Hello, I’m back for more comicsblogging after an unplanned, unintended hiatus. No telling how long I will last this time, so let’s get down to business – fast!
First matter of business is to congratulate Howard Tayler on the completion of a truly awesome storyline. Months ago, I declared my concern that he had bitten off more than he could chew by starting the story smack dab in medias res and then filling in with flashbacks via the mind of the apparently dying Kevyn. Timeline jumping is difficult business. Many movies and TV shows have either fallen into incomprehensibility or fallen back on stale clichés while working their way back from a flashback. And it’s even tougher in the format of a daily comic strip with a daily punchline. Tayler had already proven his mettle just by simultaneously supporting the plot and the funny. But this story took him several steps farther. And it worked. The only flaw in the overall plan was the one that always plagues a comic strip that pushes into greater complexity. It was awfully tough on new readers. But then, Sluggy Freelance has been making life hell for new readers for years and I have been unable to summarize the current storyline of Goats in less than 500 words (and still confused a number of people). If you know of anyone who might enjoy Schlock Mercenary, now would probably be a good time to get into it… who knows what Howard is planning for his next storyline.
Tayler wisely broke his usual pattern of only killing off likable characters during the month of October – his so-called Schlocktoberfest. In fact, the strip on Halloween 2006 provided a perfectly-timed and perfectly-executed twist.
In fact, the one mournable death, that of Pronto the explosives expert – whom, for poetic justice, should have been killed in an explosion, but wasn’t – occurred in April, exactly six months away from Schlocktober.
He also got into some rather daring content territory for a Mormon cartoonist, with some discretely depicted sex between Kevyn and Elf and a lot of discretely displayed nudity, which also displayed his ever-improving self-taught artistic skill, as he deftly used composition and perspective to cover the private parts of his stripped-naked characters, without pushing for laughs by being obvious about it. After the “catheter humor” earlier in the story, that was a relief. And his most recent anatomical gag (“I’d have to go all the way back to that stupid base and stomp around inside their incinerator JUST TO KICK YOU IN THE JUNK”) was ingenious, hilarious and just gross enough.
I believe now even more than ever that Kevyn is the Schlock comic’s most important character, more than the strip’s turdish animorph namesake, or Tagon the titular captain of the motley crew, or Petey the koala-shaped amoral omnipotent entity providing deus ex machina services in the Schlockiverse. It was Kevyn’s genius that most often resolved crises in the Schlock storyline and sometimes created them. And despite his apparently early demise, this story was very very Kevyn-centric.
But now we find the extremely modded Kevyn saying “I quit” and I have to wonder what Tagon’s Toughs would do without him? I think there is a clue in the ‘debriefing’ comic from Sunday, as he depicted the eponymous Schlock with both of his extra eyeballs, reminding us of the strip’s only Time Travel storyline so far (and there has been only one – that’s a sign of the cartoonist’s self-control) which resulted in two Schlocks and two Kevyns in the same universe. The multiple animorphs were able to -er- merge (thus the extra eyes), but there is another Kevyn out there who already retired from the mercenary life and is now living next door to Capt. Tagon’s father (another long story, I guess). I have my suspicions we’re going to be hearing from alt-Kevyn, not likely returning to permanent cast, but definitely important to what happens next.