Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Love Web Comics: The Ensign Sue Trilogy

I’ve cited Interrobang Studio’s Sue Trilogy (written by Clare Moseley and art by Kevin Bolk) a few times in my discussions of the Mary Sue tropes, so now, as the story is winding to its conclusion, I thought I’d post a review. Billed as a “Trek-tastic Parody,” this is a web comic that is full of things that I love. It’s got Star Trek, it’s got Doctor Who, and it’s full of nerdy references and inside jokes that I can appreciate even when I don’t get them. I love playing with tropes and this comic certainly does that.
Kevin Bolk’s caricatures of the nu-Trek crew, all the incarnations of the Doctor, Sherlock Holmes, and a vast array of other fan favorites are cute, clean, simple, instantly recognizable (including both Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy as Spock), and impressively expressive. Clare Moseley’s dialog is funny and pitch-perfect; you can hear the actors’ voices in every speech bubble including McCoy’s wisecracks and or Tom Baker’s Doctor in conversation with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock; even when Kirk calls Spock a jerk.
Book 1, Ensign Sue Must Die! Takes place shortly after the end of 2009’s Star Trek movie with the arrival on the Enterprise of the ship’s new medical officer Ensign Mary Amethyst Star Enoby Aiko Archer Picard Janeway Sue (what? No Sisko?). Ensign Sue has flowing blonde hair with an exotic streak of color and a beauty mark on her cheek that seems to change from panel to panel. Ditto with her eye color. She also favors fishnet stockings. It’s not just that Ensign Sue lives in her own little world, she believes everyone else lives in it too and no one on the crew seems to be able to get rid of her. Even beaming her through an ion storm only results in an encounter with Ensign Sue’s evil but equally self-absorbed counterpart from the “Mirror Mirror” universe. Spock Prime (played in the movies by Leonard Nimoy) finally provides the solution to the nu-Trek crew by pointing them to a Star Trek trope that’s even bigger than Mary Sue.
Book 2, Ensign Two: The Wrath of Sue, opens with the arrival of the Doctor (Number 10, played by David Tennant) aboard the Enterprise. The Doctor grimly informs Kirk and Spock that in ridding themselves of Ensign Sue, they’ve only managed to unleash her on the rest of the multiverse. He solicits the Enterprise crew to help him track down and capture the various Sue incarnations across different dimensions. What follows is a romp through the worlds of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Marvel Universe, the DC Universe, Harry Potter, and others where each time another Sue incarnation has disrupted the fabric of reality. The Doctor and the Enterprise crew capture the Sues, including the original Ensign Sue, never realizing until it’s too late that they’re being manipulated by the sinister power behind the Sues. Book 2 ends on a cliffhanger with the tables turned, most of the crew captured, and Kirk floored by an unsettling piece of news.
Then in Book 3, Ensign3 Crisis of Infinite Sues, things really start to get nuts. As of this writing, the story is still ongoing with the last page scheduled to be posted on the web site sometime in December. However, you can order all three books in full-color dead-tree format from Interrobang’s store like I did and read all the way to the end ahead of time. While $30 for all three books is pretty pricey for the raw materials you get back, the real value is in the story. I’ve already reread them a few times and will probably continue to do so as long as they’re sitting out. So, yeah. Worth it.
Tragically, the books do not include this sublime poster.

There’s a lot to love about this series. There are enough nerdy Easter eggs and cameos to appeal to fans of just about everything. The comments accompanying each page are also always a good read. Genuine laugh-out-loud funny moments are reliably frequent, but then Moseley and Bolk and turn around and hit you right in the feels. (I’m sure it was just a little dusty in the room when I got to the end of Book 3.) The shout outs to Paula Smith, who coined the term “Mary Sue,” were also very cool. Finally, like any good satire, the Sue trilogy makes you think; in this case, about what makes a character a Mary Sue or how even the shallowest character can grow to have interesting depths.
The Sue Trilogy begins here with Ensign Sue Must Die! and updates Fridays. I choose to believe that the events chronicled here actually happened between Star Trek and Star Trek into Darkness.

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