"... The war had reached a stage where neither side would tolerate the continued existence of the other, and the allies of the loser could not expect much in the way of gentle treatment from the victor. We had to pick a winner. Humanity needed answers, and fast."
Written and drawn by Jim Francis, Outsider
relates the adventures of Ensign Second Class Alexander Jardin, sole survivor of ECS-154 Bellarmine
, and his interactions with his rescuers as the titular Fish out of Water
. Discovering that humanity is uncomfortably close to a genocidal war between the Loroi
races, the Terran Colonial Authority dispatches a scouting mission to gather better information about both sides. When Bellarmine
is destroyed by an unknown vessel in a contested system, Jardin is rescued by a Loroi warship... and promptly finds himself thrown in at the deep end of interstellar diplomacy.
has suffered some Schedule Slip
since its creation, and is only now moving from scene-setting to the true body of the story, the art is well-realized and Francis has put an admirable amount of forethought into crafting his universe and its internal logic. Only one new page has been added since July 2012, though Francis still posts regularly in the associated forum.BEWARE: SPOILERS AHEAD.
This web-comic provides examples of:
- Air Vent Escape: Lampshaded that it does not exist.
- Aliens Speaking English: The Loroi (and allied races) to Jardin, via the Loroi Trade Language.
- All There in the Manual: Francis has written a number of supporting articles detailing the Outsider universe, including many things the readers know (yet Jardin doesn't) or vice versa. There is currently more manual than webcomic.
- Badass: Kikitik-27, or "The Stray" as the Loroi call him. He's survived two attrition assault missions, Zerg Rush missions that are famous for having little to no survivors.
- Beam Spam: As shown here by the Loroi. Apparently most long-range offensive weapons are beam weapons, though the Umiak have shorter ranges on their beams and prefer a ton of missiles.
- Though it seems that the Loroi employ this in a limited fashion, with warheads filled with dozens of smaller missile submunitions saved for choice use in battle.
- Big Creepy-Crawlies: The Umiak. It should be noted however, that they aren't true arthropods—biologically, they're closer to mammals with exoskeletons, and that's before their heavy self-modification. It's also a weakness of theirs; they don't like higher gravity worlds, since they weigh down their exoskeletons.
- Bizarre Alien Biology:
- Almost ninety percent of the Loroi species are females (and, apparently, all of said females are hotties of one stripe or another), and their reproductive biology has some quirks.
- Reproductively speaking, the Umiak have genetically, surgically and cybernetically altered themselves so much that nobody's really sure how they reproduce naturally.
- Black and Gray Morality: A big problem for humanity in deciding which faction to join: the Umiak are imperialistic and enslave everybody in sight to feed their demand for ships and munitions, while the Loroi have twice committed xenocide against neutral or Umiak-aligned species.
- In fact this applies to humanity as well - Jardin specifies in his monologue that humanity is not looking for the side which shares or acts most accordingly with human values, rather the side which is most likely to win since aligning with the loser will almost certainly result in extinction.
- Blue Skinned Space Babe: The Loroi, and how. The author says in the FAQ that they're intended as a "homage to the 'Space Amazon' archetype", citing Master of Orion, Star Control, and Uchuu Senkan Yamato as examples. MOO 2 in particular is the source of inspiration for everything from names to uniform color schema to hairstyles.
- Bug War: Fits perfectly. The insectoid Umiak have no concern for their individual losses and typically suffer disproportionate casualties against the Loroi. This is made up by their superior industrial capacity that lets them toss out astronomical numbers of ships year after year. Even the Umiak warships appear insectoid.
- Common Tongue: The Loroi Trade Language.
- Con Lang: Ikkukhak, the Umiak language. Its details are given a full page on the site.
- Call Back: The cover page of Chapter Two is a callback to offhand comments Jardin made about needing food and footwear in the previous chapter.
- Curbstomp Battle: Bellarmine gets the short end of one of these.
- Crapsaccharine World: The Loroi act very civil towards Alex and the races in their alliance, so they seem better than the Umiak. However, at least half of the races in the Alliance are only in it as a subjugated population or out of fear and the Loroi have committed or attempted xenocide multiple times for petty, borderline Stupid Evil reasons. There's a general, somewhat sinister "be nice to us or we'll kill you" tone to their interactions with others.
- Deadpan Snarker: Jardin's sense of humour is quite active, but a liability he can't afford to voice aboard Tempest.
- Designer Babies / Send in the Clones: The Umiak have been tailoring themselves to their environments for so long they might not have a natural reproductive cycle any more.
- Everybody's Dead, Alex: Which leaves him with the unenviable task of attempting to gather intel/conduct diplomacy with potentially hostile aliens on behalf of the entire human species.
