Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Webcomic Worth Wreading, Entry Two: Spacetrawler

This week on Webcomics Worth Wreading, I’m going to take a look at the sci-fi adventure known as Spacetrawler. Before we begin, I’d like to make the following notes:

1. Unlike last week’s Reptilis Rex, Spacetrawler is heavily plot-focused. While I make an effort to avoid major spoilers, it would be impossible to say anything meaningful about Spacetrawler without giving something away. If you prefer to go into works of fiction with a completely fresh perspective, I recommend just reading Spacetrawler right now and coming back to this blog later.

2. Each Spacetrawler page is too big to fit the entire thing in a blog like this, so I’ve taken panels out of pages and arranged them to fit nicely here.

3. As a result of the above two points, and the fact that each image here links to its page on the Spacetrawler website, I’d recommend that you not use the image links to go read the comic. There may be spoilers on the full page that I omitted through panel selection. Really, the only place to start reading Spacetrawler from is the very beginning.

All right, now we’ve got that out of the way. Let’s begin.

Take all of the corruption and incompetence of global politics, scale it up to a galactic level, and you get Spacetrawler.

The comic takes its name from the piece of technology that makes interstellar travel practical. If you’ve got a spaceship, you’ve got a spacetrawler. And like most technology, it wouldn’t be possible without Eebs.

The Eebs are enslaved, and nearly every race in the galaxy has made use of their technological prowess and natural subservience. No one with any political power dares oppose the Eeb enslavement, and they lack the willpower to oppose it themselves.

There are, however, a few people who do wish to free the Eebs. But without any support from the general population, there’s little they can do. Every civilized species understands how important it is to their way of life to keep Eebs enslaved.

Humans, though, have no experience with interstellar flight or reliance on Eeb technology. So Interplanet Amity comes up with a plan to bring humans to speak to the government in space and demand freedom for Eebs.

The humans in question were all selected because they were the type of people who would go along with this cause... except for one.


Dustin is there because the aliens accidentally grabbed him instead of his identical twin. And, really, Dustin is the character that sets Spacetrawler apart from other science fiction. In any other work, Dustin would be the protagonist. He’s an ordinary guy, he doesn’t want to be there, and his main priority is going home.

Science fiction is full of characters like Dustin. Hell, in Avatar, the protagonist is also only in his situation because he had an identical twin who was better suited! There’s a strong tendency in science fiction toward extremely ordinary protagonists. I think this has to do with the perceived lack of appeal that science fiction has to general audiences. Creators try to make up for this lack of appeal by creating protagonists that the general audience is expected to identify with. Science fiction fans will enjoy the story anyway, and the “relatable” protagonist sells the story to everybody else.

But Dustin, Spacetrawler’s stand-in for the typical human, is mocked and reviled. Spacetrawler is science fiction for science fiction fans. Identifying with the guy who doesn’t want to go fight for civil rights in space is not necessary. Rather, he is mocked and reviled.

The characters that come off well, the ones who actually receive enough development and definition to be relatable, are the ones who embrace this crazy adventure. The reader can feel the pain of their failures and the joy of their triumphs as they try to adjust to everything they’re experiencing.

And adjusting is difficult. The humans soon witness plenty of the horrors our galaxy has to offer, from difficult moral dilemmas to acts of extreme violence. Luckily, there’s a therapy-bot on hand to help them deal with their experiences.

While the events portrayed in Spacetrawler are often grim and upsetting, the tone of the comic is always fun and comedic. It’s easy to go along with the story when it gets dark, because there’s a feeling of levity that permeates the entire work.

My favorite moments are the ones that combine humor and tragedy, such as this sequence with a potty-bot, which is one of the funniest and most horrific things I have ever seen.

Another thing that impresses me is the variety of alien designs. Most sentient aliens in most works are basically human-shaped. Spacetrawler gives us some significant characters who are not remotely human-shaped, such as Krep, a quadruped without hands who manipulates objects with his face-tentacles.

Krep is very friendly, as you can tell.

This type of diversity is one of the advantages to comics as a medium, as opposed to filmed science fiction. It’s difficult to create a believable alien on-screen unless they’re played by a human in a costume. Comics have no such restrictions, and it’s nice to see Spacetrawler making use of this advantage.

If you like space battles, complex moral dilemmas and dark comedy, Spacetrawler is for you. Go and read it! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Spacetrawler is written and drawn by Christopher Baldwin and updates reliably on Mondays and Wednesdays. I believe the story will be wrapping up soon, and when it does, I will be filled with the bittersweet mixture of emotions that always comes when a beloved work reaches its conclusion.


  1. Yes, you did avoid most significant spoilers, including one that occurs right at the beginning, since the whole story is told in flashback as [REDACTED] has gone to tell [REDACTED] that [REDCATED] is [REDACTED]. But also notable is how certain of the human characters are changed (in one case, VERY literally). Also, I think you give Dustin too much credit; he does do some interesting - and occasionally positive - things to drive the plot along, but his motives are more than questionable. And, of course, the biggest theme of the entire story is a strict following of the Law of Unintended Circumstances.

    1. A part of me very much wanted to address the frame story, but I realized as I was writing that I didn't have much to say, and it would've mostly been me providing exposition that is covered in the first few pages of the comic. And I'll admit that I definitely understated Dustin's skeeziness.