Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: The Tayler Corporation
OK, so this is a slim book of comic strips. I don't do comic strips, and I've never bought a 'comic book' in my life. Before now.
Schlock Mercenary is a web strip. Tayler writes, draws and colours it, and he publishes a strip every day. It's consistently funny, it knows SF better than many SF novelists, and I just love it to bits. So much so, that when he announced he was publishing the first collection, I bought it, on pre-order.
This collection comprises a 6 month story arc, originally published in 2003. Interestingly, that's not when the web strip started — that began back in 2000 — but he's probably made the right decision to publish fully polished work first. He does promise, however, to go back and publish the first 1000 strips in two volumes, probably next year.
If you're a Schlock fan, then this is when Tagon's Toughs are ordered by General Xinchub to go after their former commander (and sister of their techie genius), Breya Andreyasn. By the end of the story, they haven't yet found her. But then, they weren't exactly looking very hard. Indeed, they spend much of the story trying to hide from Xinchub, possibly because he tried to blow them up. In the mean time, they raid a library (easier than just asking); achieve first contact with, and attempt to uplift, a planet of stone age aliens; and save a solar system from a post organic (yet rather incompetent) civilisation of robots. Mixed in with this are scientifically literate notes (are they footnotes if they appear in a panel beneath the strip they refer to rather than at the bottom of the page?) that even include the clearest instructions for moving a gas giant that I've yet read.
And with Schlock, you get a well-plotted story without the confusion that Sluggy Freelance all too frequently falls to, and an artistic style that manages a rich brightness and clarity that matches the genre. In all - glorious good fun.