Thursday, December 30, 2010

Webcomics are Awesome: Drive (The Scifi Comic)

For my second entry in my Webcomics are Awesome feature, I submit to you another one by Dave Kellett.  Today I am going to tell you about the wonderful comic Drive (The Scifi Comic).  I love the fact that the subtitle of this comic is what it is.  That makes me terribly happy.  Drive is Kellett's departure from his long-running regular strip Sheldon, and his entry into the storytelling of not just geeks, but their actual subject matter of choice.  (Fans of Sheldon never fear, he still does that comic five days a week, this is just an extra project.)

Let's get a description of the comic from the creator himself:

"An operatic comic strip told in weekly, page-by-page installments, the science fiction tale in DRIVE takes place in the year 2401.  The strip tells the story of the second Spanish Empire -- a galactic empire -- and its war with a race called "The Continuum of Makers".

We follow the crew of the Machito, who have been press-ganged into a unique mission by an Emperor they despise. But their mission ripples out in ways neither they nor the Emperor could imagine, to impact the fate of both warring races." 

Though the story follows the adventures of the Machito, from time to time we get entries that are "lost" historical documents of the royal "Familia," the almost mafia-like bloodline that maintains exclusive access to and control over the secrets of the drive technology that the empire's foundation was built upon.  We also are treated to the odd entry from the Enciclopedia Xenobiología, or logs from the Machito's xenobiologist.  All of this serves to flesh out the world in which Drive takes place.

There are several characters that make up this tale, but the two that stand out most brightly to me are the first two that we meet (after the prologue wraps up).  Nosh, a Veetan, was serving as Science Advisor to the Imperial Navy when he was framed for killing the emperor (even though he was on a different planet at the time) and sent to a prison moon.  This is where he meets a small alien of unknown species who appears to have come down with a serious case of amnesia, knowing neither his name, his species, or the crime for which he was imprisoned.  But, before waking up with amnesia on a prison moon, he attempted to save Nosh from an attack by an erstwhile prison guard and so was befriended by the larger alien.  When Nosh's crew (aboard the Machito) show up to rescue him, he takes his new friend, soon christened Skitter (Skitter voted for Steve but was vetoed), along with them.

Before long, the crew of the Machito find out that Skitter has an uncanny ability to sense asteroids and other debris in space, allowing him to pilot the ship like nobody's business, and so he soon becomes an invaluable member of the crew.  So invaluable, in fact, that the new emperor (who knows perfectly well that Nosh didn't kill his uncle) tracks them down and tasks the Machito with finding 10,439 more of him to pilot the rest of the ships in the fleet.

Of course, the problem here is that no one, including Skitter, knows what species Skitter belongs to or where he comes from.  So the crew embarks on a journey to figure that the heck out--with a few stops along the way, including, as one would expect, the friendly intergalactic Denny's.

Drive is a comic that both kids and adults--heck, anyone that loves spaceships and funny things--can enjoy.  The back story is incredibly rich--for an "experimental" strip, Kellett did an impressive amount of world-building--and it shows.  He manages to keep it fresh each week while still moving the story forward.  The story itself is truly an intriguing one.  Kellett lets us know that some of the people are holding certain cards up their sleeves, but we don't necessarily know what those cards are.  It is very fun to watch everything unfold as the various plot points converge.  To put it simply, Drive is an absolutely delightful strip.  I think even just marginal science fiction fans could really get into this.  Drive is the kind of thing I could easily see being my favorite Saturday morning cartoon.

New strips of Drive are published once a week, on Saturdays (reinforcing the feel of the Saturday morning cartoon).  Kellett is working on getting the strip up on its own site, but it is not quite ready just yet.  In the meantime, you can find it on the Sheldon website (just go to the archives and click on a Saturday) or you can check out the whole thing on its temporary site.  The first strip can be found here.    There aren't that many strips so far, since it is fairly new and only running one day a week, so you should be able to catch up pretty quickly.  There first major story arc is also available in a book in the Sheldon store.  This story is definitely even better when read in one large chunk.  In fact, I ended up reading my copy again last night after flipping through it in preparation to write this post...

Enjoy, my friends, enjoy!

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