After reviewing the novelettes for this year's Hugo Awards, I've moved onto another kind of category altogether--Best Graphic Story.
Don't fret, dear readers—-Graphic Story is not referring to stuff like Saw IV, nor to bodice-ripping romance novels. Apparently someone decided that the label “comic book” died in the '90s, along with pogs and grunge music. Then they did a synonym search, and came up with “Graphic Story.” It's real easy; you can also go with Graphic Novels, Visual Adventures, Illustrated Narratives, or Series of Boxes With Pictures and Words in Them (not to be confused with Powerpoint presentations). But whatever you end up calling it, they're all glorified Peanuts strips.
After reading the majority of the graphic stories nominated for this year's Hugo, I've found that the above statement is probably a little harsh. (And not just harsh to Charles Schultz.) Several of these stories were compelling and interesting. Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel was one of them, in fact.
However, the “Massively Parallel” thing always throws me for a loop. How can something be any more parallel than it already is? That's like saying “really 100%” or “especially exact” or “uglier than Michael Jackson.”
The phrase gets thrown in three or four times throughout the story, often in a joking reference to serial killing (comedy gold, obviously), but in a general sense, referencing the fact that the main cast of characters for this long-running graphic space adventure comedy is split into four different groups.
For being someone who has made no effort at all to keep up with this webcomic adventure, I found it surprisingly easy to sit down and read strip after strip until I found myself at the end of the adventure. You figure out the gist of the characters pretty quickly, even if all the guys wear the exact same uniforms and all the girls are identical save for hair color.
There's a lot of sarcasm and wittiness, the kind of stuff you'd expect from a daily serial webcomic, but the story itself actually stands up on its own, after a fashion. The characters seem pretty strong for a webcomic (maybe it's just my imagination), and there's a lot of mystery involved with the story, too.
In the end, I enjoyed reading this serial, but probably would not have enjoyed reading one strip of the story per day. BO-RING.
But you know what this story really has going for it?
Lots and lots of robots.
There are dancing robots. Singing robots. Sarcastic robots. Warship robots. A bunch of robots who get together to form a rock band. And the finest robot of all: a megalomaniacal dystopia-ruling dictator robot with a big gun for destroying planets. (And his name doesn't rhyme with Varth Dader.)
Robot Rating: Over 2,000 robots