Ominous Hummmmmmmm… or Stamp of Approval: Schlock Mercenary

Do you know what’s brown and formless and blows things up?  We do!  Schlock does!

Introducing Schlock’s Mercenary.

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Schlock Mercenary (S.M.) is a web comic I stumbled across one day in my web-meanderings in my search for the meaning of the universe; it seemed like a good place to start at the time.  Fast-forward seven months, and I.  Am.  Hooked.

Howard Taylor debuted S.M. in June of 2000 and has posted a new strip daily since then, and since I discovered this in February I have been catching up: I’m now into April of 2013.

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I’ve never been clear on what “adjut” means, so “adjutant” is a complete mystery.

S.M. is placed in the 31st century and is written as a “space opera” according to the page.  It is the story of a mercenary squad headed by the fearless and sometimes stereotypical dim-witted Captain Kaff Tagon (think Colonel Jack O’Neill from Stargate SG-1): he’s tactically brilliant while scientifically… well, he’s just not scientificky (let’s pretend that’s a word, and that Tagon made it up).  While the squad is named Tagon’s Toughs, the strip is named after the character Schlock.

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Maxim 37: There is no “overkill.” There is only “open fire” and “I need to reload.”

How to describe Schlock… well, throughout the strip there are several references to Schlock looking like #2, and it’s kind of true.  He is a “carbosilicate amorph” – which means he’s basically a blob that can morph into different shapes; he can sprout limbs at will, his eyes grow on trees, and he only has one orifice – his mouth/whatever else it’s used for, where he stores everything.  And I do mean everything.  While it may seem that Schlock is shorter on brains than Tagon, that doesn’t mean he isn’t valuable to the crew: Schlock has

Even though the Partnership Collective clones them by the millions, attorneys are still expensive to replace.

“Even though the Partnership Collective clones them by the millions, attorneys are still expensive to replace.”

saved the team’s bacon more times than I can remember with his propensity to eat and/or blast anything in his way – he carries around a plasma gun that’s far too large for anybody’s safety and makes an ominous hummmmmmm.  Also, there’s the fact that he has a propensity for offing lawyers from the “Partnership Collective” (they all look like snakes and think alike, how creepy is that?)…  who doesn’t dream about that from time to time?

wpid-wp-1409002500784.jpegOther characters in this series that stick around for a while and are important to the storylines are: Kevyn Andreyasn, a (mad) scientist who is capable of impressive intellectual/inventive feats – so much so that he one time ended up plunging our galaxy into an interdimensional war with a race of dark-matter beings by creating an awesome transportation technology; Ennesby, an A.I. that once was a boy-band but now assists the crew doing A.I. things (from time-to-time they make the mistake of giving him control of the ship, and from time-to time he’s useful); Petey, a formerly insane ship A.I. who has progressed from ship A.I. to controlling a fleet to becoming almost god-like… which just gets obnoxious for these guys sometimes; Dr. Bunnigus, the doctor who makes sure these guys survive… sometimes; the Very Reverend Theo Fobius, who wasn’t very reverendy (again, pretend it’s a word) when they started but has grown as the series goes on; hundreds of millions of Gav-Clones, clones of a scientist named Gav… it’s a long story, you should read it for yourself; and many, many more you are sure to enjoy.

S.M. has been nominated for four Hugo Awards, several other awards, and is listed as a top web-comic by many other people…  And we can see why.

In review of this strip, I find the storylines are fun, inventive, and they always keep you guessing.  The artwork is better than the author would have you believe: Taylor likes to belittle his drawing capabilities, telling us that if we want to – we can start at the beginning of the strip and “watch my artwork evolve from bad to, well, marginally less bad.” (though the drawing has gotten better, but that’s bound to happen when you draw the same characters for 14 years…)  The character development is awesome for a comic series – something you don’t find as in-depth in this medium often enough.  And the writing is still fresh and funny: it contains a lot of one-liners which you can’t help but laugh at; can be a bit pun-ny at times; and keeps the story moving smoothly.  Additionally, throughout the series you can find many of the different characters referring to a bible of mercenaries, The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries.  While all seventy haven’t been introduced yet, a good portion of them have been and they include gems like:

  • sm2“Rule 29: The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy.  No more.  No less.”
  • “Rule 35: That which does not kill you has made a tactical error.”
  • “Rule 42: ‘They’ll never expect this’ means ‘I want to try something stupid’.”
  • AND “Rule 1: Pillage, then burn.”

Schlock Mercenary definitely earns our Stamp Of Approval.  This is a great way to spend a minute of your day – we all need to laugh after all, it’s the only way any of this makes sense!

So check it out at the links listed below or get the app for your phone like I did, and have a great day!

~ J.T. Riles ~

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