Starslip Crisis

Finite Infinities

Kris Straub's Starslip Crisis has been working towards a big storyline for weeks now as the crew of the Fuselli has been working with their arch-enemy, the time-dictator Katarkis, to disarm a "temporal bomb" that would wipe out their entire timeline. Recently, though, they realized Katarkis was just using them and abandoned him to explore an alternate way of escaping their universe. Katarkis then betrayed them to Deep Time, which pushed up the detonation of their bomb by several months. Thursday's strip ended with the Fuselli preparing to make an emergency starslip just as the bomb exploded, and visitors to the site on Friday were greeted with the following image...

Starslip Crisis 1/10/2009

Starslip Crisis 1/10/2009

That's a nice image — the Fuselli's starslip has broken the bonds of our reality as well as the bonds of its fictive reality, shattering the site structure and navigation. (The shattered "most recent strip" button, reflecting the total decimiation of the old timeline, is a nice touch.) Breaking free from the strip presentation to the infinite canvas really drives home that this is a breaking point, a major change for the strip.

It strikes me that this is probably one of the best, most effective ways to approach the infinite canvas — as an occasional break from the norm. (Another great Kevin Huizenga's big gatefold from Super Monster #14, presented in different format in Or Else #2.) I find most comics that whole-heartedly embrace the infinite canvas are a real chore to read - that they spend so much time exploring the canvas that reading them becomes a puzzling chore with diminishing rewards. I mean, if
every one
of my blog posts
was formatted
like an
Ogden Nash
poem
no one
would be
reading them.

To me, this is one of the great conceptual failures of the infinite canvas concept. Using it for a short, experimental piece or a one-off shock to the system tends to work well. But the artists who've whole-heartedly embraced the infinite canvas tend fall into two camps: folks who eschew any sort of structure, and folks who build an alternative, insanely complicated structure. Any sort of long-form work needs a minimum of structure. Perhaps not a lot, but at least a little structure that can be intuitively grasped by readers at a glance, like in Boswash or Rabbithead. The first crowd typically neglets to consider the structure at all, and the second tends to build a structure that's not worth the effort to decode.

I'm not opposed to formal experimentation or even alternative storytelling structures, but I think the finite canvas is here to stay for quite some time. After all, a man who contemplates infinity too much only has two choices: he can become enlightened, or he can go mad. And most people fall into the latter category.

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