Schlock Mercenary: The Longshoreman of the Apocalypse by Howard Tayler

Schlock Mercenary: The Longshoreman of the Apocalypse by Howard TaylerThe title of this book comes from what sounds like a throwaway line in one of the better jokes in this comic.

LOTA

I have to admit that I may be biased about this book. You see this is where I started reading the comic. Somewhere in here. I remember the ending and some of the parts in between, but I don’t remember all of it.

Now, having read it from the beginning I think this is the best of Tayler’s work so far — that I’ve read in print. His jokes are always on point, sometimes making me laugh out loud and sometimes only amusing but always funny. The artwork continues to improve and the story is top notch with a tight plot and focused story that feels like it might belong in one of the finest science fiction novels.

What makes this book shine is the characters. I have always liked the main crew, they seem to be pretty easy to like, despite being violence-loving sociopathic mercenaries, which says quite a lot for Tayler’s skill. However this book seems to take it up a notch. Suddenly they become real people. I think that the addition of Para Ventura is the reason for this. She simultaneously holds her own in arguments of philosophy and technology with the likes of Kevyn (the inventor of the Teraport) but she also delivers on her promise to turn a broken tank into the Longshoreman of the Apocalypse (Lota for short)… and she does it all while mouthing off and being hilarious in that way that only a sarcastic teenager can be.

Her strength of character pulls the rest of the characters up from the level of likable to lovable and suddenly I care what happens to them. Except for Schlock, I’ve always cared about Schlock because… actually it’s sort of beyond reason, he just is. With Para around suddenly I don’t want Pi to die when he is constantly setting off explosions early, I don’t want Chelle to die when her tank crashes, or Elf when the rebellion catches her, or Nick or Brad or Kevyn or Tagon.

I’m probably biased. This is the story that introduced me to Schlock Mercenary and I’ve read it every day ever since. But it feels like the best of the bunch and I love it.

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