- First Contact: Humanity first contact with alien life were a band of aliens who were trying to run away from the conflict. Jardin is the first human to make contact with the Loroi.
- Forever War: And humanity is in the exact center of it, to the point where they have to fight to avoid being collateral damage.
- Fragile Speedster / Glass Cannon: Loroi Warships have tremendous ranged firepower compared to the Umiak, and are very fast, but their vessels aren't as robust.
- FTL: A sort-of combination of gravitational jump points and hyperspace, explained on its own page
- General Ripper: Stillstorm's behavior suggests she may be in the early stages of this. Certainly she wanted answers from Jardin and wasn't too fussy about how she got them.
- Gentle Giant: The Barsam to a degree. Despite being 2.3 meters tall and being built like grizzly bears with horned faces, the Barsam are a nominally peaceful and aesthetic race, who routinely engage in missionary work.
- Hit-and-Run Tactics: The primary tactic for Loroi raider fleets.
- Hot Scientist: Beryl is almost indescribably cute.
- Humans Are Special: While it seems that we're way behind the technology curve, we might just have another advantage....we may be invisible to Loroi psychic abilities and detection technology.
- Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Word of God implies this what happens if you have the misfortune of missing your jump point, since no ship that has suffered this has ever returned. "Liberate tu ta me ex infernis", indeed.
- I Always Wanted to Say That: Jardin plays this straight in his narration of one scene.
- Infinite Supplies: Averted. Starships need a huge amount of resources and infrastructure to build, maintain, and supply. Large ships like cruisers are usually kept close to home in times of peace due to the astronomical cost of keeping them supplied over long distances.
- Unfortunately for the Loroi, the Umiak are so efficient it often evens out in their case.
- Latex Spacesuit: Certainly not as egregious as many other cases, but Jardin does muse upon the reasons for the seeming Loroi preference for form-fitting uniforms.
- Macross Missile Massacre: Standard Umiak doctrine calls for bombarding Loroi battle lines with preposterous numbers of torpedoes. Loroi employ torpedoes as well, but lack the Umiak's industrial capacity to truly spam them in large quantities. Very visible on this page.
- Mind Rape: When the Loroi attempt to forcefully mind-probe Jardin for information. Fortunately, a combination of him blacking out and the supposed unique human trait of telepathic immunity spare him from anything nasty.
- Mighty Glacier: Umiak ships tend to be slower, but noticeably tougher and better suited for (relatively, as far as space goes) combat.
- Moral Event Horizon: In-Universe, the Loroi military trying to commit xenocide against the Mannadi after the last war with them horrified everyone so much that it nearly caused the other races in the Alliance to unite and wage war on the Loroi. Thankfully, the threat of their allies turning against them caused the Loroi to reign in their military and stop the attempted genocide.
- Ms. Fanservice: None in the main story as of yet, but Beryl and Fireblade are the ones who are drawn most in the fanservice-y pinups in the extras page of the the comic's website.
- Neutrality Backlash: Not choosing a side in the war invites hostility from both sides.
- No Biochemical Barriers: Played with. At first it seems that Jardin has no problem breathing the Loroi ship's atmosphere. However, while he can consume their food, it seems that it's given him steadily worsening indigestion.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Francis based many of Bellarmine's ill-fated crew on his friends and colleagues, with their blessing.
- Nothing but Skulls: A legendary warrior stands on them, in a mosaic.
- Not So Different: The Loroi and Umiak both do horrible things in the war. The big problem humanity has is deciding which side to choose when both seem equally unappealing.
- Oh, Crap: Jardin thought humanity was prepared to take part in the war. Then he saw a space battle where the smaller of the two fleets was larger than the entire human military, and it was explicitly just a small skirmish.
- Psychic Powers / Telepathic Spacemen: The Loroi are galactically known for this, to the point that Jardin identifies them as Loroi by observing an apparent non-verbal conversation.
- Proud Warrior Race: At least two of them.
- Red Shirt: Possibly played straight, albeit with color variation. Before the Umiak attack the Loroi fleet, Stillstorm briefs four of her officers commanding elements of her task force. Moonglow, Arclight and Ashrain wear red uniforms, while the fourth, Nova has a green command uniform. By the end of the 1st Umiak wave, Nova's ship has been destroyed with all hands aboard.
- Rock Beats Laser: In one of his Q&A answers, the author states that while humans are way behind the Loroi or Umiak, nukes are still nukes and kinetic energy is still kinetic energy. As such, human weapons can still do a number on either Umiak or Loroi vessels. The problem, of course, is in getting their outdated ships close enough to do that.
- Schedule Slip: Counting the prologue, there are 118 pages. The comic was first started in 2001. That's an average of 9 pages a year.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The very first aliens the humans have encountered were a band of refugees who were running away from the conflict when the Umiak devestated their homeworld.
