Review | Schlock Mercenary: Under New Management by Howard Tayler

Schlock Mercenary: Under New Management (Schlock Mercenary, #3)

Schlock Mercenary: Under New Management, and its author Howard Tayler, is unlike anything I’ve ever read before.

Wait–hold that thought. It’s not completely true. Yes, it’s unique, a veritable cornucopia of creative energy and humor, entertaining and–dare I say?–educational at the same time.

But it is also reminiscent, in so many happy ways, of the late Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The setting is space, the humor is satirical, and the plot twists are absurd and unexpected. And yet, like Adams, Tayler makes ample use of big numbers and real science to make his comic more than fluff.

Indeed, if Adams were alive, I think he’d be glad to plug Arthur Dent into one of Tayler’s panels, alongside Ford, Zaphod, Trillian, and all the others…

But enough about Adams and the Hitchhiker’s Guide. This is about Schlock Mercenary.

Schlock Mercenary: Under New Management is the first print collection of Tayler’s webcomic Schlock Mercenary. The story of a semi-disciplined band of mercenaries but ostensibly about Sergeant Schlock, who really just wants to “hurt people and break things” and will warm up his plasma cannon at any excuses, this installment includes extensive annotations (which left me wondering if Tayler was tricking me into learning something about science, space, physics…yeah, seriously. I was laughing and learning about science at the same time) and an origin story about Schlock (and don’t ask me exactly what Schlock is. Apparently, he’s all but indestructible, not to mention as malleable as Gumby).

I’ve long listened to Tayler on the Writing Excuses podcast (“It’s all about eyebrows,” says Tayler) that he does with Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, and Mary Robinette Kowal (and for which they won a Hugo this year…a Hugo!), and I felt lucky when was able to track him down at the Salt Lake Comic Con. He’s about as cool as anyone I met there and was glad to pose (and I do mean pose–the guy just doesn’t take himself serious, which is refreshing) for a photo.

I’m not much of a comics guy, but I’ll keep reading Schlock Mercenary. The story telling is solid, the jokes are clean and clever, and the creativity is refreshing. It’s enough to make a fan out of me.


About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog PubliusOnline.com where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.