Written and Illustrated by Howard Tayler
Colors by Travis Walton
Bonus Story: Memorabilia Maximized
Written by Howard Taylor
Illustrated by Ben McSweeney
Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing the Planet Mercenary RPG and what was (when I picked it up) the most current print collection of Schlock Mercenary, Book 13: Random Access Memorabilia. So when the opportunity to grab Books 14 and 15 came up, it was a no brainer.
The most important thing to remember is that Schlock Mercenary is a daily webcomic. While it isn’t limited to the restrictions of a daily strip in a print newspaper, Howard Taylor usually keeps many of those conventions. Schlock Mercenary usually runs a single-tiered strip Monday to Saturday, with a longer strip on Sundays.
Why does any of that matter? Mostly because the daily gags often come at the expense of the overarching storyline. That is in no way a criticism, it just takes a bit to adjust to. I had the same rough start reading Book 13, but once you adjust to that it becomes a nearly seamless read.
If you’ve never read Schlock Mercenary in the past, you’ll also have the disadvantage of dropping into Book 14 of a serialized story. It picks up shortly after the events of Book 13 but doesn’t have a giant number of references to the previous stories. You don’t get any exposition or character introductions, so just jump in and enjoy it. The characters are so well developed already that you’ll pick up on most of their personalities in no time.
Most of the story takes place as the mercenary group, Tagon’s Toughs, attempts to clear out an infestation of vermin on the space station Eina-Afa. Why, you might ask, does a pest control issue require mercenaries? The answer is simply one of scale. The central cylinder, the inhabited part of the station is large enough for numerous whole fleets to dock inside. A single docking facility is 200 kilometres wide and extends the entire 600 km circumference of the cylinder. The atmosphere all the way out to the external hull, several hundred thousand km out from that center. “You could drop Mars into that can, and then tuck Luna and Europa in on top.” It’s that space outside the cylinder that has the vermin problem.
What the toughs find is those “vermin” include giant, purple, flying monsters bigger than their ship, and preditors so large that those purple things are considered prey.
From there we are treated to a great number of explosions, soul searching, and more explosions. To go into much more detail wouldn’t necessarily spoil the plot, but would probably spoil a few punchlines, which is not really better. But, I will say that it would also involve more explosions.
In addition to the main tale, there is a delightful and cheeky Introduction by John Kovalic, and a bonus story written by Howard and primarily illustrated by Ben McSweeney. The bonus story, Memorabilia Maximized, takes place shortly after the main story, but it flashes back to tell some of Alexia Murtaugh’s backstory.
I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m not a fan of webcomics. To better clarify that, I don’t enjoy consuming webcomics in their original online format. But in this collected format I adore Schlock Mercenary. I had originally planned to space out this review and my review of Book 15: Delegates and Delegation. But I think I’m going to dig into it sooner, while my brain is acclimatized to the format of it.
For now, this book gets a 4 out of 5 from me, and I hope you’ll keep your eyes open for that Book 15 review soon.
You can read Random Access Memorabilia online HERE along with everything else Schlock Mercenary related, including ordering the physical book.