Arts webcomic review

Of aliens and orgasms

The long anticipated web series from SMBC Theater

6467 smbc
SMBC Theater’s first major webseries, Starpocalypse, is a comedy about humans abandoning religion, philosophy, art, and leaders specializing in technology, warfare and instant orgasms.
VHX Corporation

Fans of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (SMBC) rejoice — the long awaited, crowd-funded webcomic series has finally launched! Starpocalypse, the first of three series, is a space opera set in the far future where the last liberal arts professor and his brother, a physics professor, have outlived their usefulness to a society where everyone can achieve instant orgasms through existing technology. In a desperate attempt to find some purpose for philosophy, they encounter a being in outer space who claims that she is the long-lost god who created humanity. But she’s entirely mad and takes them hostage. They can either refuse to take her to Earth and die a painful, head exploding death or rely on their academic prowess to convince her to spare humanity and humanity to worship her. After all, any sufficiently advanced alien is indistinguishable from god.

Like the webcomic and previous sketches from SMBC Theater, the comedy hinges on deeper statements about human nature. The webcomic is particularly thought-provoking when the subject is alternative and often irreverent ways of looking at theology. Add aliens that act as a foil to humanity, and it’s a winning combination for SMBC fans. SMBC Theater, which was created by James Ashby and Zach Weinersmith, generally depicts everyday circumstances, so they didn’t rely on high production values or elaborate sets. Starpocalypse ventures beyond the stories that previous sketches could tell convincingly without special effects, to explore a new range of themes.

The special effects were possible because Starpocalypse was backed by a very successful Kickstarter campaign. Although they only asked for $15,000, they exceeded this goal by more than $60,000 with donations from over 2,400 backers in August 2011. Now we can finally see what this financial support and the long lead-time have produced. Between attractive sets like the well-built bridge of the space ship and the filmmaking experience that the team has accrued over the years, Starpocalypse has brought SMBC Theater to the next level.

The pacing of many web series suffers because the segments are meant to be viewed both serially and all at once after the last episode is aired. The amped-up fun of five video segments combined into one makes the full series a little too high octane, like binge watching on a show that has no episodes devoted to character development. I’d recommend viewing Starpocalypse episodes interspersed with the most popular SMBC Theater sketches. The SMBC Theater segments are easy to view in a large dose because, like other sketch comedy shows, the subject matter and characters change every sketch and so it continues to feel fresh. A sex-obsessed god and the graphic depictions of her fantasies can stand to be diluted a bit.

Starpocalypse might not be as poignant as some of the SMBC comics, but it’s zany and dirty, like the webcomic writ large into a forty-minute show. One common criticism of SMBC from people who can’t quite get into it is the frequency of sex jokes. You might read two great comics that speak to your existential angst or love of science, but then there’s a punch line about penises. It’s understandably not for everyone, so be warned, Starpocalypse is an onslaught of orgasming. But they make an effort far exceeding what you’d expect from a web series — there are no mere graph jokes here.