Very few comics can reference Men in Black, John Carpenterâ€™s The Thing, and painter Thomas Eakins in a single story line, much less a story line that includes extreme violence, puns, slapstick, and touching self sacrifice. And even fewer can do it in such a way that is so seamlessly professional and on tone as any work in print or on the web. But that is what you get 5 days a week in Kristofer Straubâ€™s Starslip Crisis.
Starslip Crisis is an episodic science fiction comic strip that follows the adventures of the crew of the Fuseli, a obsolete warship that has been refitted as an interstellar traveling art museum, bringing culture where culture has never been before in the fourth millennia. The principal crew include: the captain, Memnon Vanderbeam, a kind of physical manifestation of arrogant, clueless pretension who is trying as hard as he can to be a real person; pilot Cutter Edgewise, a vodka soaked ex-pirate with a heart of gold; and Mr. Jinx, a space alien with a plethora of grotesque yet strangely useful bodily function.
Starslip Crisis does a nice job of both presenting one to three week long storylines with their own resolution and moving an overall "Starslip Crisis universe" forward. Their adventures are as simple as trying to put together a decent exhibition or as dramatic as defending the known universe from a blood thirsty space dictator with delusions of grandeur, and can vary from simple situational comedy to surprisingly touching drama. Unlike many webcomics Straubâ€™s strips flow seamlessly into one another, and despite the various style and subject matter changes they always feel organic to the strip. This is one of Starslip Crisis‘ strengths.
Visually speaking, Starslip Crisis is stark and uncluttered. There are no grays or colors, just black and white, but stylized in such a way as to be clear and expanding rather than hard and gritty along the lines of Sin City. All its human characters are built out of simple shapes, the only way to distinguish one head from another is through their hair style (as Straub playfully pointed out in a recent strip).
Generally a four panel strip, it will expand and play with the canvas in moments of dramatic action, or to emphasize space or movement. These stylistic choices make for a comic that is clean and easy to follow, but occasionally static and lacking in dynamism. Since the strips is generally meant to be read serially, rather than in a large dump, the positives of the style stand out far more than the negative for the general reader.
Starslip Crisis is a unique and exciting webstrip, and has a lot to offer for anyone who is interested in science fiction, low art beating up on high art, or professional cartooning.