"... 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 and Umiak 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.While Outsider 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 attritionassault 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.
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...
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.