- Shown Their Work: The Outsider-verse follows realistic space physics very well, with very little Rule of Cool or Space Is an Ocean behavior. There's also a lot of work shown regarding biology.
- Space Elves: The Loroi are Type I
- Jardin even refers to them as elves at one point (in his inner monologue, fortunately).
- Super Soldier:
- The Loroi use a special warrior caste, the Teidar (Unsheathed), who have lethal telekinesis.
- Umiak use specially bred and cybernetically enhanced warriors called Hardtroops.
- Space Is an Ocean: Mostly averted, as the Outsider universe follows actual space physics rather closely. However, Word of God acknowledges that some aspects of space physics were ignored in favour of Rule of Cool, and human ship names and ranks are naval in nature.
- Space Fighter:
- Used by the Loroi. Previously one of their main offensive tools, but in the current war mainly delegated to missile defense.
- Umiak do not employ fighters since they evolved on low G worlds and can't handle 30+ g's of acceleration; inertial dampeners are too big for fighters.
- Starfish Language: The Umiak language is based on tone rather than words, so it's literally impossible to for others to understand without a translator...and even that's a bit lacking.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill:
- Whoever destroyed Bellarmine was really trying to Leave No Witnesses.
- A policy the Loroi have employed against "neutral" nations who couldn't enforce their neutrality.
- The Spartan Way: The way the Loroi raise members of any of their military caste - dumping them in the woods with bows and spears to learn proper warrior values/survival skills.
- The Red Baron: Kikitik-27 is known to the Loroi as "The Stray." It has the distinction of being one of the few Umiak commanders known to have survived an attrition assault mission, and it has done so at least twice. In both cases Kikitik inflicted heavy losses on the Loroi defenders, and then withdrew its forces from combat (relatively intact) when Loroi reinforcements arrived.
- Reality Ensues: In regards to a lot of sci-fi tropes:
- Not only are there numerous language barriers between the various races (especially humans) but it's explicitly noted that pretty all dialogue not between humans is in a Common Tongue, averting Aliens Speaking English. And some of the alien races can't even speak the Common Tongue, relying on translation devices to get their point across to other beings.
- Alex eats alien food on the Tempest... and starts getting increasingly bad indigestion, harshly averting No Biochemical Barriers.
- There's no sound during space sequences, and space physics in general are adhered to strongly.
- Word of God notes that despite their bizarrely similar genetic and body structure humans and loroi can't interbreed, so there's no Star Trek-esque Half-Human Hybrid.
- Rubber-Forehead Aliens: Both largely averted and deconstructed. Loroi look just like humans, except for the pointy ears and blue skin (plus the fact that their males are smaller than the females). This similarity is noted as a significant abnormality by everyone, considering that the rest of the races go from notably physiologically different to Star Fish Aliens. The fact that humans are also the only race that are resistant to the Loroi's psychic powers implies that this may be far more than mere coincidence...
- Stupid Evil: Some of the actions of both the Loroi and the Umiak come off as this, or at least needlessly antagonistic. Notably, when Kikitik-27 offers a peaceful solution to a confrontation that gives everyone what they want, Stillstorm's reaction is to laugh at him and blow up the wreckage that Kikitik wants just to spite him.
- The Voiceless: Most Loroi rely on their sanzai ability and speak aloud only in unusual circumstances. However, their facial tics, body language, and actions are often quite vocal in themselves.
- Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: The entire Loroi species. The average Loroi female is 170cm (5'7) in height. Even tall males rarely go over five feet, with most being far below that. (although apparently they're more even size wise with human males in...other areas). Due to their small size and only representing 10% of the population, the males are viewed as a weaker sex in need of protection by the Loroi Amazon Brigade.
- Translation Convention: Explicitly used: aboard Tempest, Jardin and his Loroi interlocutors actually speak in the Loroi Trade Language, though the meanings of some unfamiliar words do get past him now and then.
- Translator Microbes: Averted as the characters speak a Common Tongue and the Translation Convention is in effect. When a translation system is finally seen in action during an enemy Umiak commander's transmission, it can only manage translations that're basically really long run-on sentences. Sort of like an alien Babelfish.
- War Refugees: Were humanity's First Contact.
- We Have Reserves: Umiak culture is literally based around this.
- Word of God: As yet, the only source of much of what we know about the Outsider universe.
- Worthy Opponent: Judging by Kikitik-27's comments here, Stillstorm has earned quite a fearsome reputation amongst the Umiak. She doesn't give a hoot.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: The Loroi have a wide color pallet of hair colors.
- Zerg Rush: The Umiak's primary strategy during wartime. In one battle, Umiak warships outnumbered the Loroi fleet nearly three to one.