By Levi Sweeney
Staff Writer, Grand X
Not every webcomic makes you want to keep reading. Most start out good, but eventually descend into mediocrity, at best. Fortunately, all is not lost. Out of the dozens upon dozens of webcomics out there, there are a select few which I would like to highlight in this new weekly column: Webcomic Wednesday!
Space Corps, by Gannon Beck and Bryan Richmond, is a small operation, but it produces original, quality content that keeps fans waiting patiently while things get sorted out on the other end of the internet. Described as space opera, Space Corps follows the story of how humans and aliens band together in the titular military organization to fight off the malicious Winnowers. We’re introduced to the rookie soldier Deven Taylor, along with Corporal Hive, an alien NCO made up of bees, and Captain Brockett, the rock-eating commanding officer.
I first stumbled on this comic while perusing ComicsExperience.com, a haven for independent comic book writers struggling to hone their craft and hit the big time. Beck is part of that community. Beck and Richmond may not have hit the big time quite yet, but they and their compatriots have most definitely honed their craft. The art alone is incredibly professional, matching the tone and feel of the story perfectly. Specifically, it’s cartoonish enough to fit the fantastic premise of the story but realistic enough to be appropriate to the highly sophisticated writing.
As is frequently made obvious in even the best mainstream comics, no amount of lavish art will save a poorly written story. Fortunately, Space Corps is lucky enough to be blessed with both good art and excellent writing. The sheer human, or rather alien drama that we see in Space Corps #0 is amazing to read. Captain Brockett’s story remains my personal favorite, just because it’s so movingly tragic and harsh. It’s not every day that I read something, least of all on the internet, that actually makes me genuinely sad.
The rest of the stories we see here are nothing short of splendid. Hive’s story is a classic bait-and-switch, with a pleasant surprise that makes it truly memorable. Hive is probably my second-favorite alien character behind Brockett. When we get into Taylor’s origin story in Space Corps #1-2, things get particularly interesting for him. Taylor’s is a coming-of-age story at heart, with the space opera and military fiction elements making the whole thing even more interesting. It shows that he has a personal stake in the fight, which makes him one of many great characters.
I’m sure that Beck’s military family background gives him a lot of material to work with. He and Richmond navigate the standard tropes and conventions of military fiction with an easy realism that demonstrates that they plainly have a strong knowledge of military life. They never resort to clichés, and everything feels smooth and natural. We see what goes on in boot camp with great details that bring the reader into the story. The despair of family lost to war is communicated in a piercingly emotional way. The ethos of not fighting alone, trusting your team, and being self-disciplined and self-sacrificial is a primary theme. Sometimes it feels like I’m reading Lone Survivor by Marcus Lutrell all over again.
For all this talk of the horror and devastation of war, Space Corps is actually a rather upbeat comic. The humor is usually of the gallows variety. This is, after all, a comic about war. However, the comic itself is a very fun read. It makes you want to keep reading more of it. It’s not on the level of wacky, zany antics of, say, Brenden Fletcher’s Batgirl, but it can still be comedic when it needs to be comedic and dramatic when it needs to be dramatic. The result is a brilliant cocktail of great comics.
Gannon Beck and Bryan Richmond have said that they and their co-creators were originally thinking of pitching Space Corps to Image Comica. Then they decided to say, “Heck with it, we want to make comics so let’s make this now.” The result is a spectacular piece of work that I wouldn’t want made any other way. If Beck and Richmond and the rest of the team behind Space Corps do get their comic made into a magazine format that they can make money off of, I gladly salute them. If it came to that, I personally wouldn’t mind paying money for something this good. But for now, I’m glad to enjoy it all free of charge.
Images 1 and 2 from twitter.com/gannonb. Image 3 from spacecorpscomics.com.
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