Starslip Crisis, Volume 2
by Kristofer Straub
Comic trade paperback, 127 pages. Published 2008 (content: 2007-08). Acquired August 2011. Read October 2011.
Having finally read (or reread, rather), the first Starslip Crisis collection, I had to go straight into the second-- which is even better than the first. It's in the second volume where the series hits my favorite sequence, Lord Katarakis's attempted invasion of Earth. Lord Katarakis has a sculpture called the Spine of the Cosmos, and anyone who sees the work of art will fall under his mental thrall... but only if they fully comprehend it, which requires knowing its context. So, having acquired the Spine, Katarakis has labored to discover it context. To do this, he's conquered the planet Cirbozoid, whose inhabitants can parse the meaning of art, but cannot actually understand it. They're the only ones who can stop him or help him.
So naturally, the only ship that can stop Katarakis is the Fuseli, an luxury-battlecruiser-turned-art-museum, which is co-captained by Memnon Vanderbeam, the best curator in known space, and Cutter Edgewise, somewhat reformed pirate and alcoholic. Who else can fight against art? The climactic battle happens halfway through Volume 2, and it's everything I want out of Starslip Crisis: there are jokes, there are some epic twists and unforgettable scenes, and Straub brings them together into one.