When it comes to sci-fi epics there are a number of formulas we have come to expect over the years. A bunch of abductees becoming vital members of a spaceship’s crew is not one of those formulas. And yet, that is where we find ourselves in Spacetrawler. Creator Christopher Baldwin is an author and illustrator for MAD magazine, yeah apparently that thing still publishes. Spacetrawler kicked off in January and is Baldwin’s third serial webcomic following Bruno and Little Dee. Oh, he also did a bit of experimenting with Bad Mile and Water Street. Speaking of Bad Mile, I don’t think Destiny is to be confused with Emily Taylor, but they look an awful lot alike.
The comic brings a lot to the table. The artwork is full color and looks like it was done with Crayola markers by someone who has unlocked the full potential of the grade school technology. It is not mine intention to demean the coloring, it is in fact well done and the shading is especially impressive. It’s like watching one of those painting shows they used to wheel into your room on the TV cart in grade school. It looks easy enough but when you try it on your own paper it comes out looking like something Marten Jansen was trying to do when he sneezed. It is entirely possible that this only applies to the backgrounds. The actual characters seemed to be colored with the bucket tool in MS Paint. They were inked first, don’t worry.
Perhaps I’m easily swayed by the idea of an adventure in space with a cast of misfits, but I found myself quickly sucked into the plot of Spacetrawler. There are a number of recognizable themes throughout, including a so far traditional friend-turned-evil plot line which is coming into focus following the eight months of character development and back story. Back story which was far from typical and in the case of Emily Taylor, down right bizarre. A mere five days after the comic began we’re introduced to the ticking clock of the series, or the first book anyway. One of the main characters has been killed before we meet her and so the entire story is told through the underbearing narration of the ship’s captain Nogg as he details Martinia’s demise to her father. Given the fact that we’re introduced to the universe beyond Earth by Nogg we have no choice but to trust his description of events, but in the back of my mind I ponder the reliability of this narrator. After all, he describes himself as a foolhardy idealist bent on realizing a will-less and supremely intelligent race from perpetual bondage by all members of the Galactic Organizational Body.
But trustworthy narration aside, there is plenty of exciting action, much of which stems from misunderstandings. But when you throw six Earthling from six continents in with four space aliens from who-knows-where (I here it’s nice this time of year) you’re bound to have a few unfortunate and many hilarious misunderstandings. In keeping with current trends in science fiction, Baldwin maintains a firm grip on real-world physics when it’s convenient (see below) and throws it out the window when it comes to travel between star systems. Or at least keeps it shot-in-the-dark theoretical.
One of the perks of reading an established author like Baldwin is there is an unwritten guarantee that he will update regularly, when he says he will. That means every Monday and Wednesday I get to dig a little deeper into the Spacetrawler universe like clockwork. Of course, I say this and then it comes to mind that Tycho and Gabe do not update at midnight three days a week. Sometimes it’s well past noon when we see their antics coming down the tubes. Not to be confused with that other stuff that goes down tubes.
My goal is to squeeze this bad boy in somewhere between Dr. McNinja and XKCD during my daily routine on ugh day and hump day. And really, I encourage you to do the same. Also, I should have mentioned this earlier but Baldwin is capable of handling adult situations. Especially as his alter ego Tom Walker in Bad Mile.