonus story at the end, featuring Kevyn and Kaff Tagon's retired, hard-as-nails father, is absolutely top notch (and allowed me to finally figure out WHAT THE HELL THAT PICTURE IS in my signed, illustrated copy!)

Thanks for the excellent work, Howard! Keep it up!
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